WHILE Retief Goosen will obviously need no introduction when he steps on to the first tee tomorrow on home turf, his appearance in the Volvo Golf Champions still marks a welcome return to competitive action for the softly-spoken South African.
Not since the last major of the 2012 campaign, the USPGA Championship at Kiawah Island, South Carolina, in mid-August, has the former Scottish Open champion struck a blow in anger, having spent the past five months recuperating from back surgery.
“I had really struggled with my back over the last three years and last season I tried a bit of everything – PRP injections and loads of physio,” admitted Goosen, a two-times US Open champion, having chalked up the first of those successes a few weeks before his win at Loch Lomond. In the end, the decision I had to make was a scary one but I had no choice than to have the operation as one of the lower discs in my back had totally disintegrated.”
The procedure, undertaken by a top orthopaedic surgeon in London, involved straightening the 43-year-old’s spine but, having stepped up his practice in recent weeks, Goosen is now eager to try to start making up for lost time.
In the same event 12 months ago, although it was played in Johannesburg on that occasion, Goosen came close to getting his season off to a flying start but both he and Ernie Els lost in a play-off to their young compatriot, Branden Grace.
“I don’t really know what to expect and my back has been getting a bit tight after playing six rounds in the last couple of weeks but it’s a case of so far so good,” he added.
“I like Durban Country Club, having lost by a shot to Ernie in a South African Open here and, hopefully, it will be a case of the three of us battling it out again on the 18th on Sunday.”
Interestingly, it’s not just a flashy car that’s on offer as a hole-in-one prize this week. In addition to that prize being the carrot for one of the 33 players to ace the 12th, Volvo have also put up an excavator at the 15th and, at the 18th, a truck.
Goosen revealed he’ll be gunning for the latter as “I could use it on my wine farm”.