Woods, Goosen know anything can happen Sunday

7/16/2005 - Golf Retief Goosen

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- There's no way around it: Retief Goosen has all the on-course charisma of a tee marker. You don't know if he's playing golf or practicing for a funeral procession. Grim isn't the word, but it's gimme close.

His post-round interviews aren't exactly the Best of Chris Rock, either. Imagine your accountant reciting federal tax code. That's Goosen.

But here he is, three rounds into the British Open, three-plus weeks removed from his Heimlich at the U.S. Open ... and he could win this thing. The guy who needed a ralph bag during his final-round 81 at Pinehurst No. 2, shot a neat little British Open career-best 66 to move into Claret Jug contention. Now he could leave the Old Course Sunday with another major to go along with his two U.S. Open championships.

He isn't the only one. Jose Maria Olazabal is 10 under after Saturday's play, one shot better than Goosen and Colin Montgomerie, two shots behind your grinding leader, Tiger Woods. Behind Goosen and "Our Monty," who leads the field in Standing Ovations By Fellow Scots, are Sergio Garcia and Brad Faxon (8 under), followed by Vijay Singh and the guy who held off Tiger and zoomed past Goosen at Pinehurst, Michael Campbell (7 under).

They're all within viewing distance of Woods because Tiger almost had a fistfight with his swing during his weird, wind-blown round of 1-under 71. Woods spent time in the gorse -- which is the Old Course equivalent of solitary confinement -- in the rough, and in strange, faraway places from the pin.

You can look at Woods' round two ways:

"The Claret Jug Is Half-Full" Way: Only Tiger could have kept this 71 from becoming what it deserved to be, a 75 or 76. He sank all sorts of clutch putts from choke distance. And did you see his 100-foot eagle putt on No. 18 that settled within the leather? Woods almost had to take a full shoulder turn on that one. Look, he'll be fine on Red-Shirt Sunday.

"The Claret Jug Is Half-Empty" Way: He only parred the downwind, ridiculously docile 352-yard ninth hole, which Goosen said, "feels like a par-3?" He only parred the reachable-in-two par-5 No. 14? He cooked irons over greens? He clunked a chip or two?

Goosen knows better than to start spelling his name to the official British Open engraver. Ordinary Woods is still better than most of the field. But there were enough moments during his Saturday round that you wondered if all the lug nuts were tightened on Tiger's golf wheels.

"Well, it's pretty much in every major everybody is trying to beat Tiger," said Goosen. "You feel like if you finish ahead of him you're going to win the tournament. And that's how it is in the majors. It's the same again this week."

Woods won The Masters. He could have won the U.S. Open if he hadn't putted like someone stuck knitting needles in his eyes. He could and, given the way the Old Course plays to his many strengths, should win here Sunday for his second title at St. Andrews. In fact, someone asked him that very thing: Can he win?

"What kind of question is that?" Woods said. "Do I think I can win? Well, I guess if I don't think I'm going to win, I won't show up tomorrow on the first tee. Is that all right?"

Goosen can do a documentary on the dangers of "should-haves." Woods has a two-stroke lead. Money, right? But Goosen had a supposedly insurmountable three-stroke lead entering the final round of the U.S. Open. He shot 81 and finished in an 11th-place tie.

Now many of the same characters reassemble for Pinehurst: The Sequel. You've got Goosen, Woods and Campbell for old time's sake. And to add to the intrigue, you've got Olazabal, who hasn't won a major since the 1999 Masters; Montgomerie and Garcia, the two best players never to have won a major; Singh and Campbell, who have majors pedigrees; and Faxon, who had to survive a qualifier in Scotland to even play here.

So many subplots, including Goosen's chance at some sort of Sunday redemption.

"No, I'm not determined to make up for [the U.S. Open gag]," said Goosen. "It was just one of those things that happened. I'd just like to give myself a chance every time on Sunday and hopefully one day it works out and you win again."

Here's guessing Woods will make his afternoon tee time. But here's also guessing that Goosen will make his too, and make Woods earn every bit of his "should-have" championship.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn3.com.