In one corner: Camilo Villegas, an A frame heir to the superman cloak if Tiger Woods ever becomes weary with the top rung. And in the other corner: Paul Goydos, the Tours original dirtbag and the games quintessential everyman.
Goydos grinded out a third-round 72 on a golf course he openly admits is too much for his 44-year-old frame. But then there would have been no way of knowing what Goydos was cooking up on his scorecard had it not been for the walking standard in his group.
During a particularly unsteady run late in his third round, Goydos recorded four bogeys, three birdies and two pars over his final nine holes, but his gaze remained unchanged, his hands stuffed deep in his pockets and his shoulders slumped in signature fashion.
Hes 12 under on the South Course, Goydos reasoned when asked about Rollins lead. I dont know what you want me to do.
When a reporter likened Goydos to Rocco Mediate, the surprise undercard at last summers Torrey Pines Open, Goydos didnt miss an opening, Thats an insult to Rocco, he smiled.
Goydos self-deprecating ways often masks stellar play, particularly from one of the games shortest hitters on one of the Tours longest courses. And his play this week is likely masking the emotional loss of his ex-wife.
Goydos learned of his ex-wifes death when he was returning home from the Sony Open. A single father who missed nearly all of the 2004 season to be at home with his two daughters, Goydos has declined to publically speak about his ex-wifes death. Simply put, hes not there yet.
But it is clear that the Buick, Goydos first event since the Sony, has provided him with an outlet: I play golf. I enjoy playing golf. It's what I do. I do it when I'm home, I do it when I'm out on Tour, I do it at Christmas if I can. It's what I do.
His solid play, however, is something altogether different. If his 2008 Sawgrass surprise was viewed as an exception to the rule, those closest to the well-traveled Tour pro envisioned a season outside the norm in 2009.
Goydos spent the offseason back home at Long Beachs Virginia Country Club playing regular games with the other members of the VCC Tour stable: John Cook, John Merrick, John Mallinger and rookie Peter Tomasulo.
While the youthful threesome embraced the chance to play with two veterans, it was Goydos who seemed to draw something extra from the mini-camp.
I think the boys really helped invigorate him, said Jamie Mulligan, VCCs director of golf and the groups swing coach. Look at how good (Mark) OMeara played when Tiger influenced him.
Goydos, a former high school teacher, took a predictably scholarly approach to the offseason proceedings.
They're better than me. I mean, I need to talk to them more than anything else, Goydos said. When they're 17-year veterans, they won't be talking about me too much.
Goydos hasnt played the Buick since 2003, in part because of the Rees Jones redesign, but watched last years U.S. Open and was inspired to return. Given the emotional toll of the last few weeks, his play at Torrey Pines has been inspiring but not surprising to those who know him.
Hes a special cat, Mulligan said. Hes really gracious to be able to play pro golf and you can tell that.