GOLF Magazine Interview: Paul Goydos

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"I appreciate absurdity. I hit a little white ball around a big grass field into a gopher hole, and make a ridiculous living."
Brad Swonetz/Redux Pictures

Bob Costas: “Ever had a 54-hole lead before?”
Paul Goydos: “No, but I’ve only been on Tour for 16 years.”

Costas: “What were you thinking on the tee on the island hole?”
Goydos: “Land.”

Costas: “How’d you sleep last night?”
Goydos: “On my back.”

The 44-year-old pro’s deadpan delivery on TV at last year’s Players Championship turned NBC into Comedy
Central — and turned the journeyman in the Long
Beach State Dirtbags cap into an everyman. Sergio
Garcia won the sudden-dunk playoff after his opponent
rinsed his tee shot on 17, but Goydos, with his
PBA Tour physique, won the affection of millions.

The single father of two slid into a booth at a favorite
hangout, Legends sports bar in his native Long
Beach, where his famed cap hangs under glass on
the wall (next to Olympian Misty May-Treanor’s
yellow bikini bottoms). A natural-born barstool
philosopher, Goydos ordered a platter of hot wings
and waxed sardonic on Tiger, TV, getting better with
age — and the true meaning of life.

You’ve won Bay Hill and the Sony Open.
But you became a star
after finishing second
at the Players last
year. What moment from that
week stays with you?

The ball going in the water on 17. Unfortunately.
It was a great week, but when
we strip away everything, I’m left with
“what ifs.” Tiger doesn’t “what if.” Tiger
just wins.

Some say you were unlucky — that a gust of wind cost you.
That’s baloney. That’s disrespectful to
Sergio. Unlucky? Let’s talk about the
guy who hit it to three feet when he had
to. That’s the story. Not a gust of wind.

Your nickname, meant ironically,
is Sunshine. We didn’t see that
negative attitude after the loss.

There’s humongous disappointment,
sure. But we don’t know how this story
turns out. We’ll see how I play in
2009. If I don’t do much the rest of my
career, it’s disappointing. But I’ve got
two daughters, loads of friends, a good
life, and I make crazy money compared
to most of the six billion people on this
planet. For me to gripe about finishing
second in a golf tournament is disrespectful
to the guy who’s busting his
hump to take care of his family.

When were you most nervous — the tee shot on 17 in the playoff?
No, over my 20-incher for par that I
almost missed [on the 71st hole]. That
was nerve-wracking. Thousands of
people hit it in the water on 17. But
nobody misses a 20-incher to give
away the tournament. The whole world
would think, How’d this guy get here?

Was it gimmicky to end the
so-called fifth major on the
island hole in sudden death?

TV is business. You can do a three-hole
playoff, but you’d need 45 minutes, and
you run into the evening news, and
you’re screwed. And it’s called “sudden
death,” not “hit a few shots and see
who wins.”

Did you watch the tape of the
tournament?

I thought it was funny that, with Johnny
Miller, I went from a guy who swings
like a caddie to a guy that [Ryder Cup captain Paul] Azinger should look at as
a captain’s pick.

Have you gotten offers to do TV?
The BBC asked me to do commentary
for the Ryder Cup, but that’s kind of
working for the enemy [laughs]. I have
a lot on my plate: Single parent, pro golfer.
But some day, who knows. Any guy
who says he doesn’t have an ego has
the biggest ego of all, and I enjoyed sitting
with Bob Costas in the spotlight. I
remember we were sitting there, and at
first I was just watching the highlights.
And Costas says, “You know, you can
comment.” So I said what came to mind.

They showed me making a 30-footer,
and I said, “He’s a good-looking guy.”
He asked me why I buttoned my top
button on a 90-degree day. “Because
I have no shoulders. It keeps my shirt
on.” That’s my personality.

Yet 16 years ago, when you were
a rookie, the Tour told you not
to talk to the media. How could
they get that so wrong?

They give rookies mock interviews.
My guy asked ridiculous questions,
like, “Player X was in the rough and
it looked like he moved his ball … .”
That just doesn’t happen. I said, “I don’t know what the hell you’re talking
about.” They sent me a critique and
said, “Just don’t talk. You’re terrible.” I
said, “Whatever,” and threw it in the
trash.

They tell you to be evasive, to not
be yourself. It’s the opposite of what
you should do. Sure, you don’t want to
say something that gets you arrested,
but it’s not like [reporters] are catching
me walking out of Congress in a breaking
scandal. It’s golf.

Fans really took to you. You said
you felt like Tiger for a week.
Should he follow your lead — loosen up, joke around more?

He can’t. If Tiger says the things that
I said, it’s not seen as endearing. It’s
gonna be, “He thinks he’s better, saying
he’s good-looking.” People forget what
I say. Tiger is reminded of it for the rest
of his life. He’s in a different world.

What separates Tiger from other
players? Is he that much better?

The difference between Tiger Woods
and me is not this huge chasm. It’s that
he’s a little bit better at a million small
things that you can’t see, that eat away
at you. It’s like termites. I think he’s the
most underrated player on Tour.

Are you better than Tiger at
anything?

At being older.

You once said that Tiger’s got to
beat somebody, and you’re merely
helping him win his 25 majors.
Isn’t that defeatist?

There’s talk that Tiger is bigger than the
Tour. But he needs Paul Goydos. He’s
the apples in the apple pie. Without the
crust, you can’t have the pie. Tiger needs
the Tour to fulfill his destiny of winning
25 majors, which I think he will.

