Change in mindset led to Woodland's turnaround

By Rex HoggardOctober 30, 2013, 3:54 pm

Amid the morning mist on Monday in Malaysia, Gary Woodland stepped to the 18th tee at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club and gave the golf world the ultimate head fake, smoothing an iron into play on the massive 634-yard, par-5 closing hole.

He broke the code, right? The former college point guard knows the rules, coaches coach, shooters shoot and bombers bomb. In this moment, a sudden-death playoff against Ryan Moore that spilled over into Monday at the CIMB Classic by mounting weather delays, one of the game’s most athletic players had a chance to overpower the sprawling final hole and claim his third PGA Tour title.

Instead, he went with an iron off the tee, hit a less-than-stellar layup into the rough and watched as Moore birdied the hole to claim the crown. In the loss, however, we saw a glimpse of Gary Woodland 2.0, a retooled player whose health and head have finally caught up with all that athleticism.

“I didn't think I could cover the bunkers this morning, especially where that pin was,” Woodland reasoned on Monday. “If the pin was up front, we probably would have been a little more aggressive, but with the pin in the back I didn't want to leave it short of the bunker and have a tough third shot. We decided to lay up and tried to hit a good wedge in there.”

In short, the mighty has become mindful. And in the case of Woodland he’s come by it honestly.

For all of the Monday morning quarterbacks – or maybe it was Sunday night couch potatoes considering the CIMB’s playoff was aired in primetime on the East Coast from Malaysia – who took to second guessing Woodland’s choice of clubs in extra frames know only that the decision is a sign of progress.

Consider that less than six months ago, Woodland had drifted to 259th in the World Golf Ranking and was mired in an ultimate makeover that others would likely consider a career-ending abyss.

In order, Woodland changed management firms, swing coaches (twice), equipment and eventually caddies (Tony Navarro). If not for the omnipresent Kansas Jayhawk on his bag, casual fans may have been challenged to pick Woodland out of a crowded tee sheet.

“Gary changed 14 clubs and the golf ball this year,” said Claude Harmon III, who took over for his famous father, Butch, as Woodland’s swing coach after this year’s Masters. “That’s tough, look at the guys who have changed like that. Look at Rory (McIlroy), it’s not easy to do. There was a lot of change.”

But the biggest change this year may have been Woodland’s health. Dogged by ailments large and small since joining the Tour in 2009, Woodland was nearly sidelined this spring with a left-wrist injury.

The result was a dramatic grip change to help alleviate some of the pressure on his ailing wrist and a return to a more familiar left-to-right shot shape. Or, as Harmon figures, “almost a pull fade.”

“Gary loves to fade the golf ball and my dad wanted him to get to where he can draw and I think Gary is such a hard worker he wanted to get to where he could draw it under pressure,” Harmon said. “When you are playing under pressure you have to have something you can play aggressive with.”

Results came slowly at first and in August he needed to talk himself into playing the Reno-Tahoe Open while the world’s top players plied their trade at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

The combined inspiration of playing an opposite-field event and Reno’s modified Stableford scoring format proved to be the perfect tonic to wrest Woodland out of his slump. He won the event by nine points.

Two weeks later Woodland solidified his second trip to the Tour Championship with his runner-up finish at The Barclays.

“I'm healthy. That's a big key,” Woodland said. “I put a lot of hard work in. It's been a process with the changes I've made, switching to Butch and his son, and it's finally starting to come together, which is nice. I put a lot of work in on the short game, a lot of work on the middle game, and we're starting to put it together now.”

The CIMB was Woodland’s last official start of 2013 and there is a measure of maturity in how the 29-year-old plans to spend his offseason. In addition to his normal gym/practice tee regimens, Woodland has started working with Pat Goss on his short game and sports psychologist Julie Elion. One of the game’s most powerful has turned to precision and the power of the mind in his quest to regain his world-beater status.

During a recent team meeting with Woodland, Harmon said his goals for 2014 were telling – improving his wedge game and earning a spot on next year’s U.S. Ryder Cup team.

“This is the player you are hopefully going to see for the next three, five, seven years,” Harmon said.

Not many players have successfully reinvented themselves, but in Woodland’s case he’s done so from the wrist up.

Getty Images

Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

Getty Images

Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

Getty Images

Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

Getty Images

Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.