NORTON, Mass. – True to what defines him as one of the PGA Tour’s most intriguing entities, Gary Woodland produced these numbers in Sunday’s third round of the Deutsche Bank Championship: 320, 351, 335.
Those were the distances of his drives at TPC Boston’s par 5s – Nos. 2, 7, and 18 and that translated in Woodland hitting 9 iron second shots at Nos. 2 and 18, and a 4 iron into No. 7.
No shock, Woodland has played the par 5s bogey-free with six birdies and an eagle. But if you want to know why he’s suddenly in the hunt to win this FedEx Cup playoff, ignore the power and focus on the finesse.
The man has developed a splendid touch with the putter, especially from 4 to 10 feet.
“Night and day,” Woodland said, when asked how much better his putting is than it was at any point in his career. “I used to miss those putts and get frustrated. Now, even if I don’t make them, I feel as if I’m going to.”
Woodland is part of a large crowd here at TPC Boston that began the day well outside the hunt but ended it very much in contention. Certainly good play had a lot to do with it – Woodland did post a bogey-free 5 under 66 – but perhaps the biggest factor was this: TPC Boston firmed up, the wind picked up, and the leaders seemed determined to open the door for whomever wanted to contend.
Of the 38 sub-70 rounds, only three came from those in the last six pairings. And while the par-4 17th forced just 10 bogeys, five of them came from players in the last six pairings.
The end result was this: Whereas we left TPC Boston Friday night with three players sharing the lead at 10 under and only seven within three strokes, we now have a leader at 11 under and a whopping 17 others within three.
Yes, Woodland is very much a part of it, too. Starting the day 4 under and tied for 25th, he was six behind. Now, he’s tied for seventh at 9 under and just two behind.
If you’re thinking he must like having so many in the hunt on a course where his power is a priceless commodity, you are correct. Even better, with Phil Mickelson shooting 63 Sunday and a number of birdie holes awaiting the field, Woodland knows that there’s a good chance at forming a charge.
“That’s a good thing,” Woodland said, “because it puts the pressure on the leaders.”