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Goosen wins the Transitions Championship

Retief Goosen, Transitions
David Walberg/SI
Retief Goosen has won the U.S. Open twice.

PALM HARBOR, Fla. (AP) — The greens were so crusty, firm and scary fast that Retief Goosen felt as though he was back at Shinnecock Hills, where his putting carried him to victory in the U.S. Open.

Needing only two putts from 25 feet to win Sunday, he was thankful it didn't turn out like Southern Hills.

Goosen ran his putt 5 feet past the hole, steadied his nerves and curled in the par putt for a one-shot victory at the Transitions Championship, his first victory on the PGA Tour in nearly four years.

"It was great to see that putt go in,'' Goosen said. "The greens got scary. Down those last few holes, they were definitely getting like Shinnecock was. You just cannot hit them soft enough. It was really tough.''

Goosen closed with 1-under 70 to avoid a playoff with Brett Quigley and Charles Howell III, an Augusta, Ga., native who can only return to the Masters with a victory.

Both had a birdie putt in the groups ahead of Goosen to catch him. Both ran it well past the hole and made it coming back.

"You're in the back of the tub trying to stop it short of the drain,'' Quigley said describing the putt they all had.

Equally famous in Goosen's career was a three-putt bogey from 12 feet on the final hole at Southern Hills, which nearly cost him the 2001 U.S. Open until he won it the next day in an 18-hole playoff.

"It was disappointing to hit it that far past. I didn't want to have another U.S. Open there,'' Goosen said. "I felt good with my putting, and there wasn't too much indecision with the one coming back. It was nice to see it go in.''

Howell was tied for the lead with four holes to play, but made two straight bogeys and shot a 69 for his best finish since he won at Riviera two years ago. He will have to win at Bay Hill or the Shell Houston Open to avoid missing the Masters for the first time since 2002.

"If Retief's 5-footer lipped out, I wouldn't have cried,'' Howell said. "That golf tournament means more to me than anything.''

Quigley, now 0-for-342 in his 13 years on the PGA Tour, was bogey-free on the back nine and shot 68 for his second runner-up finish in as many weeks.

Former Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman, trying to become the seventh player in his 50s to win on the PGA Tour, did not make a birdie until a long putt on the 17th hole, and he shot a 75 to tie for eighth.

Goosen won twice in the fall in South Africa and Asia, but this was his first PGA Tour victory since he won the now-defunct International in August 2005.

"Eventually, you wonder if you can still do it,'' Goosen said.

He did it the way he usually does - with a pure putter on the toughest greens.

One of the biggest came early in his round, when he holed a 15-foot par putt that kept him from sliding out of contention. He chipped in from behind the ninth green to get back in the mix, then took the outright lead with an 18-foot eagle putt at No. 11.

What won him the tournament, though, was a series of nervy par putts along the back nine that kept him in front, and a splendid chip from behind the 17th green to save par and give him a cushion going to the last hole.

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