KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – A PGA Tour player cannot fully implement a swing change while battling an injury.
Unfortunately, Gary Woodland found that out the hard way.
Dogged by a left-wrist injury for much of the season, Woodland says he’s finally healthy, and it showed Thursday in the opening round of the PGA Championship. One of the longest hitters in the game – playing the longest course in major championship history – shot a 5-under 67 to sit only one shot back of the early lead at Kiawah Island.
In January, Woodland, 28, announced that he was working with swing coach Butch Harmon in an attempt to maximize his awesome talent. The pair expected growing pains – namely, Woodland was trying to improve his driving accuracy – but nothing like this.
Woodland had a cyst in his left wrist that developed after years of overexertion, and it ruptured during the Masters in April. The pain was so severe, it dropped the 6-foot-1-inch, 200-pound Woodland to his knees, prompting him to later withdraw. He needed anti-inflammatory injections before the U.S. Open, where he missed the cut, and conceded Thursday that last month’s British Open was the first tournament he has played this season without pain.
“The last couple weeks, Butch and I, we’ve worked as hard as I’ve probably worked in my life,” Woodland said. “It’s nice to be able to do that being healthy.”
Last year, Woodland won the Transitions Championship and finished better than 30th in all four majors.
This year? Only two top-25 finishes in 17 starts, including none since late May. Indeed, his 67 Thursday was his best round since the final round of the Byron Nelson (66).
“I drove the ball the best I’ve driven it all year,” said Woodland, who hit 9 of 14 fairways Thursday, “and when I drive it like that, I’m playing a game that most guys can’t play out here.”