Goose hoping for golden start to 2011

South African Retief Goosen is looking to start 2011 with a bang when he returns to East London for the Africa Open.

South African Retief Goosen is looking to start 2011 with a bang when he returns to the East London Golf Club for the Africa Open.

The two-time US Open champion, who won the event in 2009, opted out of last year’s European and Sunshine Tours’ co-sanctioned event to play PGA Tour’s season-opening SBS Championship, but is looking to pick up where he left off when the tournament starts on January 6.

“Seeing as I missed last year, I’m coming back as a defending champion of sorts,” he quipped to

“I like to start the season in East London. It’s a great tournament and I like the golf course, which is pretty obvious after 2009.

“It’s a good place to get the season off to a fast start.”

‘The Goose’ enjoyed a solid 2010 season, finishing in the top-five six times and racking up 14 top-tens worldwide, despite two separate injury breaks. Although the season saw the 41-year-old move from 19th to 16th on the World Rankings, Goosen has not claimed a win since the Transitions Championship in 2009.

He came desperately close to avoiding his first winless year since 1999 at the South African Open in December, but was denied by compatriot Ernie Els.

“I want to get back to the winner’s circle again,” he said. “I came close a couple of times but didn’t win at all this year. It was a consistent year and I had a chance to win quite a few tournaments, but I struggled to put together four good rounds.”

“I had a few top ten and top five finishes but there was always that one bad round that cost me a victory. My ball striking needs to improve but on the positive side, I began putting nicely.

“That’s why [2010] was so much better and now I want to get back to winning ways.”

Goosen is looking forward to playing in familiar territory and on a course that suits his style of play.

“I like the course because it suits my game and I like the wind. They re-laid the greens after I won there in 2009 and I’ve heard that they are in great shape, so I’m looking forward to a good week.”

Goosen will be joined in East London by fellow countrymen Charl Schwartzel, who will be defending his title, and current Open champion Louis Oosthuizen. European Tour stars include England’s Chris Wood and Ross McGowan, Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke, Sweden’s Michael Jonzon, and American Anthony Kang.