Gary Woodland, Kansas native, originally went to college on a basketball scholarship. That didn’t last. He soon transferred to the University of Kansas to play golf, winning college tournaments and building a foundation for his career on the PGA Tour.
Woodland turned professional in 2007, cutting his teeth on the developmental Nationwide Tour (now the Web.com Tour). He didn’t log a lot of wins, but he played well enough in Qualifying school to earn his PGA Tour card in 2009. However, the transition wasn’t as smooth as one might hope.
Woodland is one of the PGA Tour’s longest hitters. But winning tournaments and cashing checks takes more than drives. It takes drive, which the young Woodland had to muster more of to succeed on golf’s biggest stage. He rounded out his game, and it began to show on the leaderboard and in the rankings. Woodland is currently ranked 28th in the Official World Golf Rankings and 23rd in the FedExCup Rankings.
CBS Local Sports recently chatted with Woodland about his life, his game and his experiences as a professional golfer.
CBS Local Sports: Is there a nickname anybody calls you, things people might not know?
Woodland: Nickname, locally around the PGA Tour, is usually G-Dub, Wood, that’s pretty much it.
Something people don’t know about me is I eat nothing from the water, I eat no seafood. Growing up in Kansas, it’s all meat and potatoes. You don’t get much local seafood back home, so the texture, the smell, it gets me. I stay completely away from seafood.
CBS Local Sports: How would you describe your style?
Woodland: I would say my style is laid back. I try to keep my emotions inside as much as I can. Growing up playing a lot of sports, you use adrenaline to your advantage. Golf is tough for me because if I get adrenaline and I can hit a 7-iron 200-240 yards all of a sudden, so I try to bottle it all in. I should probably let it out a little more, try to have a little smile a little more, but I’m pretty laid back, pretty relaxed, try to stay in my own element as much as I can.
CBS Local Sports: Would you talk about the length of your hit?
Woodland: (It’s) physical strength. The length has pretty much come natural to me. It was something I didn’t have to work on, it was something I was God-given when I grew up. It becomes a disadvantage sometimes when that is what you’re known for. I’m learning, the older I get, to play a little more conservative and a little smarter and trying to use my length to my advantage and not to my disadvantage.
CBS Local Sports: What is your hidden talent?
Woodland: Outside of golf, basketball is probably what I’m known for, only because I played at a collegiate level. I love sports; I played baseball until I was 16. I consider myself to have pretty good hand-eye coordination — I love playing ping-pong. I love everything to do with competitiveness. Basketball was something I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to play at the next level from high school. It was a great opportunity for me, and I miss it to this day. I was fortunate to have golf as a fallback, and it’s worked out pretty well for me.
CBS Local Sports: What are you proud of?
Woodland: At this point of my life, what I’m most proud of is getting to where I am, coming from where I come from. I come from a small town, somewhere in Kansas. I would say expectations are low. I never believed I wouldn’t make it. To this day, I say the greatest thing I’ve ever done is I got where I am coming from a small town in Kansas. I hold the values that I learned growing up there. There’s a side of me that no one can hold me down.
CBS Local Sports: Where did that attitude come from?
Woodland: That attitude came from my parents. I never beat my dad, he never let me win at anything. Basketball, my dad never let me score. I’d run and cry and my mom would say, ‘Hey I love you but get back out there.’ My dad told me as a young kid that nothing is given to you, you have to earn everything. He wasn’t happy once I got old enough, in middle school, and started beating him.
CBS Local Sports: What are your pre-game rituals?
Woodland: Pre-game, I stick to the ball. From the moment I walk onto the golf course, my warm up is an hour and five minutes. I know how long I’m getting stretched for 30 minutes before, I know when breakfast is before that. On the way to the golf course, my music kind of depends on the mood I’m in. It could be hip-hop today or it could be Elvis. My dad was a big Elvis fan, I grew up around Elvis. My sister is a huge country nut, so it could be country today. Or if I’m angry, I could throw Eminem in there. I’ll listen to any kind of music; music helps calm me down.
CBS Local Sports: What are your superstitions?
Woodland: I use the same coin every time I play, I’ve used the same divot tool since middle school. I put my left shoe on first, but I don’t know if it’s a superstition because when I play basketball I put my right shoe on first.
CBS Local Sports: What’s been the biggest significant moment on Tour to date?
Woodland: I would say the biggest moment I’ve had to date would be the win in Tampa. I always believed I belonged, I always believed I was working the right way. But that kind of verified it in my mind and it verified it to a lot of other people that I’m working in the right direction. I’m going to come out here and I want to win more, but you have to get that first one to be able to get that second one. That was a huge win for me. I won at the end of that year with Matt Kuchar at the World Cup which was huge. Every time you get to represent your country; that got me back into my team atmosphere, that was probably one of the best weeks of golf I’ve ever played. And then two years ago when I started struggling a little bit, to come back and fight and win in Reno was a huge boost for me because that kind of got me back in that mentality that we’re going forward.