Retief Goosen’s putting skills continue to keep him in contention

Retief Goosen brings plenty of good vibes to Sugarloaf, even though his two visits as a senior have not been exemplary, most recently a tie for 35th in 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

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Retief Goosen brings plenty of good vibes to Sugarloaf, even though his two visits as a senior have not been exemplary, most recently a tie for 35th in 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Perhaps Retief Goosen’s success on the greens can be best explained by the relationship with his putter.

“A putter, it needs to become your second wife,” said Goosen, who ranks among the favorites entering this week’s Mitsubishi Electric Classic at TPC Sugarloaf in Duluth, which starts Friday. “You need to look after that thing because that’s where the money is. It doesn’t matter how good you hit the ball, if you can’t putt, it’s useless.”

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Goosen and his real wife, Tracy, have been married since 2001. His current flatstick hasn’t been around quite that long but has shown substantial longevity in a sport where players don’t mind tossing a putter aside after a bad round. Or tie it to the back of the car and drag it through the parking lot.

Not Goosen. He is all about consistency and comfort. That starts with a putter.

“I won a lot of my tournaments with a putter or two,” he said. “Even now I’m putting with a putter that I’ve used for a while. I think changing putters is not a good thing. You’ve got to find a putter you like and stick with it, even during the times when you go a little off. It will come back, but once you start swapping out putters every week, it’s difficult to get a feel for it, and putting is (about) feel.”

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Goosen ranks fifth in putting average on the senior circuit at 1.721 per hole. He one-putts an average of 38.9% of the time and has three-putted only seven times in 378 competitive holes. It’s easy to see why he and his current Odyssey putter don’t need a marriage counselor.

“I’ve had my times that I toss it a little bit and kick it a little bit,” Goosen said. “You get back in your hotel room in the evening, you bang your head … why did I not hit a good putt there.”

“It's a great feeling winning on the PGA Tour. It was early in my career to win here. I remember the nerves. Coming down (the over-water par-5) 18 … should I go for the green, should I not? Just laid up, knock it on, two-putt, let's go. It brings back good memories here."

- Retief Goosen, who won at Sugarloaf in 2002

Goosen brings plenty of good vibes to Sugarloaf, even though his two visits as a senior have not been exemplary, most recently a tie for 35th in 2021. He won the BellSouth Classic here in 2002, beating Jesper Parnevik by four shots and Phil Mickelson by five, when the event was held earlier in the spring, and conditions were much chillier.

“It’s a great feeling winning on the PGA Tour,” Goosen said. “It was early in my career to win here. I remember the nerves. Coming down (the over-water par-5) 18 … should I go for the green, should I not? Just laid up, knock it on, two-putt, let’s go. It brings back good memories here.”

Goosen is off to a good start. In seven starts, he has one win (the Hoag Classic) and finished sixth or better in four other events. He tied for fifth at last week’s Insperity Invitational and ranks third in the Charles Schwab Cup standings.

“The last couple of weeks the long game was a little rough,” he said. “If you keep hitting it 45 feet away, you’re not going to make a lot of putts, either. The last couple rounds I started hitting a few better shots. I sort of found something in my swing to make me feel a little more comfortable through the ball, so I’m looking forward to taking that feeling to the course and see if I can just start getting the ball a little closer to the hole and give you more chances to make putts.”

Goosen will start the first round at 9:01 a.m. Friday. He’ll play alongside defending Mitsubishi Electric Classic champion Dicky Pride and 2011 British Open champion Darren Clarke.

Mitsubishi Electric Classic notebook

The tournament will start at 7 a.m. Friday, with threesomes going off both sides.

Other featured groups include Bernhard Langer, Jerry Kelly and Davis Love III at 8:39 a.m., Miguel Angel Jimenez, Ernie Els and Fred Couples at 8:50. ...

Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk, John Daly and Mark Calcavecchia have withdrawn. They were replaced in the field by Duluth resident Scott Dunlap, Stephen Leaney, Fran Quinn and Tom Byrum. Four earned their way into the field through Tuesday’s qualifier: John Inman, Mark Walker, Matt Gogel and Cliff Kresge. ...

Golf Channel will have live coverage each day – from noon to 2 p.m. Friday, and from 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.