Goydos' victory a long time in the making

HONOLULU -- Look up the word "journeyman" in your PGA Tour dictionary and you'll find a photo of Paul Goydos staring back, frown on his oft-stubbled face, plain ol' American flag hat stuck on his head.

Been there? Goydos was working as a substitute teacher when he first earned his way onto the tour by winning something called the 1992 Yuma Open. Done that? He's also played in three of the four major championships and collected more than $6.6 million in career earnings.

Along the way, Goydos has made three grueling trips to Q School and missed the cut 163 times on two different tours. That's 163 Friday afternoons of tossing the clubs in the trunk, slamming it closed, driving away and spending the weekend treading water while his peers filled their wallets. It's enough to make others give up the game. Not him. "I really don't have any other skills," he said in his usual deadpan manner, "so I've got to keep doing this."

It's that type of resolve that kept Goydos afloat when he was staring at a four-stroke deficit with nine holes to play in Sunday's final round of the Sony Open. With Charles Howell III at 15-under and Luke Donald just two shots further back, Goydos came in at 3-under 32, making four birdies down the stretch en route to shooting 67.

This time it was the other guys who were treading water while Goydos reaped the rewards. Playing in the final pairing with the former substitute teacher already in the clubhouse, Donald nearly holed an eagle chip on the par-5 18th and Howell failed to get up-and-down for birdie on that same hole, leaving Goydos as the tournament winner.

It's been a long time since he last won a PGA Tour event. Too long -- 10 years, nine months and 28 days, to be exact, since Goydos claimed $216,000 for winning the 1996 Bay Hill Invitational. He's since played in 256 tournaments without holding an oversized paycheck on the final green. Until Sunday.

"One of my goals was to win every decade and so far I've accomplished that," Goydos said, his dry wit showing through once again. Corner him on the issue of why it's taken so long to find the winner's circle and he finally gets serious. "I haven't played well or I've gotten myself in a chance to play well and I haven't finished. ... Maybe I'm going to win five of my next 10 starts and all of a sudden that evens out. Maybe that's the way it's going to work."

Maybe. But probably not. Goydos might share a driving range, practice green and locker room with the world's elite players each week, but that's about all he has in common with them. Heck, he's missed the cut in more events than rising star Donald has even played, for goodness sake.

A hat deal still in the works, Goydos wore a store-bought cap around Waialae Country Club while his caddie lugged a carry bag after the first-string version became victim to a vicious sunblock incident.

Even the clubs in that bag are hardly like those of the top touring pros. Sure, it's all professional-level equipment, but Goydos has shied away from sponsorship deals that will mean he's limited to a certain manufacturer's items.

"Those are my tools of ignorance," Goydos said. "Those 14 clubs, to me, are what we do. ... They offer you a couple hundred grand to switch equipment, I'm playing for 280 million. That doesn't make any sense. I want to play with the 14 clubs I think I'm going to have the best chance of competing with and if that ends up costing me money in endorsements, so be it. I feel I have a better chance of making a living playing the game than selling the product."

It's a noble sentiment, the product of a noble career. It makes us proud to root for the underdog, pleased that Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson can't win every single PGA Tour event.

And it's what keeps Goydos' goal of winning alive through 256 thwarted efforts.

"This is my job. This is what I do," Goydos said after the victory. "We're trying to win the other [256] times. It wasn't like I was trying to finish 33rd or miss the cut by 10. Our goals are to go out and do your work and play the best golf that you can."

Such is the mantra of the journeyman pro.

Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com