So, you’re crust?
I’m the crust — 50 guys out of Tour
school are crust, too. But I want to go
out there and beat him. Bring it on. Me
being the crust doesn’t mean I’m not
trying to be apples, and it doesn’t mean
I can’t go into 2009 and win two, three,
four times and become an apple.

You journeymen stick together,
right?

Steve Flesch, Kevin Sutherland and I
play practice rounds together on Tuesdays.
We discuss the absurdities of life.
We read USA Today and say, “What the
hell?” Perfect example is the LPGA.
What the hell is going on? Language
requirements? Caddies getting background
checks? Caddies not allowed on
the practice green? They’ve got a great
product and, call me sexist, but they’ve
got some good-looking players. But are
you kidding me? Part of me wants to
watch the LPGA just to see what they’ll
do next!

I appreciate absurdity. I hit a
little white ball around a big grass field
into a gopher hole, like Robin Williams
said, and make a ridiculous living. You
talk about me having an everyman
quality. Well, the everyman doesn’t get
to play golf for a living. An everyman
would be the likes of my father, a 20-
year Navy guy, was in World War II
and Korea, worked his way to a college
degree. That’s an everyman.

Years ago, you were a substitute
teacher in some tough areas of
L.A. Did you enjoy it?

“Enjoy” is an interesting word. It gave
me a different perspective at age 25.
Gangs were a big problem. I was subbing
this guy’s eighth-grade class, and
one [student] said, “I’m in trouble. We
just killed somebody.” I said, “Why are
you telling me?” I took him down to
the office. You hear people say, “These
are bad kids.” These are not bad kids.

Imagine you’re a kid who lives in a
tough neighborhood, and your parents
work 60 hours a week to live in
a two-bedroom apartment — he works
at McDonald’s, she’s a maid. They bust
their humps. One day, you walk down
the street and a guy in a BMW with
four girls comes up and says, “Stand
here, raise your left hand if you see a
cop, and I’ll give you two grand.” What
do you do? Are you gonna be a hard-working sonofabitch like your parents,
or are you gonna raise your left hand?
Easy choice.


Well, you’re now a gang
member. And if you don’t raise your
hand next time, they might beat you to
death. Every person would make the
same choice, including you, me, and
Tom Watson. You say that’s a bad kid?
You’re insane. That’s a smart kid who’s
been sucked into the vortex —

(Goydos’ cell phone rings. He assails his keypad.)

It’s my daughter. [Still texting.] My
oldest wants to go to her boyfriend’s.
Now that’s a good feeling. It’s great
having teenage daughters.

After your divorce four years
ago, you took custody of your
teenagers, Chelsea and Courtney,
who live with you, a Tour pro.
That sounds like a sitcom.

Golf is my job. Being a father is what
I am. Comparing the two is like comparing
the sun and Earth. I think back
to my first year on the Hogan [now Nationwide] Tour 17 years ago, in South
Carolina. Chelsea was six months old.
She was teething really bad, and I gave
her an ice cream sandwich in the hotel
room, and she just devoured it, trying
to feel better. I couldn’t tell you what I
finished in any tournaments that year,
but I’ll never forget that day.

If you could give advice to your
20-year-old self, what would it be?

Know who you are and perfect who
you are, through learning. When you’re
20, you think you know everything. In
reality, you’re an idiot. How I became
a better golfer at 44 than 24 wasn’t
through hitting balls. It’s through learning.
I approached golf the wrong way. I
said, “Show me how to do this,” when I
should have said, “Teach me what you
know.”

Then, instead of copying someone,
take that information and apply it.
Make it yours. I’d learn more [from a teacher] sitting here eating wings than
on the driving range. This translates
to life. There’s a quantum amount of
information out there. But at 20, you’re
too caught up with drinking beer,
watching baseball, trying to get laid.

The best way to become a better person
is to learn what’s important. What’s
important is not that you won Bay Hill
or Sony. Those things are lost in the fire.
Knowledge is not. You have a degree?
So what? You don’t know sh-t unless
you learn something.

What are you learning now?
I would never have taken literature in
college. Now I read a lot. I read Atlas Shrugged. It’s about the producers of the
world going on strike.

You’re supposed to read the
money list, not Ayn Rand.

She’s a Nazi. It’s the Republican transfer-
of-wealth idea taken to an extreme.
It’s an idea that could be told in 300
pages, and she tells it in 1,500, in small
type, and beats you over the head with
a lead pipe.

Back to golf. What was your shot
of the year from ’08?

My tee shot on 17, in the [Players]
playoff. For better or worse, that shot
defined my season.

Your shot of the year is the one
that lost you the Players?

[Smiles.] They do call me “Sunshine.”

Pop quiz, Goydos! (And no peeking.)

The actor who should
play you in The Paul
Goydos Story
is…

“Tom Cruise. Give me
some brown hair, lose
some weight, and he
looks just like me.
And I might be
kookier than a
Scientologist.”

Your house
is on fire. All
people and
pets are safe. You’re
allowed to run in and
save one item. It is…

“My laptop, which has
my poker game on it.”

One thing you’re
great at besides
golf is…

“I’m
not even very
good at golf.
[Several seconds
of silence] I’m not
great at anything.
I enjoy playing gin. I’m
not very good at it, but I
enjoy it.”

The one talent you
wish you had is…

“Playing the piano. That
would be cool. Classical.
I’d like to walk into a bar
and play the piano, like
Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. If you can’t get girls
doing that, you’re never
gonna get girls.”