Thursday, May 6, 2021

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Kevin Sutherland’s consistency marveled by those who know him best

Kevin Sutherland and Paul Goydos, both 56, first met as collegiate golfers in the old Pacific Coast Athletic Association, with Sutherland at Fresno State and Goydos at Long Beach State.

They competed against each other in several events then and got to know each other enough that when they met up again on what now is the Korn Ferry Tour, in their latter 20s, they decided to start playing Tuesday practice rounds together. On occasion they would drive together to the next event.

Some 30 years later, they still tee it up with each other early on Tuesdays on PGA TOUR Champions. Each has five Champs Tour wins on his resume, and Sutherland currently leads the Schwab Cup standings.

“I’ve learned so much from Paul over the years,” said Sutherland, who picked up his fifth win at the Cologuard Classic in February against a field that included Phil Mickelson and Steve Stricker. “He’s one of the smartest guys about the game, how to play. He knows little tricks and kinds of intricacies of just playing the game. Over the years I’ve picked his brain a lot. He has a great intelligence, a great IQ in golf. It has been very beneficial to me.”

In fact, Sutherland credits a putting lesson from Goydos in November 2018 for really helping push him to new heights. Sutherland ranked 50th in putting average for the 2018 season; after Goydos spotted a few things Sutherland ranked first in putting average for 2019 and is currently fourth in this wraparound 2020-21 season. Not coincidentally, Sutherland has four victories since the assist from his close friend.

Goydos hasn’t won since the 3M Championship in 2017, but he has three top 20s in his past four events. And he has enjoyed watching closely the rise of Sutherland from middling PGA TOUR player to a guy who at this moment arguably is the best PGA TOUR Champions has to offer.

“The last five or six years, to watch Kevin progress as a player … Kevin already is bashing through that wall that some guys hit around 55,” Goydos said. “Kevin seems to be a lot better now than he was at 51. Watching that every Tuesday has been great.

“He’s one of the few ultra-successful professional athletes without an ego. At all. A lot of times you get told how great you are and you start to believe it. Only three people have won the Schwab Cup over the past seven years and he’s one of them and it doesn’t seem to affect him. He’s not a different person. He’s a wonderful husband and father, and our practice rounds are very enjoyable. You want to kill time with people you enjoy, and he’s one of them.”

Both players will tell you the same stories get told nearly every Tuesday, and they still laugh at them. Steve Flesch, a veritable whippersnapper at 53 years of age, has become part of the group with Sutherland and Goydos for about 15 years now.

“Paul is the storyteller and Kevin laughs at everything Paul says,” Flesch said. “Kevin keeps the energy going because his laugh is so infectious. Those two … their history is long before mine with them. They both love baseball. Kevin is an A’s and Paul is an Angels fan. They talk about trades and the money cap and those guys are into it. We just enjoy the banter.”

There’s more than just golf and baseball. Sutherland and Goydos are big fans of Monty Python. And all three start ribbing each other about any bad shots that occur early in the round.

Goydos says he’s a feel player and Flesch is a tinkerer. Flesch says Sutherland has a robotic approach that obviously is pang with no restriction.”

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