Paul Goydos talks in run-on sentences a mile a minute, and admits his nerves on the golf course might even be even more twitchy than that.
Yet when Goydos caught a 4-iron thin out of the fairway on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff Sunday evening during the 3M Championship, his heart didn’t sink to his ankles.
“I knew I got it,” he said.
And he did, just barely.
Goydos’ shot cleared the large pond guarding the 18th green by about a foot, coming to rest 30 feet from the cup. Gene Sauers, meanwhile, plunked his approach into the water moments earlier at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine. Goydos won with a birdie, but once he was on safely in two shots, everything was essentially over but signing the $262,500 check over for his fifth PGA Tour Champions victory.
“They’re all special, but the last one always seems to be the most special,” said the 53-year-old Goydos, who set the 3M Championship record by shooting 60 on Saturday. “I’ve been surprised by all five.”
Both players finished with a 6-under-par 66 in the final round to head to the playoff at 20 under for the championship, two ahead of Steve Stricker, Kevin Sutherland and Brandt Jobe.
Those low scores aided a cumulative scoring average of 69.278, the lowest in the event’s 25-year history.
Sunday’s finale — the second year in a row extra holes were needed — came only after players and fans were ushered off the course earlier in the day for 62 minutes with lightning in the area. The final eight groups were still on the course when the storm passed through the north metro.
Goydos and Sauers were each 5 under for the day, but both struggled to maintain any momentum after the weather. They made pars on holes 13-17. Goydos then “hit maybe the best lag putt of my life” and nearly made a 70-foot eagle at the last, missing by inches. Sauers ran his eagle putt 5 feet past the hole, but he made the clutch comeback putt to force both to play No. 18 again.
It was the second playoff loss this season for Sauers, who also lost a three-hole aggregate playoff to Colin Montgomerie in the 2014 U.S. Senior Open.
“The delay probably tightened me up a little bit,” Sauers said. “I was kind of on a roll, and that hurt me.”
Second round co-leader Kenny Perry, playing in the final group with Goydos and Sauers, felt defeated all afternoon.
Perry, a two-time winner in Blaine, never rebounded from a “chunked” bogey on No. 6 and labored on the greens Sunday. After leaving several makable putts short or burning the edges of the cup, Perry made another bogey at the par-3 13th before the weather horn sounded. He finished 2 under for the day and 16 under for the tournament, tied for seventh.
“The putts I was making the first two days didn’t go [and] they kind of pulled each other along and I never could keep up,” said Perry, who still picked up his sixth top-10 finish here in seven appearances. “They both played nicely so it was good to watch.”
Like Perry, Stricker spun his wheels on the front nine, leaving a handful of birdies on the course with missed putts. Then Mother Nature stepped in.
Two shots back to start the final round, Stricker parred the first five holes. The Wisconsin native, making his first appearance at the 3M Championship, had just made back-to-back birdies on Nos. 13 and 14 to get to 17 under when a sonic crack of thunder halted play.
After players returned to the course, Stricker put his next tee shot into a divot then had to hit out of a hazard on No. 16. Needing an eagle on 18 to tie the leaders, Stricker took one club too many on approach and rocketed a shot well over the green, all but ending his chances at joining the playoff party.
“That water looms out there in front,” said Stricker, the Presidents Cup captain who will play in this week’s PGA Championship at Quail Hollow. “You want to make sure you give yourself a chance, and I just smoked it.”
Goydos didn’t need to give his winning shot the business, only enough to calm his nerves.
“I play for misses,” Goydos said. “And this was OK.”