Three weeks ago today, former Kansas University golf coach Ross Randall received a call from his greatest-ever player, Gary Woodland, wondering if he would like to watch him play nine holes at Alvamar public.
Randall was happy to see a familiar face with Woodland, who had made a needed caddy change. Randall has known Tony Navarro, whose former bosses include Greg Norman, Raymond Floyd and Adam Scott, on Woodland’s bag. (Woodland seldom interacted with his previous caddy. The chemistry just wasn’t there.)
“It was the most amazing nine holes of golf I had ever seen,” said Randall, who played on the PGA Tour for eight years. “He never missed a shot. He cut it when he needed a cut. He drew it when he needed a draw, and he hit everything else straight. He made the course look like The Orchards. He made 3,700 yards seem like 2,200 yards.”
Randall shared a quick exchange he had with the long-ball hitter after the nine.
Woodland: “How do I look?”
Randall: “You look better than I’ve ever seen you.”
Woodland: “I feel pretty good.”
Randall told friends, “If I’ve ever seen anybody absolutely ready to dominate their sport, he’s the guy. I’ve never seen anybody play golf like that. Never. Not even close.”
Randall detailed some of the shots Woodland hit: On No. 2, a short par 5, Woodland reached the green in two by following a 3-wood with a 5-iron. He almost drove the green on Nos. 3 and 5, both par-4 holes. On No. 8, Woodland teed off from the No. 6 tee box, located well behind the tips of No. 8, hammered a drive and then powered a 6-iron onto the green.
Randall watched Woodland all weekend on the Golf Channel in the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Woodland finished second after losing a one-hole playoff to Ryan Moore at 7:30 a.m. Monday local time (6:30 p.m. Sunday in Lawrence). He banked $756,000 from the tournament that now counts as part of the 2014 schedule.
Woodland’s attempt to win the tournament on the 72nd hole died when his 10-foot, right-to-left putt slid past the cup on the low side. His flat stick served him well during the weekend, and he attributed that in part to a tip from Phil Mickelson.
“I’m watching him play, and I still think he can play better,” Randall said.
Once Woodland’s temperamental wrist injury calmed down, coupled with visits to a sports psychologist, Woodland took off late in the 2013 season. In his past eight PGA Tour events, Woodland has won one, finished second once, tied for second once, tied for 18th and tied for 22nd, tied for 41st, finished 74th and missed a cut.
He will play in all four majors this season, and if he stays on fire, he has the sort of talent that could make him a candidate for the Ryder Cup team. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Next up for Woodland is a month of rest and work on his game while living at his Orlando, Fla., residence. Woodland also has a Lawrence residence and an intense passion for KU basketball, so nobody should be surprised to see him in attendance at a game or two.
“He’s providing a lot of excitement,” Randall said.
And, Randall seems convinced, we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
And to think Woodland once was walking with former KU hoops player Greg Gurley and was stopped by a fan who wanted to pose for a picture. A picture with Gurley, that is. Woodland was asked if he could snap the shot and obliged.