With Paul Goydos around, there is no need for sunshine

Paul Goydos USGA

With Paul Goydos around, there is no need for sunshine

Professional

With Paul Goydos around, there is no need for sunshine

PEABODY, Mass. – The 38th U.S. Senior Open awoke to cool temps and soupy haze at venerable Salem Country Club in the tall shadows of Boston on Thursday. The sky was covered up with clouds, and colored a lifeless gray. It was Paul Goydos’ kind of morning.

Goydos, 53, carries an Eeyore-style, woe-is-me veneer and a heavy dose of wit. He is a sharp guy, and knew this was a rare-U.S. Open morning gift-wrapped for scoring. Heading off early on the back nine, he ran off five birdies and shot 30. As one of a handful of players who has shot 59 in competition on the PGA Tour, surely that magical number had to be swirling around his head, no?

Actually, he had other thoughts. Darker, self-deprecating thoughts. Such as, “How did I shoot 30?” And furthermore, offered the acerbic Goydos, “30 is usually a six- or seven-hole score for me this year.”

A three-putt bogey at the last (more on that later) and Goydos had carded an opening 5-under 65, one of three such scores posted in the morning wave, just a shot off Jay Sigel’s competitive course record (2001 U.S. Senior Open). Goydos has had a lousy year (one individual top 10 in 11 individual starts), but on that front, he borrows from fellow pro/philosopher Kirk Triplett, who once said, “I’m too inconsistent to be bad all the time.”

A nice start to his week, but Goydos, who ran sixth at last summer’s U.S. Senior Open, also knows this at a USGA championship: Don’t get ahead of yourself.

It took Goydos a long time to win on the PGA Tour – he finally broke through at age 31 to capture the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. Eleven years later, he won the Sony Open. A former substitute schoolteacher, Goydos wanted to see if he could make his way in pro golf a couple decades ago and he armed himself with this safety net: It’s not a crime to not be good enough.

Well, he’s good enough. Already on the PGA Tour Champions, he has won four times, which is double the trophy intake he had in those 19 full PGA Tour seasons. Having won twice in 507 PGA Tour starts, he turned 50 and won four times in his first 58 PGA Tour Champions starts. That’s quite an improvement.

Goydos said he’s been reading a book for the better part of two months titled “Thinking Fast and Slow,” written by Nobel Prize winner for economics Daniel Kahneman. The book examines the two systems that drive the way people think: fast and emotional, or slow and logical. Where exactly he fits in, Goydos will figure that out later.

The book addresses regression of the mean, leaving Goydos to ponder that his PGA Tour Champions success might seem odd to some given what he did in his previous golf life.

“I won four of my first 55 or 60 events, regression of the mean says if you look at my regular Tour career, you say, that seems a little odd, that he’d win four that quickly out here,” Goydos said. “So maybe there’s a little regression going on. There’s two possibilities: There’s going to be regression, or I got better. Now, I would argue that I’m a little bit better than I was back then. But there’s probably a little regression going on, too.”

Kenny Perry, a far more simpler man by way of Kentucky, and a player who also fired 65 Thursday, listens to all of this Goydos statistical banter and is thoroughly entertained. Through something of a different oddity, the two have been paired together about eight times already this season, and Perry enjoys the company. Perry still can bang it long, something Goydos cannot do. But in baseball parlance, Perry would term the scrappy Goydos “a tough out.”

Perry describes Goydos’ game thusly: Straight off the tee, solid iron player, good putter. “He’s the guy that’s always going to get the bat on the ball,” Perry said. “In match play, those are the guys I don’t like playing. I’d rather play the big hitter who might spray it a little bit.”

Goydos made six birdies on Thursday, which he joked matched his entire tournament total in Wisconsin last week (close; he made eight). Salem, a Donald Ross gem, was there for the taking, and he stepped up.

Of course, for all his birdies and good play, Goydos was asked if he’s the type who’d be more likely to dwell on that closing three-putt bogey at the par-4 ninth, the only blemish on his card.

“It might put a little taint on my sandwich, yeah, but that’s the mentality of who we are,” he said. “You go out and birdie 17 in a row and lip it out on the last hole … you’re throwing your putter. That’s just kind of who we are, unfortunately. At the end of the day, I would have taken a 65 and not played.”

But that, of course, would have meant he never would have made it to the interview room. When Goydos gets in there, he’s a major champion, and we’re all the richer for it – however you wish to carve it up statistically.

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