Retief Goosen captures Galleri Classic in dramatic finish on PGA Champions

Retief Goosen of South Africa poses with the winner’s trophy after winning The Galleri Classic at Mission Hills Country Club on March 31, 2024 in Rancho Mirage, California

Retief Goosen finished on 13-under for the 54-hole tournament, one ahead of Argentinean Ricardo Gonzalez and New Zealand’s Steven Alker. Picture: Orlando Ramirez/Getty Images/AFP

Published Apr 1, 2024


South Africa’s Retief Goosen fired a bogey-free final round three-under 69 to win The Galleri Classic on the PGA Champions Tour by one shot on Sunday.

Goosen finished on 13-under for the 54-hole tournament, one ahead of Argentinean Ricardo Gonzalez and New Zealand’s Steven Alker.

Alker was cruising along, seemingly in complete control on Sunday, holding his pursuers at bay, needing just a couple of pars to put the finishing touches on what would be his second victory of the young season. And then everything flipped on him.

Alker, who had made but one bogey in his first 52 holes, three-putted the par-3 17th – making bogey there for the second time – and followed by hitting his approach into the water at the par-5 18th at Mission Hills Country Club’s famed Dinah Shore Tournament Course, leaving a door ajar.

Took his chance

World Golf Hall of Famer Goosen, with two closing pars, stepped on through, capturing his first PGA Tour Champions title in more than two years, stealing victory away in the Tour’s second visit to Rancho Mirage, California.

South Africa’s Goosen, 55, a two-time U.S. Open champion, won for the third time on PGA Tour Champions. He was just idling along on the back nine, racking up pars but making up little ground on the steady Alker, who was putting on a ball-striking display.

Even with a 10-footer for birdie at the par-4 15th, Goosen felt as if he just had not done enough to challenge. But the situation changed drastically on the final two holes. Goosen made a great save for par out of a short-side bunker to keep his flickering chances alive at the par-3 17th, where Alker three-putted after running his slick downhill first putt eight feet past the hole. At the 531-yard finishing hole, both he and Alker found the right rough with their drives, just a few feet apart. Both had a decision to make. Lay up or go for it?

The approach calls for a shot over water, and Goosen went first, thinning a low 4-iron that crashed woefully into the penalty area, seemingly drowning his tournament hopes, too.

He expected Alker, his opponent and World Champions Cup teammate, to lay up and make birdie that way, but Alker instead ripped a 5-iron from 199 yards out that carried the hazard but hit the steep fronting bank and trickled back into the water. Goosen wedged his fourth from the other side of the water to eight feet. Alker was able to drop just off the green, but from a steep uphill lie, his pitch from 35 yards finished about 30 feet short. He missed his par attempt, Goosen made his, and at 13-under 203, Goosen was the winner. The finish was stunning.

“I’m sure it’s happened, I can’t quite remember (when), but I’m glad it flipped my way,” said Goosen. “It was a really bad second shot (that I hit), you know? Ball was sitting up quite nicely, and I was in between a five and a four (iron) and I thought I’d just hit a smooth four, and I completely thinned it.

‘It was kind of a shock’

“After I hit it in the water, I thought Steve was going to lay up and just go from there. But he hit it in the water, it was kind of a shock, too. We were kind of surprised at that as well.”

One key in Goosen’s victory on Sunday was how he had finished a day earlier (four-under 68) when temperatures cooled and the wind kicked up and players were giving away shots down the homestretch of the second round. Goosen birdied four of his final five holes and came within one turn of the golf ball from making it five straight to finish.

“Conditions were tough yesterday, and I made up some ground on those finishers,” Goosen said Sunday. “Today, I got off to a slow start, managed to make a good putt on 10, and from there, I was just hanging in. ... Obviously the birdie on 15 was crucial. Then, yeah, Steven finishing bogey-bogey is all my luck.”

As Goosen stood on the final green waiting for Alker to clean up his short bogey putt, Golf Channel analyst Lanny Wadkins commented, “He looks like the cat who ate the canary. ... Five holes to go, Retief was a complete afterthought.”