Big-hitting Woodland shows soft touch in key shot

Matt Kuchar (left) knew he made a smart choice in Gary Woodland for a World Cup teammate. Franklin/Getty Images
November 27, 2011
PGA TOUR staff

Gary Woodland is known amongst golf fans for his athleticism and his ability with the driver. But it was a 20-yard bunker shot in the final round of the Omega Mission Hills World Cup that may prove to be a glimpse of the American’s future as one of golf’s elite.

Coming off a bogey on the 11th that put the United States back in a tie with Ireland’s Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell at 22-under-par, Woodland’s teammate Matt Kuchar put the team’s second shot in a greenside bunker on the par-5 12th.

With an awkward lie, one foot out of the bunker and a relatively long carry, it called for a shot out of the Phil Mickelson playbook. Woodland nearly holed the shot for eagle, leaving Kuchar with a tap-in and the lead the duo would never relinquish en route to victory for the United States.

Woodland played on a nationally-ranked traveling baseball team as a teenager growing up in Kansas, and one year of college basketball at Washburn University before turning his attention to collegiate golf at the University of Kansas, where he won four events.

At 27 years old, conventional wisdom says he is still young in golf years, having competed at a high level at multiple sports until his 20s.

“I’m behind in the experience factor of this game, but I don't think I'm behind at all in the competition aspect of golf,” Woodland said. “I played baseball and basketball against older kids growing up, I loved the competitive nature of sports. Sundays on the PGA TOUR bring that out in me.”

Kuchar obviously had no regrets about his pick of Woodland for the 2011 Omega Mission Hills World Cup.

“I chose Gary, thinking that he would team up well with me, we would have the best shot of winning this title, and he played fantastic this week,” he said. “I have no doubt that he was the best player in the field, and for me, it was a lot of riding his coattails, trying to keep encouraging him to keep it going, because he played some great golf.  And I'm fortunate and really, really excited that I picked him.”