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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Keegan

Gary Woodland would rather be golfing

Former Kansas University golfer Gary Woodland tees off on the ninth hole during the third round of the Transitions Championship golf tournament on Saturday, March 19, 2011, in Palm Harbor, Fla. Woodland won the tournament on Sunday.

Former Kansas University golfer Gary Woodland tees off on the ninth hole during the third round of the Transitions Championship golf tournament on Saturday, March 19, 2011, in Palm Harbor, Fla. Woodland won the tournament on Sunday.

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PGA tour professional Gary Woodland had hoped to be in Arizona competing in the Accenture Match Play Chamionships in Saturday’s quarterfinals. He had no complaints about what amounted to a most memorable consolation prize.

Woodland and glam gal pal Gabby Granado spent the afternoon watching as entertaining a game as ever has been played in Allen Fieldhouse, where Kansas defeated Missouri, 87-86, in overtime.

Woodland, 27, was eliminated in the first round of the match-play event by reigning Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, 4 and 2. That allowed him to spend a few days in his home state at just the right time to witness the end of the Border War.

Not much about the basketball game Woodland watched Saturday could have reminded him of the one he played in Allen Fieldhouse. Woodland was a freshman basketball player for Washburn University, which plays Kansas in a preseason exhibition every other year. He then transferred sports and universities, signing up to play golf for KU.

Woodland became one of golf’s best stories in 2011, his first full year on tour, when he established himself globally. (His 2009 and 2010 seasons were shortened by shoulder woes). Woodland finished 17th on the PGA Tour money list with $3,448,590.80. In November, he teamed with Matt Kuchar and gave the United States its first victory in the World Cup, played in China, since Tiger Woods and David Duvall won it in 2000.

This year hasn’t gone as well so far for Woodland, but he said he anticipated that because he’s in the midst of a swing change with his new instructor.

Randy Smith, head golf professional at Royal Oaks Country Club in Dallas, had been Woodland’s swing guru since during his days at KU. But when Woodland replaced Randy’s son Blake Smith of Hambric Sports Group as the man handling his corporate marketing, Randy Smith fired Woodland as his pupil.

Don’t waste any sympathy on Woodland. He now works with Butch Harmon, a name known by even casual sports fans because he was Tiger’s instructor from 1993 to 2004. Golf purists revered that last name long before it became associated with the world’s best golfer. Claude Harmon, Sr., was the 1948 Masters Champion and best instructor of his era. Like father, like son. In an annual Golf Digest poll of instructors, Butch Harmon has been voted No. 1 every year since 2003. His brothers, Craig, Dick and Billy Harmon, also are highly ranked instructors.

Craig Harmon has been head golf professional since 1972 at one of the world’s finest golf courses, Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y., site of the 2013 PGA. Craig’s college teammate at San Jose State, All-American Ross Randall, was Woodland’s coach at Kansas. Small golf world.

Ideally, swing changes should start earlier than Woodland’s because they take time to get rooted, but the ever-confident Topeka native said during halftime of Saturday’s classic game he is encouraged by how far down the road Harmon has him.

“We’ve made a lot of changes the last few months. We’re trying to get ready for Augusta,” Woodland said of the Georgia course where the Masters is played every year. “That was the plan. I think we’ll be ready before that. We’re ahead of schedule. It’s pretty good on the range. I’ve just got to trust it when I get on the golf course. That’s been the hardest part.”

One of the longest hitters in the world, Woodland has always cut his driver, which means giving it a slight left-to-right path. Harmon has taught him how to draw the ball, which puts it on a right-to-left path and adds yardage.

Butch Harmon is in such demand that he doesn’t take clients unless he strongly believes in their ability, as evidenced by the star power of his small stable. He teaches Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Nick Watney and Woodland, not your average Sunday morning foursome.

“The kid has a chance to be the best player in the world,” Harmon told Doug Ferguson of the Golf Channel.

As Woodland looked out on the court on which he once played, he talked about his work with the world’s most respected golf instructor.

“We’re just trying to hit more consistent, trying to hit every shot,” Woodland said. “I was pretty stuck with one way, always cut a driver. We’re trying to hit it both ways. Especially going into Augusta. We’re just trying to get the whole arsenal ready to go.”

Woodland, one of four golfers (Schwartzel, Steve Stricker, Ryan Palmer) to finish in the top 30 in all four 2011 majors, tied for 24th in the Masters last April.

“The golf course suits me great,” Woodland said. “Hopefully, we get the game where everything’s clicking on all cylinders, and we’ll be ready to rock and roll.”

Comments

Scott MacWilliams 8 years, 7 months ago

Ummm, is this a basketball story?? Not sure here.

Is there a separate section for tangentially related ex-KU golfers watching hoops?

Andrew Bary 8 years, 7 months ago

I bet Gary has played more collegiate basketball games in the Phog than you :) lol

MinnesotaJay 8 years, 7 months ago

Always interested to hear about Gary. He's off to a slow start this year, and now it's clear why, as he's transitioning his swing. Good luck to Gary in 2012. 2011 was pretty awesome.

Doug Cramer 8 years, 7 months ago

Nice article. I too always enjoy the Woodland updates.

jhox 8 years, 7 months ago

Yet another tease about his gal pal Gabby Granado, from the Journal World, without so much as a picture of her. Don't know about anyone else, but I'm getting a little tired of this. How about a picture next time?

ahpersecoachingexperience 8 years, 7 months ago

I'm sure the chatter around water coolers in Kansas today will not be about the game, if we should continue to play Mizzou, or how impressive it is to win 8 straight. Instead jayhawk nation will be speaking about a former golfer and his first round loss on Friday and his new swing coach.

S! M! H!

REHawk 8 years, 7 months ago

Tom, perhaps time for a lengthy in-depth regarding Kevin Young, with some quotes about his transition to Bill Self hoops? Has LJW sports ever done a biographical article on Andrea Hudy, from her high school days thru U Con and on to Kansas?

actorman 8 years, 7 months ago

I love both ideas, especially the story on Hudy.

yates33333 8 years, 7 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

jayhawker_97 8 years, 7 months ago

and yet here we are reading pages & pages of brain fart machine every day - what does that make us?

W Keith Swinehart II 8 years, 7 months ago

You almost lost me after paragraph two when you uttered the phrase "glam gal pal." I thought I had erroneously picked up "People."

Otherwise, good article on a KU athlete we should be keeping our eyes on. He is one who is flirting with stardom. He could help golf recruiting and assist the overall KU athletic program as golf season gets rolling. And, yes, a photo of him and his glam gal pal wouldn't hurt. It might broaden your readership base as well.

FreddyinLA 8 years, 7 months ago

Interesting that Butch want a huge hitter like Woody to turn the ball over more. Keegs, thanks for the update.

RockChalk26 8 years, 7 months ago

Come on Gary, what kind of follow through is that?

You look like me right after I shank my tee shot.

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