Woodland toughs it out despite wrist injury

Gary Woodland of the United States hits an approach shot on the first hole during the second round of the 2012 Masters Tournament at Augusta National.

Gary Woodland of the United States hits an approach shot on the first hole during the second round of the 2012 Masters Tournament at Augusta National.

AUGUSTA, Ga. - Gary Woodland sat on the bench in the storied Augusta National locker room, his white hat in his hand, staring blankly at his shoetops. This game can serve a man a lot of lows, but few much lower than the hand dealt Woodland on Saturday afternoon at the 76th Masters.

Hours earlier, on a postcard-perfect day at the National, one of his favorite spots on this earth, the long-hitting Woodland had pulled into the parking lot at 1 under through 36 holes, and very much in the weekend mix. But in Round 3 he would shoot 85, the highest score on the day. Nonetheless, numbers did little justice to his story. As Woodland made the long uphill stroll toward the green at 18, his father, Dan, was so proud of his son he had to fight back tears.

“People back home are just going to see the scores, and they won’t know the real story,” Dan Woodland said. “Look at how he’s walking right now, how proud he is. You’d never know he was 11 over (through 53 holes). It’s tough, because he worked so hard to get here … but he’s always played through everything.”

Gary Woodland felt something awry on the top side of his left wrist as he warmed up early Saturday. It’s an injury he dealt with earlier this season at Phoenix that simply went away in a couple of days. Saturday, there was some stiffness, and as his front nine progressed, some increasing pain, despite all the anti-inflammation medication he’d pumped into his body. On the eighth hole, he hit a drive into a gaping fairway bunker, and when he hit the next shot, pain shot up his left arm. He made bogey at 8, bogey at 9, and really had no business continuing. Yet he’s an athlete engrained to finish what he started. So he got his wrist taped tightly before he reached the 10th tee and took on the back nine.

“Should have stopped, trainers wanted me to stop, caddie was begging me to stop,” he said. “I worked too hard to get here. I wanted to at least finish today . . .”

Chiropractor Troy Van Biezen travels the PGA Tour and stretches out players such as Woodland and Zach Johnson, who played alongside Woodland Saturday. Saturday he took a look at the wrist, gave Woodland a bag of ice and pleaded with him to shut everything down as the player made his way into Amen Corner.

“I’m on the green here – I’m putting,” reasoned Woodland, who’d just made his third consecutive bogey at No. 10. “Just let me gut it out.”

Asked later what he was feeling, Woodland said, “It hurt me going back, it hurt me going through. The worst was going back, setting it. Then I felt pain trying to hit the ball. It was a long, long day.”

But one he was determined to get through.

“I’ve never quit anything in my life,” he said. “I just wanted to finish.”

He did, counting down the shots and the holes. He played a little hockey on the 16th green, making double bogey; on 17, he hit a drive so far right it nearly reached the 15th fairway, leading to bogey. At 18, it was much of the same, a sprayed 3-wood short and right into the trees as he winced ever-so-briefly on the tee, masking the pain. When he hit his third shot up left of the green, “my caddie and I celebrated in the fairway,” he said.

Asked if he’d ever seen his son so stubbornly stay in a sporting contest, Dan Woodland laughed. He’s seen his son’s fortitude on many sporting occasions. He told a story about Gary playing basketball at Shawnee Heights High School back home in Kansas. One game, Gary got kicked hard in the neck, and was taken to the hospital via ambulance. A doctor examined Gary and told him that he would be out of action for a few weeks, which prompted young Gary to turn to his father and make a quick suggestion: Can we get another opinion?

Asked later in the Augusta locker room to recall the tale, a slight grin crossed Gary Woodland’s face on a day he had little else to smile about.

“Yeah, that’s true,” said Woodland, who played basketball at Division II Washburn University in Topeka before pursuing golf. “I tried to take a charge, and the collision collapsed my trachea.”

And when did he play basketball again? “Two nights later,” he said.

He kept flexing his wrist, and the pain wasn’t subsiding. Saturday evening, Woodland, who already had planned to take a three-week break after the Masters, made the wise decision to withdraw from the Masters and not play on Sunday, a day when so much magic happens at this place. Instead, he was off to get his wrist examined to see if he had any structural damage. It wasn’t quite the end to his week he’d envisioned, but it’s also one Masters neither he nor his dad will soon forget.

“We’ll get back here,” Dan Woodland said proudly as his son finished the round. “He has the biggest heart of anyone you’ll ever meet.”

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