Gary Woodland wins Waste Management Phoenix Open for his family

Gary Woodland pauses on the 18th green after his win in a one-hole playoff against Chez Reavie for the final round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open golf tournament Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) AP Photo/Ross Franklin

Gary Woodland wins Waste Management Phoenix Open for his family

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Gary Woodland wins Waste Management Phoenix Open for his family



SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – As soon as his winning putt dropped Sunday on the 18th green at TPC Scottsdale, Gary Woodland pointed to the sky. 

“Just wanted her to know I still love her,” Woodland said of the tribute.

Last March, Woodland and his wife, Gabby, lost one of their unborn twins, a girl. Eleven months later, Gabby surprised her husband by bringing the other twin, Jaxson, born in June, to watch his daddy win a playoff against Chez Reavie at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

“He’s a miracle,” Woodland said as he held Jaxson in his arms. “It puts it in perspective. It was obviously a long year for us. I’m really happy; one to be holding him and also to be where I’m at.”

Woodland remembers that day last March when his world turned upside down. He was driving to Austin Country Club for the second day of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he got the call. Gabby, who was admitted to the hospital two days earlier after her water broke, had lost one of the babies. Woodland withdrew from the event immediately.

“That was tough,” Woodland said, “just because I felt, one, obviously, to deal with it internally, but physically I was playing well.”

Two weeks later at the Masters, Woodland missed the cut before taking five weeks off. Jaxson was born June 24, 10 weeks early, and subsequently spent 40 days in the NICU.

“I couldn’t wait for 2018 to start,” said Woodland, who somehow made it to the Tour Championship last season. “Couldn’t wait for 2017 to be over with.”

Woodland, who didn’t miss a cut in four fall starts, started the new year strong with a T-7 at the Sony Open and a T-12 at last week’s Farmers Insurance Open. He was excited where his game was going, especially with the putter, as Woodland ranked eighth in strokes gained: putting entering Phoenix. (He ranked 23rd this week to go along with ranking second in strokes gained: tee-to-green and T-10 in driving distance.)

He credits the improved short game to recent work with Pete Cowen and Brad Faxon.

“I feel like I can make a lot of putts and I haven’t felt that way in a long time,” Woodland said. “And obviously with the way I hit it and now I’m confident with the short game, and the putter starts working, good things will happen.”

Woodland began Sunday three shots back of Rickie Fowler’s lead. By the time the lead threesome made the turn, Woodland, three groups ahead, was just one shot behind Reavie.

Reavie, a fellow Kansas native, led for much of the final round until a bogey at the par-3 16th dropped him to 16 under, two shots back of Woodland, who was in the house at 18 under after nine final-round birdies and closing 7-under 64.

At that point, a host of big names – Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jon Rahm, to name a few – had ended their chances of winning, leaving it up to Reavie, who rallied to birdie his final two holes, including the 18th from 21 feet, to force the playoff.

“I was just excited that I still had a chance to win the tournament,” said Reavie, who served this event as a standard bearer for many years as a kid. “Unfortunately, I made bogey on the playoff hole.”

It was the third victory of the 33-year-old Woodland’s PGA Tour career, but it had been nearly five years since his previous title, at the 2013 Reno-Tahoe Open. Not that he hadn’t come close with seven runner-up finishes since.

“Gary was that guy that was due (for a win),” said Matt Kuchar, who played nine holes of practice with Woodland on Tuesday.

Said Woodland’s caddie Brennan Little: “Mentally, it’s always great to win, first of all, but secondly I think it will give him that confidence to keep going.”

That is certainly the goal. Woodland can get used to celebrating a win with family. Sunday, he was not only surrounded by Gabby and Jaxson but also several other family members and friends, including his parents and sister.

“It’s really hard to put in words right now,” Woodland said. “… I’m just so excited to share this with him (Jaxson) and my family, and hopefully it’s the start of something special.” Gwk



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