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Monday, August 26, 2013

Keegan

Opinion: Fans, friends gather for golfer Gary Woodland

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One of my favorite guilty pleasures is sitting alone in my man cave and not only rooting for Gary Woodland to keep it in the fairway, to nail his approach shots and drop his putts, but pulling for every other golfer to find the water, deep rough and steep bunkers and extending their slides with three-putt greens. Regardless of whether they’re nice guys or spoiled brats, I want them all to turn into weekend hacks so the field can open up for Woodland.

I learned Sunday that I am not alone in this regard. Plenty of people do it, and they don’t hide in their basements. They gather at Jeremiah Bullfrogs Sports Bar and Grille on SW Wanamaker Road whenever Woodland contends. When Tiger Woods winces, an indication he missed one, the crowd erupts with joy.

When the camera is trained on Woodland watching his drive, several people nervously urge him to pick up his tee, a sign that he knows he has nothing to worry about and doesn’t have to watch it come to a rest.

Woodland entered the day tied for first in the Barclays with Matt Kuchar, who faded out of contention, and stayed in the hunt right to the 18th green, despite not ever getting it together, never playing his best golf. He finished tied for second, one stroke behind winner Adam Scott.

Woodland’s putter saved him some pars early, when he wasn’t hitting the ball consistently well. Late, he made terrific shots but couldn’t get his putts to drop.

Woodland had birdie putts of less than 10 feet on each of his final three holes but couldn’t drop one. Groans greeted each miss. But when his day was done, his cap removed, his hand extended for shakes, the room broke out in applause for a game effort.

Dan Woodland, Gary’s father, joined the party midway through the round, back from a trip to Tennessee to watch a NASCAR race. Linda, Gary’s mother, was in Orlando with Gary’s sister and family. Dan and Linda communicated via FaceTime on their smart phones when their son was on the 18th green in Jersey City. Dan was smiling, Linda the picture of stress.

Dan, who never rooted against any golfer in the field, appeared to be experiencing the least stress of anyone in the sports bar packed with Woodland’s friends and relatives, including his maternal grandparents.

“I’ve always been like this,” Dan said of handling the stress of watching his son. “I had a chance to walk with Bob Tway in ’05, and I walked two rounds with him and watched how he handled his son Kevin. He never gets up on the ropes. There’s nothing he can do, and there’s nothing I can do. There’s not.”

It just wasn’t Woodland’s day, but it was another terrific weekend in a year he’s finishing on a strong note.

“We’ve done so much together,” Dan said of staying calm. “I’ve seen him make those last three putts. I would have hollered if one of those had gone in. Hey, that’s golf. He gave it his heart. Some go in, and some don’t.”

Finishing in a four-way tie for second rocketed Woodland into 10th in the FedEx Cup standings and earned him a check for $528,000. Making two of the three putts, or making one and then defeating Scott in a playoff would have earned Woodland a $1.44 million check.

Woodland’s coach at Kansas University for his first three seasons, Ross Randall, and Randall’s wife, Linda, made the drive to Topeka from Lawrence to watch the most successful golfer in KU history flirt with what would have been his biggest victory. To the coach’s trained eye, two of the three missed putts on the way to a final-round 73 were the result of misreads. Randall added that Woodland has turned what was a frustrating year into a good one with his recent work, which included winning a tournament in Reno that extended his PGA Tour exempt status through 2015.

Dan Woodland said that working with a sports psychologist has played a big part in his son’s recent play.

“It’s such a stressful, stressful sport,” Dan said. “I think any individual sport is that way. You don’t have anybody to lean on. It’s just you and the caddy out there, and, hey, you’ve got to get it done. It is stressful. You golf at this level here, and it’s a tremendous sacrifice. It’s a lonely sport. At times when you’re out there banging balls, hour after hour, you’re out there by yourself, and you have to find a way to get through that.”

A free mind leads to a free swing.

“You’re with a sports psychologist and you just open up,” Dan said. “You have to have that trust. You open up and you walk away, and you’re so relaxed: ‘Wow, I got that off my chest.’ I think that’s working for Gary right now. I don’t know what they talk about or anything like that. I’ve never asked him. But I can sure tell it’s working.”

The Barclays, which had 125 golfers in the field, was the first of the four FedEx Cup Series tournaments. The Deutsche Bank Championship (100 golfers) is next, followed by the BMW Championship (70 golfers) and the Tour Championship (30 golfers.) Woodland, who has residences in Orlando, Fla., and Lawrence, moved into 10th in the FedEx Cup points standings, which keeps him in the hunt for the grand prize of $10 million that goes to the winner.

Comments

MinnesotaJay 6 years, 9 months ago

If Gary can keep playing the way he's been recently, he's got as good a shot as anyone else at the top FedEx prize. Best of luck to him!

TexiCaliHawk 6 years, 9 months ago

Gary played very well as his game has been somewhat 'up and down' given his wrist issues, management and swing coach changes over the past few years, so for him to be in the mix down the stretch among some of the world's best golfers (e.g., Woods, Scott, Rose, Kuchar, Mickelson, et. al.) was very impressive indeed.

Regardless of the missed Birdie putt chances (and there were several that were tantalizingly close to going in), his real blunder was pulling out his Driver on the downwind Par 5 14th with water only 325 yds. from the tees -- this was a hole he Birdied the first three rounds, but unfortunately, plunked his drive straight into the water and couldn't get up/down to save Par, so his Bogey proved quite costly indeed as this caused a 1-2 shot swing. He could've 'layed up' with a 3-iron!

