For Goggin, part of adapting means accepting that he might not be able to overpower golf courses the way he used to. The year he arrived on the Web.com Tour (1999), he finished T8 on Tour in driving distance, averaging 292 yards.
Goggin still hits the ball approximately the same length, but he recognizes that younger players are surpassing him. He finished 89th on Tour in driving distance last season, averaging 291.2 yards off the tee.
Despite the frequent lengthening of courses, Goggin still hits it plenty long enough to win when his game is sharp – especially when a course plays firm and fast, as Panama GC did last week.
“You play a certain way for most of your career, and then guys coming up, you start realizing that everyone hits it that much further,” said Goggin. “You have to start to adapt your game, and I feel like I’m sort of getting my head around that a little bit.”
Despite back-to-back double bogeys on holes 10 and 11 Saturday, Goggin entered the final round in Panama only one shot behind 54-hole-leader Hao Tong Li.
Goggin shot 2-under 34 on the front nine Sunday to remain a shot behind the lead, which at the turn was held by Harold Varner III, who is still in search of his first Web.com Tour title.
Varner struggled on the back nine – shooting 4-over 39 – while Goggin stayed the course, making eight pars and a near-clinching birdie on the par-3 17th. As the majority of the field fell back over the closing holes, Goggin remained cool under pressure, and he emerged from the pack.
After a few years of battling doubts and negativity, Goggin now has a victory to help propel him forward.
“We’re basket cases at the best of times; it’s like a roller coaster out here,” Goggin said. “You’re never going to quit, because it’s all you know and it’s all you love to do, but there are times when the game is just so frustrating and everything just seems so difficult. And then one week later, everything’s great and you wonder why you were ever so down.
“It’s tough to manage that. That’s one of the keys for a professional golfer, is just managing your emotions – not just on the golf course, but through the weeks and months and years. And this is really satisfying. It gives me a lot of confidence.”
And if he keeps playing like he did at Panama GC, Goggin could fare better than just finishing inside the top 25 on the money list, and he knows it.
After a year of missed opportunities in 2014, Goggin made amends in Panama. Now, his sights are set on No. 1.
“I think you always come out here with the goal of winning the money list, and you feel like if you play your best golf, you’ll have a chance to be right around it,” Goggin said. “But in saying that, you really have to take advantage of your opportunities. Top-three finishes are so big out here. Finishing seventh or eighth or 15th every week, it just doesn’t get you anything.
“You’ve got to be able to convert one of those, playing in the last group on Sunday and ending up around the top of the leader board. Last year, a couple of times, I turned good tournaments into 15ths and 16ths, and I ended up having a terrible year. Yet if you have one good day in those, you’ve flipped your whole year around.”
Goggin’s 3-under 67 in the final round at Panama GC was plenty good enough, and one week into the season, he’s right where he wants to be on the money list: No. 1.