Gary Woodland turned in back-to-back stellar rounds at the PGA Championship to go into the weekend with a one-shot lead over Kevin Kisner. Woodland followed up Thursday’s 64 with a 66 on Friday to post a -10 cumulative score at Bellerive Golf Course.
Woodland, 34, has never won a major championship. His best finish was T-12 in both the 2016 Open Championship and 2011 PGA Championship.
Woodland is currently ranked 44th in the Official World Golf Rankings. If Woodland can go wire-to-wire and win his first major, his ranking would certainly go up. He also currently sits at 22 on the Ryder Cup points list. While he won’t be able to vault himself into the top 8 to automatically qualify for the historic event, a win at the PGA Championship could make captain Jim Furyk think hard about selecting Woodland as a captain’s pick.
Here’s what you need to know about Gary Woodland:
1. Woodland Has Won Three Times on the PGA Tour
Woodland turned professional in 2007, starting his career on the Nationwide Tour (now known as the Web.com Tour). By the end of 2008, he earned his tour card through Qualifying School, though he struggled for the next couple of years as he battled injuries and split his time between both tours.
By 2011, Woodland’s game came together rather nicely. He lost in a playoff at the Bob Hope Classic at the start of the season. Not deterred by just missing out on his first PGA victory, two months later Woodland won the Transitions Championship, defeating Webb Simpson by one stroke.
Woodland has hovered around leaderboards ever since. In 2013, Woodland won the Reno-Tahoe Open for his second PGA Tour victory.
Earlier this year, he won the Waste Management Phoenix Open in a playoff over Chez Reavie to notch his third PGA Tour win. After the win, Woodland shot up to 25th in the World Rankings, the highest spot he’s ever held.
Fans of match play may remember his match with Rory McIlroy for the 2015 WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship. Although Woodland lost, he further proved he was capable of going toe-to-toe with the very best in the game.
2. Woodland Hasn’t had Much Luck in Major Championships Throughout His Career
Since 2009, Woodland has played in 28 major championships, all four of them at least six times. He’s missed the cut eight times and finished 50th or worse in six majors. He has one top-25 in the Masters, U.S. Open, and Open Championship, and two top-25 finishes in the PGA Championship.
Despite his spotty history in golf’s most prestigious events, Woodland feels confident at Bellerive.
After his first round, Woodland said, “This week is as close to home as I’ve been. I snuck over here about a month ago and played the golf course. Really enjoyed the layout. The turf is very familiar to me. It’s so hot here during the summer, so the greens are soft and slow. You can be more aggressive, which suits my game.”
3. Woodland & His Wife Gabby Lost a Child in 2017
Right before the start of the 2017 Dell Technologies Match Play Championship in March 2017, Woodland announced that he had to withdraw from the tournament due to complications with his wife’s pregnancy. Gabby and Gary were expecting twins, but one of the babies tragically died during the pregnancy.
The other twin, a boy named Jaxson, was born 10 weeks premature on June 24, 2017. At only three pounds at birth, Jaxson needed constant medical attention after he was born. Gary reflected on this to Golf Digest.
“The struggles my wife has had to deal with, it’s been hard for me to leave home. It’s a huge relief just knowing he’s safe. For so long, we didn’t know if he was going to make it before he was born,” Woodland said.
Jaxson spent the first couple of months of his life in the hospital. When he was finally able to go home, he had to be hooked to a machine to monitor his breathing.
Thankfully, Jaxson is now doing well. Jaxson even greeted his dad on the green following Gary’s win at the Waste Management Phoenix Open earlier this year.
After explaining that they had purposely kept Jaxson isolated while on the road, Woodland said, “So my wife kind of surprised me with him on the last hole. I didn’t think he was going to be there, I thought it would just be her, and for her to bring him out, that was special and something I’ll never forget.”
4. Woodland Started College as an Basketball Player Before Switching to Golf
Woodland is one of the PGA Tour guys that actually looks like he could play basketball or football. Before he set his heart on making it on the PGA Tour, Woodland had other aspirations.
He grew up in Kansas, where basketball is king. His high school team won two state titles, and he then chose to play basketball at Washburn University. At the time, he believed he had what it took to make it to the NBA.
However, that changed when Washburn played the University of Kansas in their first game. “They were so much bigger and so much faster than we were…” Woodland told TaylorMade.
“I quickly realized I wasn’t going to be able to play basketball as a professional — I probably could’ve gone overseas and played, but I wasn’t going to be able to do it as a career.”
A natural athlete, Woodland had a golf scholarship offer from the University of Kansas coming out of high school. Luckily, the university that had just destroyed his basketball dreams opened the door for him to transfer schools and play golf.
5. As a Child in Kansas, Golf Was Woodland’s “3rd Sport”
In high school, Woodland played basketball and baseball throughout the whole year. He played golf as well, but he described it as his “3rd sport.”
Woodland described the change to putting golf above all else as challenging, but he added that his game improved greatly as he was only dedicating his time to one sport.
He told TaylorMade that his experience playing college basketball helped prepare him for golf. “In team sports, you learn how to compete even when you’re not playing well…Golf has that same element. You’re never going to have every aspect of your game at its highest potential. — you need to find ways to win even if your driving or putting is slightly off.”
Source: Heavy Sports