How Gary Woodland went from ‘rock-bottom’ to co-leading the Wells Fargo Championship

gary woodland

Gary Woodland is seeking his first victory since his 2019 U.S. Open win at Pebble Beach.

Getty Images

Gary Woodland is just happy to be playing without pain this week.

It’s been a long road for the 2019 U.S. Open champion, who revealed that he had a torn labrum in his left hip after missing the cut at the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot.

Woodland did not have surgery, and instead spent most of December and January on a recovery and conditioning plan.

“We worked on strengthening everything around the hip,” Woodland told Golf Channel at the American Express, where he finished T16. “We were so focused on pain in the hip. I’ve been out of pain for about a month now and it’s starting to feel pretty good. My speed is back, I’m able to hit shots I haven’t been able to hit in a long time.”

Despite Woodland’s optimism, results didn’t follow, and the pain returned. In the eight events since, Woodland has only one top 10 (a T6 at the Valero Texas Open) and missed four cuts. At last week’s Valspar Championship, Woodland shot 77-71, missing the cut by a wide margin at six over par.

Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson explains how he regained his focus at Wells Fargo Championship
By: Jessica Marksbury

“Last week was pretty much rock bottom for me,” Woodland said after firing a second-round 69 at the Wells Fargo Championship on Friday. “Golf course that I’ve had success on, won on and went out and played absolutely miserable, missed the cut. Made a change, went back, talked to Butch on Saturday, worked with him over the phone. And then Pete Cowen was in town working with Rory, so Pete came down and we worked in person on Sunday. Went back to really set down and seeing what I’ve been doing the last year compared to what I was doing three, four years ago when I was hitting it well. Saw the difference visually and then we kind of tried to get back to that.”

Woodland’s coaching sessions appear to be paying dividends this week. He shares a one-shot lead at the tournament’s halfway point with Matt Wallace and Patrick Rodgers, and credits the changes he’s made to his swing with allowing him to play pain-free this week.

“If I was going to continue to play the way I was last week, then it was probably time to shut it down this week,” Woodland said. “But I’ve seen the difference why I was swinging the way I was. I’ve seen that I can go out this week — you know, it’s only been five days I think since I’ve been doing this, but I’m in no pain and I’m able to hit the golf ball the way I want to, and if I can continue to do that, I’ll be fine.

“The swing that I’ve been doing the last year is because of the hip,” Woodland continued. “When the hip started acting up, I had to make changes just to play, which is obviously, looking hindsight, I wish I wouldn’t have done that but I wanted to play. That’s all I know how to do is play golf. So I worked around the hip and I got into some bad, bad habits. My misses have been absolutely horrendous, they’ve been off the map. So even when I have good rounds, I hit a ball out of play and a big number adds up to not a good score. So Pete showed me that, Butch showed me that, so it was nice.”

Regardless of what happens this weekend, Woodland’s performance through two rounds seems like a meaningful corner turned for the four-time PGA Tour winner.

“I’ve seen some shots this week that I just haven’t seen in a long time,” Woodland said. “The golf swing feels so much better. Confidence has gone way up, which I did not have really in the last year. Even when I had good rounds, I haven’t been confident. I can lie to myself and tell myself I was excited to be there, but I haven’t been excited to play, to be honest with you, for the last year. It’s nice.”

Jessica Marksbury

Golf.com

As a four-year member of Columbia’s inaugural class of female varsity golfers, Jessica can out-birdie everyone on the masthead. She can out-hustle them in the office, too, where she’s primarily responsible for producing both print and online features, and overseeing major special projects, such as GOLF’s inaugural Style Is­sue, which debuted in February 2018. Her origi­nal interview series, “A Round With,” debuted in November of 2015, and appeared in both in the magazine and in video form on GOLF.com.