EAST LONDON, January 5- World number 15 Retief Goosen of South Africa wants to end a 654-day trophy drought when he competes for the Africa Open title in this Indian Ocean city from Thursday.Goosen, two-time US Open champion and a native of northern city Polokwane who turns 42 next month, last celebrated success 22 months ago at the Transitions Championship on the USPGA circuit.
The ‘Iceman’ came agonisingly close to ending his winless run a couple of weeks ago, finishing one stroke behind long-time rival and friend and compatriot Ernie Els in the South Africa Open.
A few weeks before, 1.80-metre Goosen began his South African golf safari by finishing joint third in the Sun City Challenge, nine shots adrift of world number one Lee Westwood from England.
Goosen believes consistency holds the key to getting back on the winning trail in a career highlighted by the US Open triumphs of 2001 after a play-off against Mark Brooks and 2004 by two shots from Phil Mickelson.
"My inability to string together four solid rounds is the main factor preventing me from winning tournaments," Goosen said ahead of the opening Road-to-Dubai tournament this year.
"I came close a couple of times last year but struggled to achieve four good rounds in a row. There were a few top-five finishes, but one bad round always cost me victory.
"My ball striking needs to improve and that is something I have worked on going into the new year and I also want to maintain my good standard of putting."
The second highest ranked South African golfer after Els has fond memories of East London Golf Club, having won the 2009 Africa Open over a par-73 course that has a split personality.
After an outward nine characterised by tight fairways and small greens, the inward half of the journey offers wider landing areas of the tee and large, undulating putting surfaces.
Goosen finished 21 under par when winning in East London two years ago and fellow South African Charl Schwartzel was 20 under when he triumphed last season.
But the star attraction among a field chasing a 158,000-euro first prize in a tournament co-sanctioned by the European Tour and South African Sunshine Tour warned the wind can create havoc on a track set amid coastal dunes.
"You have to keep the ball low because of the wind. I like the East London course because it suits my game. The greens have been relaid since I won here and are in great shape," said Goosen.
South African Louis Oosthuizen, shock winner by seven strokes of the British Open at St Andrews last July, is the other Major champion in a field containing a number of golfers who have triumphed on the European Tour.
They include 2010 Ryder Cup vice-captain Darren Clarke from Northern Ireland, Swede Michael Jonzon, Ross McGowan of England, American Anthony Kang and South Africans Schwartzel, Richard Sterne and James Kingston.