Although the leader boards on the weekend might not have been exactly what NBC wanted to go head-to-head against the NCAA basketball tournament, the golf was worthy of Palmer and-Bay Hill. Only on Saturday, when the wind was virtually nonexistent, did the players get the better of the long (7,196-yard), hazard-laden course. Teeing off early, Curt Byrum let everyone know that the course was vulnerable, shooting a 64 that was the week's low round. By day's end Boros and Burke shared the lead at 10 under, which was especially nice for both because of their off-the-course friendship. "[Boros] is a good guy," said Burke. "He was the first person to come up and talk to me about my dad."
But on Sunday, to nobody's great surprise, Boros and Burke proved they weren't yet ready to win, both ballooning to 75 to finish in a tie for 13th. Their demise served mainly to open the way for Goydos, who moved into a tie for the lead with a birdie on number 5. After taking the lead with another birdie, at the par-5 12th, Goydos withstood challenges from the likes of Maggert, Tom Purtzer, Corey Pavin, Mark Calcavecchia and Mark O'Meara.
On the last three holes, which Goydos called "the H0 holes" because water comes into play on each, he wisely protected his lead instead of doing something stupid. He finally was ready to win, and a big reason was a new mental approach. It was Burke, according to Feinstein's book, who once told Goydos to quit being so hard on himself. Or, as Burke put it, "have some cheese with all that whine.
On Sunday, Goydos had the cheese. After closing out the field with efficient pars on the water holes (a par-5, a 3 and a 4), Goydos met Palmer in the cottage beside the 18th green and immediately lined up a practice round before the Masters, where he'll be playing for the first time. "This is Arnold Palmer's tournament," Goydos said reverentially. "That says it all right there." Then, in the media tent, he further endeared himself to his buddies, but hardly surprised them, by bringing perspective to his big moment. "I'm kind of numb right now," he said. "I just wish my family could have been here. I know Wendy's elated, but deep down she's also upset that she wasn't here. After all, she's been there all the time."
All the time when Goydos was struggling to make it through qualifying school and the Nike tour. All the time when they toured the country gypsy-style, living out of their Blazer. All the time when Goydos saw younger players moving past him on the way up. All the time when he searched his soul, wondering if he should quit and get a real job so he could provide some stability for their daughters, Chelsea, 5, and Courtney, 3. And all the time, doing more than her part, whether it was teaching kindergarten or caddying for Paul when he couldn't afford anybody else.
Yeah, it's a crying shame that Wendy wasn't there to see Paul striding onto the final green, the cheers and whistles from the gallery washing over him. She'll just have to settle for reading about it. The working stiffs in the press tent were eager to do right by their favorite hang-around guy. The goatee notwithstanding, Goydos is, after all, a splendid heir to Mr. Palmer's legacy.