PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Gary Woodland’s Ryder Cup prospects got a big boost thanks to one of Europe’s most accomplished teachers.
Woodland said Pete Cowen’s tough-love help with his short game was a factor in his victory Sunday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. It’s also a factor in Woodland’s growing confidence he can make the American team headed to Paris in September.
Woodland jumped from 28th to seventh in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings with Sunday’s win.
Butch Harmon, Woodland’s swing coach, steered Woodland to Cowen for short-game work.
“Pete’s hard, there’s no sugar coating, a lot like Butch,” Woodland said. “If I’m not getting it right away, Pete will definitely get into me and tell me, 'I’m not out here wasting people’s time. It’s time to work.'”
Cowen is Europe’s go-to teacher. His pupils have included Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Padraig Harrington, Ian Poulter, Danny Willett and Lee Westwood.
Woodland said his up-and-down to save par from a tough spot at the 17th hole in Phoenix Sunday probably “won the tournament” for him. Woodland coaxed a dicey 100-foot chip toward a pin tucked against the water, rolling the shot to within 5 feet.
“I had a lot of green to work with, a shot I would have definitely left short in the past, knowing if it was too long it was going in the water,” Woodland said. “It was the first shot Pete and I worked on this off season.”
The 33-year-old is also getting help from Brad Faxon on his putting and loves what his team is doing for him.
“I feel I’m a top player, I do,” said Woodland, looking to make his first Ryder Cup team. “I feel my game is more complete than it’s ever been.”
Woodland will work with Cowen again at the Honda Classic in two weeks.
“Butch and I have the golf swing where we want it,” Woodland said. “I’m starting to drive the ball as well as I ever have. I’m hitting more drivers. That’s a tribute to the work Butch and I have done.
“I have a lot to do, but if I do that, if I continue to improve with the short game, continue to improve with the driver, I think the Ryder Cup is a no-brainer.”