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Martin Fennelly Columns

Goosen's round just what doctor ordered

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 02:27 PM
PALM HARBOR -

Hey, what did you do Saturday afternoon?

Retief Goosen found his putter and magic and shot his lowest round of 2012 and the lowest of the third round at the Transitions Championship, a 6-under 65, to tie Jim Furyk for the lead. They're the final pair in today's final round.

Hey, what are you doing next Wednesday morning?

Retief Goosen is flying to Virginia Beach, Va., to get injections of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) in an attempt to subdue the bulging and degenerating disks in his back that have sidetracked his career.

"Yeah, it's not good," Goosen said.

Who said golf is always pretty?

Welcome to the media center, Goose, before you head to the medical center.

"The last time I was in the media center was about 2009," Goosen said. "And a lot of you guys have aged a lot since I've seen you."

He was one of the world's top players from 2001 to 2007. But Goosen last won a tournament in 2009, here at the Transitions, which he also won in 2003. The last three years have largely been an exercise in pain.

Goosen ached as he arrived in Palm Harbor, nothing new. There was no practice. There is 45 minutes of deep tissue work with a therapist before each Transitions round, then he plays. Saturday, as he conquered the Copperhead course at Innisbrook Resort, including several long birdies, Goosen's back twanged.

"Yeah, every shot," he said.

Last season, Goosen withdrew from both the British Open and PGA Championship because of the back pain during lousy first rounds. He dropped out of the world golf ranking's Top 50 for the first time in a decade. The man won the U.S. Open in 2001 and 2004, but in 2011 he fought a losing battle.

Now, there's daylight. Goosen, 43, put together a Saturday round that put him in a position for a win that would lock down a Top 50 ranking in 2012 and qualify for next month's Masters. He's currently ranked 52{+n}{+d}. Don't think qualifying for Augusta doesn't matter to golfers. It does, it does and it does.

Then again, so does being pain free. It hasn't been that way for Goosen in three years. He took us on a quick tour of 2011:

"Last year, whenever I bent over, my left leg went lame. I couldn't stand on my left leg, especially putting, funny enough. I had like 90 percent of my weight on my right leg. Then it's the same with the golf swing. You can't get your weight onto your left side, and that's why you're hanging back and leaving everything right."

Perfect playing conditions.

He thinks he aggravated his back a few weeks ago: he was kicking a soccer ball to his 9-year-old son.

"It was really bad again," Goosen said.

Goosen reached a command decision: He withdrew from next week's Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill and booked a visit to a spinal specialist in Virginia Beach. Needle, please. He has never had injections. He hopes it's a long-term cure. He hopes it works short term, too.

"So, hopefully I'll be ready to get going after the Masters, or maybe the Masters if I play well tomorrow," Goosen said.

A top-5 finish here will probably get him in the world Top 50 and qualify him for Augusta, where his best finishes are a pair seconds and a pair of thirds. He hasn't finished any better than 17th since 2008 and didn't make the cut in 2011.

"It's not an event you want to miss," Goosen said. "I've been playing there for quite a few years now. I'm determined to keep going."

He played like it Saturday, with those long birdie putts.

"It would be nice to win this event three times," Goosen said. "I understand that Transitions is no more from next year, is that correct? So, hopefully, this is such a great golf course, and hopefully we'll find a good date and a new sponsor for it. The players like coming to play this course."

He might be atop that leader board, too. Saturday was just what the doctor ordered – you know, that and the needles next Wednesday.

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