Sunday, June 16, 2019

Woodland wins! Former Jayhawk star captures first career major at U.S. Open

Gary Woodland celebrates after winning the U.S. Open Championship golf tournament Sunday, June 16, 2019, in Pebble Beach, Calif.

Gary Woodland celebrates after winning the U.S. Open Championship golf tournament Sunday, June 16, 2019, in Pebble Beach, Calif.


After taking the lead with a monster second round at famed Pebble Beach on Friday, former Kansas golf standout Gary Woodland kept the lead to the end, finishing the job Sunday afternoon by winning the first major title of his career.

All Woodland had to do to win was hold off two-time defending U.S. Open champ, Brooks Koepka, who made a serious charge and got to 10-under for the tournament, putting just enough pressure on Woodland on Sunday afternoon to make him feel every heartbeat.

But Woodland, 35, was up to the challenge and never blinked en route to becoming the first Jayhawk ever to win a major.

After giving a shot back on the 13th hole, Woodland birdied No. 14 after an aggressive second shot at the Par 5 that both reached the green and gave him the confidence he needed to get to the end.


Gary Woodland celebrates with the trophy after winning the U.S. Open Championship golf tournament Sunday, June 16, 2019, in Pebble Beach, Calif. (AP Photo/Matt York)

“The idea was to play to win," Woodland said during a TV interview after his triumph. "That birdie kind of separated me a little bit."

A few holes later, his chip shot on the Par 3 17th hole, which helped him card yet another par after safely traveling from one edge of the green to makeable-putt distance on the other side, preserved his two-shot lead heading into the final hole and earned a fist bump from playing partner Justin Rose, who led the tournament after Round 1 and trailed by just one entering Sunday’s final round.

“I was just trying to get it over that hump there," Woodland said of the chip that all but sealed his victory. "It came off perfectly. I thought it had a chance to go in, but it’s not one I want over.”

From there, he played it safe on 18 and then, fittingly, rolled in a bomb of a putt for birdie on his final hole to finish at 13-under for the tournament, three strokes better than Koepka.

Woodland made just four bogeys all tournament — tying the Pebble Beach record — and did some of the best scrambling of his career to avoid whatever trouble presented itself. He brought home a first-place prize of $2.25 million for his efforts.

“I never let myself get ahead," an emotional Woodland acknowledged after winning. "And I never really thought the tournament was over. Once that (last putt) went in, it all kind of came out of me and it was special to finish it off here at Pebble Beach.”

It was Rose, a former major champion himself, not Woodland who faded down the stretch in the final group, paving the way for the Woodland-Koepka race to the end.

"Gary, he played a hell of a round today," Koepka said on the FOX broadcast after the tournament. "To see him go out in style like that was pretty cool. I don't think anyone in the world played as good as Gary did this weekend. It was cool to see. Happy for him."

The U.S. Open victory is Woodland’s fourth career PGA Tour victory and came with Jayhawk hats in the gallery and sounds of the Rock Chalk chant following him to the green on the 18th hole of the best tournament of his life.

"This will change his life overnight," the FOX broadcasters said during coverage of Sunday's final round as Woodland walked up the 18th fairway.

Woodland, a Topeka native who is a member at Lawrence Country Club and still owns a home in Lawrence, had led after 54 holes seven other times in his career but had yet to seal the deal until Sunday. He entered the week ranked No. 25 in the world and No. 9 in the FedEx Cup standings.

After his putt rolled in on the last green, the normally reserved Woodland threw his arms high in the air and exploded with a vicious fist pump while his parents, Dan and Linda, celebrated just off the green.

As he walked to the scorer's tent to sign his scorecard, Woodland was met and hugged by nearly a dozen of his competitors, all greeting him with smiles and 'atta boys.

As he received the Jack Nicklaus gold medal and tournament trophy on the 18th green, Woodland was introduced to the still-buzzing gallery as the winner of the 119th U.S. Open.

Asked how that sounded to him by FOX golf broadcaster Curtis Strange, Woodland said simply, "Sounds really, really good. I like that.”


Gary Denning 3 years, 5 months ago

A Kansas/KU guy does something great and you two are complaining about an announcer? Just wow. Rock Chalk and congrats to a great Jayhawk and Kansan.

