…By RANDY YOUNGMAN
Because of a ghoulish event on Halloween, PGA Tour veteran Paul Goydos had to miss some of his favorite West Coast events for the first time in years.
He didn’t tee it up at the Sony Open in Hawaii, where he won in 2007. He didn’t tee it up at the Humana Challenge (nee Bob Hope Classic) in La Quinta, where he shot four rounds under par last January and finished 26th. And he didn’t tee it up in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, where he finished 17th in 2009.
Goydos, a Long Beach State grad who lives in Coto de Caza in Orange County, also will miss the entire West Coast swing for the first time since 2004. That means he won’t get to play at Riviera Country Club or at Pebble Beach, where he finished fifth in both tour events in 2010.
Did you hear what happened to him on Halloween? Involved a knife.
To dispense with the suspense – sorry about the cheap drama – Goydos underwent surgery Oct. 31 on his troublesome left hand, for the second time in seven months, as he continues to seek relief from wrist pain that he says has shadowed him on tour for more than 20 years.
In the past, his pain would come and go, sort of like an unannounced in-law, but Goydos still played well enough to earn more than $1 million five consecutive years, from 2007 through 2011. But last year the discomfort refused to leave, so Goydos took matters into his own hands – by putting his problem into a surgeon’s hands.
After missing the cut at Pebble Beach and then the Northern Trust Open at Riviera, he sought medical help and eventually had surgery in mid-March in Los Angeles to remove a bone spur that had been irritating a tendon in his tender wrist. His hope was to recover in time to qualify for the U.S. Open in June and return to the tour in July at the John Deere Classic (site of his record-tying 59 in 2010). It didn’t happen.
“It (the surgery) didn’t change anything,” Goydos said in mid-January, on a day that in recent years he normally would have been competing at Waialae Country Club in the Sony Open. “The pain didn’t go away.”
Later, he consulted another hand specialist, Dr. Steven Madey in Portland, Ore., who needed extensive diagnostic testing to uncover a hard-to-detect bone spur below Goydos’ index finger and above his wrist. That led to the Halloween surgery.
Two months later, he was cleared to start hitting golf balls again. So far, so good.
“I’ve been practicing for a couple of weeks, and it still hurts, but the doctor said the progress would be incremental,” Goydos said on his way to play at Virginia Country Club in Long Beach. “The cold weather (in Southern California) isn’t helping, and the doctor said scar tissue could be an issue, but I also had two very encouraging days last week.”
Goydos doesn’t have a specific timetable on returning to the tour, but he applied to the PGA Tour and received 21 starts on a Major Medical Extension in 2013. That means if he earns about $600,000 – what the 125th player on the money list earned last year – he’ll retain his playing status for the rest of the season.
“If I can get the pain out and start working hard on my game, I’m aiming at coming back in the spring, after the Masters, if everything works out,” he said. “I’ve been out so long and playing in pain so long, I think my golf swing has changed a little. So I’ll need a couple of months to figure out how to play golf again.”
At age 48 – he turns 49 in June – Goydos is closing in on eligibility for the 50-and-over Champions Tour, but he said that isn’t even in the back of his mind.
“I’d rather play the PGA Tour, quite frankly,” said Goydos, whose $12 million-plus in career earnings rank him among the top 100 players on the all-time money list. “I’ll worry about the Champions Tour when I have to.”
Goydos says he also hasn’t thought about what he would do if he never fully recovers from his wrist problems.
“I probably have 10 to 12 years of playing left,” he said of tour competition. “This is what I do. I don’t have any other skills. I just want to focus on getting healthy.”
Randy Youngman has been writing about golf in California, at the professional and amateur levels, for more than 20 years. He is also an admitted golfaholic.