LOS ANGELES, Jan 8 (Reuters) - American Paul Goydos returns to welcome surrounds with a measure of apprehension for his title defence at this week’s Sony Open in Hawaii.
A year ago, Goydos ended a PGA Tour title drought of more than a decade at Waialae Country Club, where three birdies in the last four holes gave him a one-shot victory over compatriot Charles Howell III and Britain’s Luke Donald.
Hardly surprisingly, he has almost forgotten what it is like to tee off at a Tour event as the defending champion.
“I’ve always liked Waialae but I’m at an age where I just hope my game shows up,” Goydos, 43, told reporters after finishing second last at the season-opening Mercedes-Benz Championship on Sunday.
“I just want to have my game better than it was last week so I can maybe get my year going again. Waialae has always been a very comfortable place for me to play and I’ve always liked it there.”
Goydos, whose only other Tour victory came at the 1996 Bay Hill Invitational, scratches his head in virtual disbelief when he compares his run of two wins in 11 years to the staggering 61 piled up by world number one Tiger Woods.
“If you would have told me that some guy was going to win 60 times, I would say that you’re out of your mind,” the Californian said.
“There’s just no way. That’s not going to happen. If you win three events in a year, that’s just incredible with the talent that’s out here. At that time Ernie Els was coming out and Phil Mickelson had been around since the early 90s.
“I saw Tiger at the Masters and said: ‘You know, you need to get to 110 (wins) a lot faster than 11 (years). I mean, this is ridiculous’.”
Goydos, who turned professional in 1989, faces a strong title challenge in the first full-field event of the 2008 season.
Five of the world’s top 11 are taking part: third-ranked Steve Stricker, fellow American Jim Furyk (four), South Korea’s K.J. Choi (nine), Vijay Singh of Fiji (10) and South African Rory Sabbatini (11).
Furyk (1996) and Singh (2005) are former winners at Waialae and Sabbatini tied for second there in 2006.
Among the other big names taking part are U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera of Argentina, American Zach Johnson, who held off Woods to clinch last year’s Masters, and twice major winner John Daly.
The tournament will also mark the PGA Tour debut of 20-year-old Australian Jason Day, a winner on last year’s satellite Nationwide Tour who is widely touted as a potential star of the future.
The Sony Open, the second event on the 2008 PGA Tour, starts on Thursday.
Editing by Martin Petty