Over the final two weeks of 2013, we will be breaking down players that rose and fell over the past 12 months. Check out the entire series here.
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Ranking/movement: +129 (No. 168 to No. 39)
Why the rise? He eliminated lingering wrist pain in March (by changing his grip) and started hitting the ball well again. On top of that, his short game improved significantly after he started working with Pat Goss in the spring. The result: He earned $1.3 million-plus more than he had in 2012, going from $592,879 and 134th on the money list to $1.915 million and 37th.
The bulk of his cash came in August from his victory at the Reno-Tahoe Open and a tie for second at the FedEx Cup playoff opener, The Barclays. Seven of his eight top 25s came after June 1.
Woodland suffered injuries to both wrists in 2012. He suffered a ruptured cyst in his left wrist hitting a shot on No. 8 at the Masters, where he withdrew. While dealing with that through the end of the year, he suffered severely strained right wrist muscles because of stress from compensation and overwork.
“I felt pain from my knuckles to my elbow,” Woodland said. “I saw four specialists. Finally a grip change with (instructor) Butch (Harmon) took the stress off the right hand and I’ve had no pain. Before that, I had injections and all kinds of stuff and nothing worked; the pain kept coming back.”
Woodland always has held the club similarly to a baseball bat. So Harmon had him move his right-hand grip from palm to fingers. Not only did the pain leave, his statistics rose – from 124th to 36th in greens in regulation and from 108th to 32nd in ballstriking.
The biggest improvement, though, came in short game. When Goss first checked him out, he said, “You’ve got to change everything.” That meant putting, chipping, pitching and bunker play. Woodland had the tendency to take the club back inside and shut on short shots; now he’s maintaining loft throughout shots.
“I saw instant results,” said Woodland, 29 and in his sixth Tour season.
By the end of the year he had improved from 178th in putting in 2012 to 83rd. Under Goss’ guidance, he moved the putter grip to his palms, allowing his hands to feel more locked.
Woodland says: “I was getting by on athletic ability before. Now I’m more of a complete golfer. My putting was awful (in 2012). Now I’m more comfortable on the greens. I was streaky before. Now I’m more consistent.”