Kind of like Phil Mickelson, Gary has tremendous talent, athletic ability and shot-making skills; now he just needs to learn better course management and how to win down the stretch. I am confident that his positive showing in 2 of the last 3 tourneys (the PGA was unfortunately a 'stinkeroo'), he will make the necessary steps to becoming a consistent 'Top 10' challenger and, ultimately, a great Champion.

I was praying for at least a Playoff as I just wanted to continue to watch him play -- the man can flat out knock the cover off the ball and he is just so much fun to watch . . . Next Time!

actorman 6 years, 9 months ago

Thanks for the info., TexiCali. The only reason I can think of why he would take out his driver on the 14th hole like that is that he thought he could drive it over the water. If so -- especially in the last round -- that's quite reminiscent of Tin Cup. Fortunately, he didn't keep trying the same thing over and over ...

KuKain 6 years, 9 months ago

"Kinda of like Phil Mickelson"......yaaaaaaa no. I understand he's the hometown favorite but that statement is ridiculous. Not even close.

rockchalk_dpu 6 years, 9 months ago

The Phil comparison isn't as misplaced as you would have us believe. This isn't a comparison of their victories and major championships that TexiCali is making since Phil far outpaces him in that department, its the way they each play the game. They both have a tendancy to get in trouble during rounds by thinking they can do something they shouldn't rather than taking the safer route. The commentators would likely attribute this to ego that they don't want to win a tournament if they backed off and coasted to the finish, even though smart play sometimes requires taking out a safer club.

Phil would have won the US Open if he took a comfortable 3-wood or long iron off the tee, but instead he hit driver onto the hospitality tent and then tried to force a second shot through the trees and wound up losing by 1. Gary would have likely won yesterday (or at the very least forced a playoff) if he had taken 3-wood or 3-iron out and put it safely down the right side of the fairway avoiding the water. He certainly has the distance to get on in 2 on that hole, it was just a brain fart. He'll learn from this and continue to improve. This year has been up and down, but not too long ago he was one of a few players to place in the top 10 I think of each major.

KuKain 6 years, 9 months ago

Should have included full sentence..."Kind of like Phil Mickelson, Gary has tremendous talent, athletic ability and shot-making skills;"

Highlight SHOT-MAKING SKILLS. Gary is not even in the same realm as Lefty. To claim otherwise is just pure ignorance.

Kenneth Hillman 6 years, 9 months ago

Keep it up Gary. Jayhawk Nation is behind you and the wins will come. Consistently being in it on Sunday is HUGE and the puts will eventually fall to close them out.

Harlan Hobbs 6 years, 9 months ago

My heart goes out to Gary. He easily could have won, and I agree that the par 5 was the key moment. He easily could have gotten home in 2 with something less than the driver, which would have taken the water out of play. A minor point, I think that the par 5 was the 13th, not the 14th.

The good news is that he is on his game at the right time of the year, and hopefully he will make it all the way to Atlanta.

TexiCaliHawk 6 years, 9 months ago

Yup, good catch Harlan50 -- it was the 13th hole that was the Par 5, not the 14th . . . my bad! Thanks RC_dpu for cementing my point as Phil Mickelson has actually been my favorite player for several years and -- while always 'entertaining' to watch -- he didn't always manage the course as well as he should have, or he could have been even MORE successful. An unheard of SIX '2nd Place' finishes in the U.S. Open alone -- are you kidding me?

So no, I wasn't making a direct comparison between Gary and Phil -- only pointing out that both have tremendous talent and physical gifts (Gary much more 'athletic' than Phil; however, Phil having more 'shot making' creativity -- especially in his short-game), but both would do well to take a less aggressive approach from time to time. This is actually how Phil has matured over the years and won tournaments he may have lost in his youth.

Given that Gary is a young, up-and-comer (just ask anyone on Tour as he was voted by his peers to be a 'breakthrough performer' only a year ago -- before his injury and management/swing coach changes), he will use yesterday as a learning process to help him make better/wiser decisions next time.

bg_duck1 6 years, 9 months ago

Don't know if anyone saw this but Gary was featured in Golf Digest's What's In My Bag and of course is repping KU and is proud of it! http://www.golfdigest.com/golf-equipment/whats-in-my-bag/2013-05/photos-gary-woodland-bag#slide=1

Steve Tramba 6 years, 9 months ago

I can't wait to take my son for our annual BMW Championship day when in Chicago, and now to see Gary contend for it all! I'll be decked out daily in Jayhawk gear, & I want a picture with that bag - Jayhawk pride!! I hope a lot of his fans & family make the trek if they can to Chicago - Conway Farms is beautiful! Here's to continuing a budding career & why not a few majors too?!? Rock Chalk Gary!

aviebs51 6 years, 9 months ago

Got to follow Gary 2 years ago at the Cadillac Championship in Miami. It is a lot of fun following him as we have a mutual acquaintance. Got to talk to him through his round. After he signed his card he came out and tossed me a signed golf ball. Also signed a flag "Rock Chalk",

I agree it was a first where I was screaming at the TV for putts to roll in and other guys to get the shanks....his mistake was the par 5. He shoulda taken iron off the tee. It still would have possibly allowed him iron into the green for 2. Guy can hit the ball that far. Even though he woulda had a chip for his GIR.

He just isn't there yet with his consistency. Yet! Golf is a game that is played between the ears. No way his caddie shoulda let him hit driver. He shoulda pulled a Romeo from Tin Cup and broken his driver over his knee. Working with Luke Donald has done wonders for his short game. If he can grasp the mental part, and bring along his short game, he will win. He has such an advantage with his length.

He still made us all proud Sunday. Great job Gary! Rock Chalk!

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