AUGUSTA, GA -- He may have lost the Masters Tournament Sunday, but Retief Goosen didn't lose his sense of humor.
"I was just asking one of the officials, do I get green pants for finishing second,'' he said.
After posting three consecutive rounds in the 60s, Goosen's bid for green - a green jacket, that is - fell short. The 54-hole co-leader shot a 2-over-par 74 and placed second at 9-under-par, three shots behind champion Tiger Woods.
"I was just saying outside, besides Jack Nicklaus, Tiger is the best player,'' said Goosen, the reigning U.S. Open champion. "I think give him a couple more years and I think Tiger will be even greater than Jack Nicklaus.
It's just a matter of time.''
It wasn't long before Goosen imploded. Playing with Woods in the day's final pairing, the 33-year-old South African pulled his first tee shot in the trees. After knocking his approach on the green, Goosen three-putted from 40 feet for bogey.
Goosen admitted to being nervous at the start of the round. He said it wasn't until No. 6 that he started to feel relaxed. By then, Woods had opened up a four-shot lead over him.
"I was nervous like I said on the first few holes,'' said Goosen, whose best Masters finish before Sunday was a tie for 40th. "My swing just didn't allow myself to give me any birdie chances out there. I'm still the same
guy. I just need to work on my swing a little bit, sort a few things out and see what happens.''
In his fourth Masters appearance, Goosen tried to become the first golfer to win the week before the Masters and claim the green jacket since Sandy Lyle in 1988. Goosen, the 54-hole leader at the BellSouth Classic last week, briefly trailed in the final round of the Duluth, Ga., event before coming back to win it.
Trailing Woods by five shots with four holes remaining, Goosen could not make another charge to the front. He birdied Nos. 15 and 16 and slightly narrowed a Grand Canyon-sized gap, pulling within three entering the final hole. The damage was done on the front nine - three three-putt bogeys on the first eight holes.
"I hit my irons terrible so I was always putting from 40 feet,'' Goosen said. "It's not easy on these greens to make any putts from that distance.''
Goosen is taking this week off before playing in the Canarias Open de Espana. He plans on playing three more European Tour events before defending the U.S. Open at Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, N.Y., June 13-16.
Chris Gay is a sports reporter for the Augusta Chronicle.
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