Akron, OH — As Retief Goosen stepped into a greenside bunker on the 16th hole, he glanced at the leaderboard wondering where he stood.
Goosen was tied for the lead with Jay Haas and Tim Petrovic, both of whom were already done with their rounds meaning the final three holes would determine if there would be a playoff.
His shot went past the hole, but Goosen cleaned up the par putt and had momentum and positive thoughts heading to the final two holes.
“It’s not too hard a bunker shot, but you’ve still got to play the shot,” Goosen said. “That was a key par to stay tied for the lead and knowing now that I saw that Jay (Haas) and Petrovic were finished at 4-under, I knew I had to make one birdie and a par.”
Goosen would make birdies on each of the closing two holes earning not only his first career PGA TOUR Champions victory, a major, but his first triumph in 10 years at the Bridgestone SENIOR PLAYERS Championship.
“Today it was playing tough again,” said Goosen. “It was tough to get close, tough to make birdies, but managed to finish with four birdies in the last seven holes, so it was nice to pull it off.”
Goosen is also the season’s youngest winner and first rookie to win a major since Paul Broadhurst emerged victorious at the 2016 Senior Open Championship.
The normally stoic Goosen could not help but raise both hands to the heavens after making a short, downhill, eight-foot birdie putt on the par-4 18th hole, set up by a drive he believed was his best of the week.
“That was one of the quickest putts on the golf course,” he said. “I was just trying to make it fall in the hole, which it did. It was a great feeling to do it and obviously a few weeks ago, I pretty much had a similar putt to win and missed it. It was nice to pull it off this time.”
Though Goosen got off to a slow start with a bogey on the first hole, he quickly bounced back hitting a four iron and sticking it to four feet, making his second eagle of the week on the par-5 second hole, which gave him the outright lead, an advantage he carried until the par-4 11th hole.
It was there that Goosen recorded double bogey and dropped out of the lead.
He quickly recovered as he made birdies on each of the next two holes, but again dropped back into a share of the lead where he stood until his 10-foot birdie on the par-4 17th hole.
It was there that Goosen opted to go with a 4-iron, hit the fairway and then converted a birdie putt.
“That was a tricky putt with pretty much two cups of break on it,” said Goosen. “Once that putt went in, it was now par on the last.”
Goosen’s win gets him into The PLAYERS Championship, where the PGA TOUR Champions winner of this event has missed the cut each of the last seven years. Goosen will be looking to join Mark O’Meara (2011) as SENIOR PLAYERS champions to make the cut in the PGA TOUR event.
“I finished second there before once, so it will be nice to go play back there with the young kids again,” Goosen said. “It’s a golf course I very much like and hopefully I can play well there.”
Haas was attempting to become the oldest-ever PGA TOUR Champions winner and earn his first victory since the 2016 Hoag Classic.
“It (Firestone Country Club) does not suit me at all, but the way it was playing, it was pretty fast in the fairways,” said Haas. “If I could keep it in the fairway, I had a chance.”
Haas was looking to win and have his son Bill do the same on the PGA TOUR, becoming just the second-ever father/son duo to lift trophies on the same day. Jay tied for second and Bill tied for 10th.
Petrovic was seeking his first PGA TOUR Champions victory and previously had five runner-up or co-runner up finishes.
He made a valiant effort and of the top-10 finishers was the lone one to go bogey-free on the back nine.
Third round leader Scott Parel had an uneven scorecard, but could not shake a bogey on the par-3 15th and a double bogey on the par-5 16th hole.
“It was a good week,” he said. “I think I probably will do better next time I’m here. I was probably not as prepared for the course. I probably needed to take a club out, put another one in here or there. It really seemed to bite me today more than anything. Overall it is hard to be upset finishing top-5 in a major, it’s just tough when you’re leading and know you don’t have to shoot that great.”
Steve Stricker, who was attempting to win his third PGA TOUR Champions major of the season but stumbled with three back-nine bogeys and he finished in sixth place.
Bridgestone SENIOR PLAYERS Championship Final Leaderboard
1. Retief Goosen -6
T2. Jay Haas -4
T2. Tim Petrovic -4
T4. Kent Jones -2
T4. Scott Parel -2
6. Steve Stricker -1
T7. Woody Austin E
T7. Scott McCarron E
T7. Kenny Perry E
10. Steve Flesch +1
Shots of the Day
Both David Toms and Marco Dawson recorded aces in their respective final rounds making it four holes in one this weekend, the most ever in a PGA TOUR Champions individual stroke-play event.
“It seems like they kind of come in bunches some weeks,” Toms said. “We have a little hole-in-one club out here so some weeks you’re having guys make them and sometimes you go where goes don’t make any.”
Toms hit a 4-iron on the fifth hole, which measured 207 yards, while Dawson recorded a one on the 12th hole, tracking his 8-iron 157 yards.
“I just hit a really good shot,” said Toms. “I left it about 12 feet short of the hole and it rolled in like a putt.”
As for whether or not Toms was going to be paying the beer tab Sunday, he was not about to commit to that.
“I might just leave since I played so early, no one’s going to be around when I get done,” he said.
Goosen’s winning score of 6-under par is the second-highest winning score in relation to par in tournament history. The highest was Bernhard Langer’s 2016 triumph at Philadelphia Cricket Club, where he finished 1-over par… The par-4 18th hole played most difficult to par at 4.500… Scott McCarron finished T7 and leads the Charles Schwab Cup standings for the 10th consecutive week, now by $457,478 over Stricker… Kenny Perry tied for seventh place at even par two weeks after withdrawing from the U.S. Senior Open with an elbow injury.
Colston Cooper also contributed to this report