No more Vintage Retief

Brian Murphy
Yahoo! Sports

As great golf stories go, the opening line “So, an Australian and a South African were playing golf in Canada on a Monday …” doesn’t exactly rank with “So, a priest, a rabbi and a lawyer come up to the 18th green … ”

But, it’ll have to do after the Canadian Open did its best U.S. Open impersonation and provided enough rain over the weekend to push everything into overtime. The only happy people were the ones at, who can now brag about web site hits during work hours on a Monday.

You could dust off the old line about there being so much rain, you had to bring two of everything – except the Canadian Open had enough trouble finding even one storyline worth our while.

To be sure, congrats to Nathan Green, well done, huzzah, huzzah and all that. Any man’s PGA Tour maiden victory is a worthwhile thing, so pass the Labatt’s and enjoy the two-year exemption, mate. For the second straight week, however, I find myself more interested in the runner-up than the winner.

After all, Retief Goosen in his prime would never have missed the 6-footer for the win on the first playoff hole in Canada (he did) nor would he have missed the 10-footer to extend the playoff on the second playoff hole (he did).

Maybe Goosen would have made his 6-footer for the win if he didn’t have to wait about six hours for Green to get a drop before his third shot in the playoff. Green’s second was long and left, and PGA Tour officials had to uproot half of Ontario’s populace to get him a drop. The ruling was more complex than Canadian football. Maybe Retief got rusty during the wait. Still, that’s no excuse. Vintage Retief wouldn’t have missed the putt.

I miss Vintage Retief.

Vintage Retief was one of the world’s most cold-blooded assassins on the putting green. He could have been a villain in a Bond flick. At age 40 now, he’s not the same. Granted, The Goose notched his first win on tour since 2005 earlier this year, and granted, the stories of him pledging allegiance to the fitness trailer and dropping 20 pounds are inspiring to those of us who make nightly love to the Ben and Jerry’s in the freezer.

Still, Vintage Retief was like a magician with a putter, like a guy who sawed ladies in half on stage and never changed expression. Triple bogey? Double eagle? Don’t check The Goose’s face for a reaction. You’ll be looking a long time.

The stories of his botched laser-eye surgery from 2007-08 are scary stuff, enough to make anyone pondering the procedure hang on his Woody Allen-styled spectacles that much longer. Perhaps the eye surgery means Goosen will never be the Shinnecock Slayer he was in the ’04 U.S. Open, or the guy who won six times from 2001-05 and was part of the “Big Five” who would challenge Tiger in the mid-'00s.

“The Big Five” – that was rich. Can you even name “The Big Five” from those media-driven rivalry stories of 2004-05? It’s like naming Beanie Babies from the 1990s. Let’s see, there was Tiger … sure … and Phil … sure … and Vijay … sure … and … and … wait … give me a minute … oh, yeah … Retief … and … and … can I get a hint? … starts with ‘E’ … same country as Retief? … oh, yeah … Ernie!

Phew. Did I win a beer with that trivia question?

I guess the moral of the story is, you never know when you’re going to be watching Nathan Green and Retief Goosen duel outside Toronto on a Monday in late July, pondering whatever happened to Goosen’s status as a world-beating major champion. Instead, he missed two putts he wouldn’t have missed five years ago, and Nathan Green is the one being interviewed by Inga Hammond.

Golf: it’s the damndest thing.

Scorecard of the week

67-69-70-67 – 7-under 273, Tom Watson, tie-8th, Senior British Open, Sunningdale, England.

And wouldn’t you know it – Watson’s final round on Sunday ended with an 8-foot putt on the 72nd hole … and he made it.

Of course, an 8-footer for a top-10 at the Senior British Open is just a smidge different from an 8-footer for intergalactic history at the 138th Open Championship at Turnberry a week earlier. Just a smidge.

Full credit to Watson, he continued his charm offensive even after enduring the Heartbreak o’ the Century at Turnberry. It would have been easy for the Kansas City Flash to shut down interviews upon arrival at Sunningdale, then go out and mail in a quartet of 75s and wing it back to the States, pausing before boarding his jet to scream at the heavens like the bishop in "Caddyshack."

Not Watson, though. He again flexed the charisma and had reporters feeding from the palm of his hand while speaking of a trip to the U.K. that he called “remarkable,” “heart-warming” and “magical.”

What a jerk that guy is. Somebody needs to straighten him out, and soon.

Mulligan of the week

• Then again, there’s Greg Norman. Or, as I believe it says on his birth certificate, “Poor Greg Norman.”

A year ago, he did the Tom Watson thing, leading at Birkdale after 63 holes before fading on the back nine on Sunday, still stirring souls and providing us with a look at the ultimate Marriage Mulligan – second-wife Chrissy Evert.

On Saturday at Sunningdale, Norman fired up the memories with a third-round 64 and a one-shot lead heading into the final 18. Alas, he came to the 17th hole on Sunday and promptly spanked his drive into the trees en route to a double-bogey. He finished three shots behind the leaders, and watched as Loren Roberts won the playoff.

Just for our sake, and his sake, and Chrissy’s sake, let’s go back to the 17th tee, reach into Norman’s golf bag, pull out a new ball and hellip; give that man a mulligan!

“And then we get lightning, and for a course reporter with an antenna on my head, that’s a real confidence-builder.” – David Feherty, on weather woes during Sunday’s postponed round of golf at the Canadian Open.

We need to stick Al Gore on this case. I don’t know if it’s global warming or global cooling or global whatever-ing, but as a golf fan, I say we protest this whole "weather pattern" thing that’s screwing up our weekends.

This summer alone, tournaments in Memphis, Hartford, Glen Abbey and, yes, Bethpage, all played their second rounds on a Saturday. The U.S. and Canadian Opens finished on a Monday.

This simply won’t do. Get Commish Finchem on the phone and let’s start talking Dome Golf.

Where do we go from here?

• Tiger comes back at the Buick Open, a week before the WGC at Firestone and two weeks before the PGA at Hazeltine, otherwise known as Tiger’s Last Stand, the ’09 version.

But who cares about Tiger and majors. The big news is, Tiger will play his pro-am round with Michigan’s legendary rocker Bob Seger. Cue your Seger/Tiger jokes now:

If Tiger throws a club and curses, will Seger shake his head ruefully and mutter that Tiger is “Still the Same?”

If Tiger carries a bogey to the next tee box and still simmers, will Seger urge him to “Turn the Page?”

If Tiger asks Seger’s advice for a club selection in inclement weather, will Seger remind him that he’s playing “Against the Wind?”

There. Now that those songs are in your head, do the right thing and put on your Seger CDs and thank me later.

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