Tracey Graham 3 years, 5 months ago

Congratulations, Gary!!!!

He played a fantastic final round, never blinking when it looked like Brooks Koepka was going to catch up to or overtake him. As he did all week, Woodland had several huge par saves today, including one on 17. And how about the 18th hole! He had three putts to seal the win and what does he do? Knocks in a 30-foot putt for a birdie!

What a fantastic Father's Day for a guy who is already the father of a 2-year-old son and the soon-to-be father of twin girls :)


Suzi Marshall 3 years, 5 months ago

Yes 17 and 18 were dramatic. That chip on 17 won him the tournament! I've played PB a few times and always end up behind (and then hitting) that damn tree. He just laid up by going right over that thing. Closing with making that bomb was incredible.

David Kelley-Wood 3 years, 5 months ago

So awesome! Way to go, Gary!

Mom and dad both proud afterwards, but she was the better dressed of the two, in her light blue Jayhawk sweater jacket.

Larry Knzas 3 years, 5 months ago

Congratulations Mr. Woodland!! Rock Chalk to a man of simple words, outstanding execution and our National Champion.

Ed Noyes 3 years, 5 months ago

Very impressive! The chip on 17 was an all-time classic!

Buck Bukaty 3 years, 5 months ago

Back when Alvamar was originally rebranded as The Jayhawk Club I suggested that the Clubhouse Tap Room initiate a Ring of Honor for distinguished golfers. But to be eligible I suggested one must win a Major to earn consideration.



Would also be cool to name one of the twins, Amy!

Dane Pratt 3 years, 5 months ago

Doesn't winning a major earn you an exemption from qualifying for future tournaments? Someone help me here. I think I'm on the right track but hazy on the details.

Brian Skelly 3 years, 5 months ago

 He certainly has exemptions for the US Open for awhile now.   I also believe winning a major secures his PGA Card for several years as well.    The rules change constantly though.     It used to be 10 years for a Major win (at that event),  and 5 years for full PGA Card.     But I think it's changed.    
 Regardless,  he's not going to be in danger of losing full time PGA status for awhile now.    Hopefully he can make the Ryder Cup team!

Creg Bohrer 3 years, 5 months ago

Rock chalk!! Glad to see a Jayhawk and a local Kansan win the open.

Brian Skelly 3 years, 5 months ago

Watched the whole last round today.    He was nails.    He really didn't flinch at all when Kopeka made his run.    It was fun to watch.   No 3 putts all week.    That's crazy.    Great to watch.    Rock Chalk ! ! !

Tracey Graham 3 years, 5 months ago

So can Kirk Hinrich take some credit for this victory? Gary Woodland said that it was after he had to try and guard Kirk in an exhibition game his freshman season at Washburn that he realized professional basketball wasn't in his future, thus leading him to transfer to KU on a golf scholarship and pursuing that sport as his future profession ;)

Brad Avery 3 years, 5 months ago

Actually, Gary was a great spot up shooter for the Ichabods and Bob Chipman, and when he was younger he was a superb hitter/baseball player for the Topeka Orioles. I remember watching him take batting practice as a middle schooler and hitting balls out of the high school field at SCABA. Great athlete.

Chris DeWeese 3 years, 5 months ago

Congrats, Gary! Way to represent Jayhawk nation.

Blake Brown 3 years, 5 months ago

So happy for him. Family members who know him say he is a genuine article which is exactly how he comes off on TV.

Dyrk Dugan 3 years, 5 months ago

Well, it was a remarkable performance; kudos to Gary and his preparation and execution. To defeat the #1 player in the world, and the winner of 4 of the last 8 majors; and with Brooks playing so well; it’s a great legacy to leave for your first major title. So proud of him and what a great representation he is to Jayhawk nation; what an accomplishment. Congrats Gary! Go Jayhawks!

Titus Canby 3 years, 5 months ago

In addition to everything else, Woodland broke the Pebble Beach record for the U. S. Open. Dominating performance.

I've also been wondering, "what did Tom Keegan think?" This is a great article.

Randy Bombardier 3 years, 5 months ago

Sweet! Think a home in Carmel is in order!

Thomas Green 3 years, 5 months ago

Congrats to Gary Woodland! Super impressive! I so enjoy seeing one of ours do well! Rock Chalk!

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