Goosen grinding through pain into Sunday's final pair

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March 17, 2012
Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM

PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- Retief Goosen's back was so bad at one point last year the pain shot all the way down his left leg and caused it to go lame.

"I had like 90 percent of my weight on my right leg," said Goosen, whose shots started to go 100 percent right because of it.

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Goosen thought he'd cured the L3 bulging disc in his back earlier this year but just three weeks ago it flared up when he was kicking a soccer ball around with his son Leo.

It nearly caused Goosen to withdraw from last week's World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship and he has since pulled out of next week's Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard.

The only reason Goosen is here at the Transitions Championship is because it's one of his favorite venues -- he's won here twice before and it's now his only shot to get into the Masters, a tournament in which he's twice finished second and twice finished third.

"I always said Augusta and St. Andrews are my two favorite golf courses in the world," Goosen said. "[The Masters] is not an event you want to miss. I'm determined to keep going."

Even if his body won't let him.

Despite requiring Platelet-rich Plasma injections (commonly referred to as blood spinning) next week from a needle that's about as thick as a No. 2 pencil, Goosen managed to stay upright long enough Saturday to shoot a 6-under 65 to share the lead with Jim Furyk at Innisbrook.

The procedure Goosen will undergo is the same one that Vijay Singh, Fred Couples and Hank Kuehe had in Germany. Goosen won't have to go that far, instead traveling to Virginia on Wednesday for the injections.

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First, he'll try to win a golf tournament at a place he's done so twice before in 2003 and 2009.

It won't be easy, and in this case it has almost nothing to do with the fact that only four third-round leaders or co-leaders have gone on to win on Sunday this year.

Either way, Goosen is just lucky he can stand up. His back is in such bad shape that he can't practice and didn't arrive here until Wednesday.

"We just worked on the back," Goosen said. "I hit a few balls at four o'clock and that was it.

"It's lack of practice, really, that is the most frustrating thing. You can't go out and practice or get ready for a tournament."

During the tournament, Goosen's preparation before each round consists of 45 minutes of deep tissue and inner core exercises before he goes to the first tee.

He's also been aided this week by warm weather with temperatures climbing into the 80s each day, and a venue that rewards accuracy more than length.

"Luckily this course, you don't have to bomb it off the tee," Goosen said. "I might be hitting a club more than most of the other guys, but it's not a course that you have too much of a disadvantage if you don't hit it too long."

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Which also explains, at least in part, why Furyk and Luke Donald, who's tied for seventh three shots back and can return to No. 1 in the world with a win, are also in contention.

Unlike them, however, Goosen knows he needs at the very least a top-10 finish to have a chance at punching his ticket for one of his favorite courses in the world in three weeks. The last time Goosen missed the Masters was in 1999.

If he plays like he did on Saturday, he should be able to keep that streak alive.

Goosen made seven birdies and just one bogey while taking 25 putts.

"Yeah, every shot [hurts]," Goosen said. "I actually had to change a little bit of my address position and get my back in a different position to try to have it not pinch as much."

You know what they say, no pain no gain.

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