There’s an oft used cliche that sport is a great leveller.
It can be applied across a number of codes. Batsmen who make centuries have to deal with the indignity of a duck in their next innings or a feature race winning jockey having to chase the backsides of the field home on his next ride, tailed off last.
For the golfers there’s the humbling experience of having to qualify for tournaments even though they may once have rode the summit of the world rankings or perhaps even as a former Major winner.
It’s the scenario that Retief Goosen is all too familiar with in the last few months having first gone through a qualifier for the US Open before taking the same route to get into the British Open that tees off at St Andrews today.
At the start of the new millennium, Goosen was considered one of the top dogs of world golf and flew the flag for South Africa as he broke into the top 10 on the official rankings before making further progress – winning the US Open twice will do that – to move to fourth. He sustained his stay in the top-10 for 250-odd weeks.
For the next decade Goosen used his status as a Major winner on both the PGA and European Tours although his fortunes declined, injuries played a part, and ultimately the 46-year-old now finds himself in the same situation as some of the rookies in having to endure the rigours of qualifying tournaments.
But it says a lot about a man when he continues to pay his dues instead of chucking in the towel. Having earned a little more than 21-million euros – that’s just shy of R290-million at yesterday’s exchange rate – it could have been easy to walk away. And that’s just earnings in Europe, there’s another $29-million in PGA Tour cash to take into account.
With business interests that include wine-making and course design it’s obvious that money is not a motivating factor for “The Goose”. It never is for these guys. Look at Tiger Woods, his stocks have plummeted yet he remains hopeful of future success.
Perhaps the fact that Goosen has had to earn his spot in the field at the home of golf could provide something of a new lease on life. A desire to reclaim some of the former glory he’s enjoyed in an illustrious career.
He wouldn’t be there if he didn’t think he could keep competing at world golf’s highest level. His name is likely to be far from the lips of those in the know in their predictions of an eventual winner yet Goosen has proved two things.
The first is that the allure of the British Open is inescapable, players will go to great lengths to feature at the event. The other is that he’s still hungry to feature. Who knows, he may have to repeat the play-off heroics from the qualifying event come Sunday afternoon?