BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Barely one week ago, Mike Goodes was not sure whether he would even be in the field for the Regions Tradition at Shoal Creek. Midway through Thursday's opening round, he probably wished he wasn't there.
But after starting the tournament 5-over par through the first 10 holes, Goodes has been nothing short of great in the first Champions Tour major of the season. He followed up an opening-round 76 with a 6-under 66 on Friday and a 5-under 67 in Saturday's third round.
Suddenly, Goodes finds himself tied for seventh place at 7-under 209, still in the hunt five shots behind leader Mark Calcavecchia heading into Sunday's final round.
"A lot of things were going through my mind (on Thursday), but finishing in the top-10 was not one of them," Goodes said with a smile. "Obviously I'm very happy to be in the position I'm in right now."
It has been a rollercoaster past 10 days for Goodes. He originally was not going to be eligible to play in the Regions Tradition when the field was set at 72 players. But late last week the Champions Tour Player Advisory Council agreed to increase the field to 78, which is the standard size of most Champions Tour events. Goodes learned he had made the expanded field on the evening of April 29, only six days before the opening round.
"I was very fortunate to even be in the field, and I know it," Goodes said. "I was very thankful for that."
His excitement quickly diminished once play began, however, as Goodes had two bogeys and two double bogeys in the first 10 holes. He walked off the 10th green at 5-over, shaking his head at how things had gone wrong so quickly.
"I've been playing well lately, but I just played lousy that first 10 holes," said Goodes, who has two 12th-place finishes and a 13th in six tournaments this season. "It was more of a surprise for me to be playing so bad the first day than it has been for me to be playing well the last two days. I wasn't expecting to shoot 66 and 67 every day, but I was expecting to hit a lot of good shots, and the first 10 holes wasn't that way."
Despite his terrible start, Goodes said he was able to maintain a positive attitude.
"I just kept telling myself that it's a long tournament and you have to keep plugging along," Goodes said. "I kept thinking, 'Look, I'm lucky to be here. Whatever I get out of this is kind of a bonus, because I'm not supposed to be in the tournament.' "
Goodes finally stabilized his game over the final eight holes on Thursday, with seven pars and a birdie. Still, he was tied for 51st after the opening round and wasn't within a long drive of the leaderboard.
But it didn't take long for things to change during Friday's second round, as Goodes birdied two of the first three holes and shot 32 on the front nine. He closed the round with two more birides, and his 66 tied for the second best score of the day.
"I just started hitting the ball much better, and I started making putts," Goodes said. "A lot of my putts the first day were skimming the edge of the hole. Since then they've been sucking them in like a black hole.
"It took me awhile to get comfortable, but once I did it just kept building and it carried over from hole to hole."
Goodes ended Saturday's round with another birdie flurry, shooting 32 on the back nine. And as he steadily crept up the leaderboard, Calcavecchia was struggling through a back nine that included two bogeys and a double bogey.
A victory in this tournament remains a longshot for Goodes. Shortly after walking off the 18th green on Saturday he said, "I don't have much of a chance to win."
Maybe not, but he certainly has a much better shot than he ever thought possible midway through the opening round.
"I have a chance to have a good tournament, and that's all I want to do," Goodes said. "I just want to go out and play well (on Sunday). If I do that, you never know what might happen."
After all, the fact is that over the past two days nobody has posted a better score that Goodes' 11-under. If the tournament had started on Friday, as non-major Champions Tour events do, he actually would be leading right now.
"Yeah, that was a practice round Thursday," Goodes said with a laugh. "I'm all for that."