March 21, 2011
Another week, another newcomer winning a PGA Tour tourney and punching a ticket to The Masters. This week it was Gary Woodland, who won the Transitions Championship in dramatic, final-hole fashion.
Much is being made of the fact that Woodland once played college basketball and, you know, there's some kind of big college basketball tourney going on right now. Woodland did play hoop, for D-II Washburn, but as he said on Sunday, that wasn't his first love. No, he wanted to be a Kansas Jayhawk.
"KU was the only school that recruited me out of high school [for golf], Division I wise, and I kind of took that negatively," Woodland said. "I thought, maybe I'm not that good ... So I decided I wanted to still play basketball. My first game was in Allen Fieldhouse, we got smoked by Kansas, and I realized maybe I need to do something different; this isn't going to work." He scored three points on one-of-seven shooting, and decided that perhaps there were other options out there.
"The coach at Kansas told me when I decided I was going to play basketball, he said, 'you're going to change your mind, you have a future in this game,'" Woodland added. "I called him a year later, and here we stand."
He put together some solid-but-unspectacular years after turning pro in 2007, but this year has marked a turnaround. He lost in a playoff to Jhonattan Vegas at the Bob Hope Classic earlier this year, and Sunday he outlasted the horrifically slow play of Webb Simpson to take down the win. And as he told it, his hoops background helped steady him down the back nine.
"I really wasn't nervous," he said. "I think it was the adrenaline I was trying to control. When I started making putts, the crowd started getting loud. [It] kind of took me back to basketball days. I was getting pretty pumped up, so I was trying to control that."
He did, just enough to go birdie-par on the final two holes to hold off Simpson. Coming up for Woodland is Augusta, where the sound of the fans and the azaleas will pound in his ears in a way that no college basketball arena ever could.