Five Things: Woodland punches Augusta ticket
Gary Woodland won the Transitions Championship by a single stroke over Webb Simpson Sunday at Innisbrook. It was Woodland’s first PGA Tour victory and earned him his first Masters invitation. Woodland won despite making just one par over the final nine (he also had five birdies and three bogeys). Woodland, a former college basketball player, can celebrate by watching his beloved Kansas Jayhawks play Illinois in the second round of the NCAA basketball tournament.
1.) Hoop scoop: Woodland was an appropriate winner for the first week of March Madness tournament. He played one season of college basketball at Division II Washburn before transferring to Kansas to play golf. One of his games was against Kansas in historic Allen Fieldhouse. Woodland said it was, “probably the thrill of my life.” That is, until he steps to the first tee at Augusta National.
2011 Transitions Championship
Check out the scene from Innisbrook, site of the Transitions Championship.
The Transitions victory was Woodland’s fourth top-6 finish in seven starts this season, including a playoff loss to Jhonattan Vegas at the Bob Hope Classic. Woodland first earned his PGA Tour card at the 2008 Q-School, but his rookie season was cut short by a torn labrum in his left shoulder. Woodland has become a more complete player since that first season.
“I think even when I got out here on the PGA Tour I was still just trying to hit the ball hard,” he said. “I came out here as an athlete trying to compete, but there’s a lot of guys out here that know how to play this game. I learned how to play the game over the last year and a half.”
2.) Short stuff: Woodland, who stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 200 pounds, has long been known for his length off the tee. He’s 10th on Tour in driving distance (300.0 yards), third in ball speed (183.0 mph) and second in clubhead speed (129.9 mph). Those stats are nice, but putting will always be the most important aspect of any PGA Tour player’s game. Brad Faxon has helped Woodland improve his putting, and it showed Sunday. Woodland made a curling 15-foot birdie putt on No. 17 and a 10-foot par putt on the 18th.
3.) Wrong place, right time: Brandt Snedeker wasn’t supposed to be at the Transitions Championship. His first child was due this week, but was born two weeks ago during the Honda Classic. His daughter’s early birth meant he could play this week, and he made the most of it, finishing fourth. It was Snedeker’s third top-10 of the season.
4.) Stall pattern: Scott Stallings, 25, missed the first five cuts of his rookie campaign on the PGA Tour, which put him at the bottom of the PGA Tour’s reshuffle of Nationwide Tour and Q-School graduates. Stallings’ season turned around at Transitions, where he finished third. Stallings played this week on a sponsor exemption, which was granted in part due to his friendship with Transitions endorser Kenny Perry.
5.) Amateur hour: Peter Uihlein, the U.S. Amateur champion, finished 57th at 1-under 283. Uihlein spent spring break at the Transitions to prepare for the Masters. Uihlein’s week included two eagles in a three-hole stretch in the second round.