Woodland still has Hope

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Thanks to the good side of modern technology — honest, there is a good side — fans of former Kansas University golfer and PGA tour rookie Gary Woodland can follow his every shot at pgatour.com.

For those doing so, Thursday, Woodland’s first day as a tour professional, was a euphoric afternoon during which he started and finished with birdies and found himself tied for 13th in the Sony Open.

Friday brought a 1-2 computer punch to the gut. Woodland lost a ball on two separate holes and carded triple-bogey on both holes. Thanks to those two holes, Woodland missed the cut. Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, Hawaii, got the better of him in a strange way.

“Nick Faldo said in 20-some years he had only seen one lost ball there,” Woodland said by phone during halftime of the Kansas-Texas A&M game he watched on TV. “Outside those holes, I played great. I thought I handled the pressure of my first tournament well.”

If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, dentists offices would have lines running out the door every minute of every day. Golf’s only question that matters is, “What’d you shoot?” Still, it’s worth nothing that with pars on the two holes he tripled, Woodland not only would have made the cut, he would have been near the top of the leaderboard.

After the tournament, Woodland, who now lives in Orlando, checked in with his shot doctor, Dallas-based Randy Smith, who told Woodland, “keep doing what you’re doing,” and added that he figured after the strange bad luck in not being able to find two golf balls, Woodland just might have gotten the worst luck of his career out of the way already. Staying in the winter home of northeast Kansas auto dealer Laird Noller, Woodland is in Southern California for the five-day, four-course 50th Bob Hope Classic. He tees off at 12:18 p.m. Central time today.

Woodland’s outgoing personality already is making him a hit with those who market the PGA Tour. Woodland was chosen to promote the Kodak Challenge, a new twist to the tour, whereby 24 different holes are chosen, and players’ scores on those holes during the season are kept, and their 18 best scores are chosen. The player with the lowest score in relation to par on those 18 holes wins $1 million. Woodland talked up the Challenge on Monday, the same day he played a practice round.

Arnold Palmer is serving as the host of the Bob Hope Classic, so getting to know him is on the agenda this week for Woodland as well.

As busy as Woodland is practicing his game, he still catches his favorite basketball team on the tube.

“They’re young, but it looks like they’re coming on,” Woodland said of the Jayhawks. He called getting honored on the court during a timeout early in the Tennessee game in Allen Fieldhouse, “one of the best feelings I’ve ever had in my life.”

“It was nice to get an ovation,” Woodland said. “The first time I was on the Allen Fieldhouse court, they were booing me.”

That happened when Woodland was a freshman basketball player at Washburn University, playing an exhibition against Kansas.

Exhibitions are a thing of the past for Woodland. This week’s winner earns $918,000 of the $5.1 million purse.