SAN FRANCISCO – Gary Woodland knew his elimination match against Webb Simpson wasn’t over, even when he held a 2-up lead with only two to play.
He knew better. He’d been burned in the past.
Last year, he was 3 up with three to play against Graeme McDowell in the opening round at Dove Mountain, only to make a few mistakes down the stretch and lose in 19 holes. Back then, it was the one-and-done format, so he bolted for the locker room, sat steaming by his stall, and caught the next flight out of town. Throw in a pair of losses in PGA Tour playoffs, and a few hard lessons were learned.
“It’s never over out here,” he said. “You always have to play for the next shot. You always have to expect your opponent to make it. I learned the hard way.”
Woodland was tested again Friday at Harding Park, after he missed a short putt on 17 and could only watch as Simpson lined up a 12-footer to force extras. Simpson’s birdie putt veered left and never had a chance, and Woodland improved to 3-0 in the second-most difficult group and advanced to Saturday’s round of 16. He will face Marc Leishman.
Woodland has been through the gauntlet this week, going 19 holes to dispatch world No. 11 Jimmy Walker, thumping Ryder Cup star Ian Poulter by a 3-and-2 margin that wasn’t nearly that close, and then never trailing against 2012 U.S. Open champion Simpson.
“I played three guys that putted pretty dang well,” he said, “so to come out on top is nice.”