DORAL, Fla. – Former Shawnee Heights standout basketball player and professional golfer Gary Woodland tied for 16th at the WGC-Cadillac Championship at the Trump National at Doral.
Woodland, a 2002 grad who won two state basketball titles at Shawnee Heights, moved up to 19th in the FedExCup standings and has two top 10 finishes in eight events this season.
He earned $90,666.67 for the event as he shot a 72-78-71-71—292.
“I take a lot of this week,” Woodland said. “With the work I put in with Greg Norman on Wednesday, we made some setup chances that I’m just not comfortable with yet so it was kind of a struggle all week. But to kind of hang around there and make some putts and a couple birdies was nice. Hopefully I can ride this momentum a little bit, get some work in the next couple of days, and get ready for next week.”
The Cadillac Championship is one of the top events on the PGA Tour and one that many use to help prepare them for next month’s Masters.
“That’s the goal, to be clicking on all cylinders by then,” Woodland said. “I’m getting close. I feel pretty comfortable with where I’m at. I have to get a little bit more comfortable with the setup and once I get that, I think my game is in pretty good shape. I saw some signs (in the final round) that I’ve been working on that really paid off especially the bunker game. Something clicked (Saturday) when we were practicing so hopefully I can keep building on that.”
The newly-named Trump National at Doral course underwent an overhaul in the past year with every piece of grass being replaced and 15 of the 18 holes have been altered.
“It’s definitely harder than it was,” Woodland said after the first day. “The golf course is tough. You’ve got to hit some good shots. There’s some holes that you have to be careful on.”
Woodland is one of six current professional athletes who played high school basketball in Topeka.
Woodland finished even shooting a 72, four strokes off the lead, in the first round playing in a group with George Coetzee (South Africa) and Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Thailand).
Woodland struggled out of the gate as he recorded a bogey on the fifth hole, but then play was halted due to inclement weather for two hours and 23 minutes with Woodland through nine holes.
“It was tough,” Woodland said. “I got off to a rough start. I just didn’t feel very comfortable with the golf ball early. The break was actually the best thing that could have happened to me because I figured something out in the range and I came out here and hit some good shots. It was tough this morning, the wind was blowing, obviously a golf course that you’re not used to so it was definitely a different atmosphere because the wind wasn’t blowing like this in the practice rounds.”
Play resumed in late afternoon despite winds around 25 mph and a light rain falling. Despite the conditions, Woodland was solid after the break.
His best showing coming on the 12th—a 601-yard, par-five. He smacked a drive down the fairway and his second shot nearly reached the green, but came up just a bit short slightly in the bunker. He was able to put the ball just a few feet from the pin with an outstanding wedge shot resulting in his lone birdie on the day.
“I hit a great second shot, just came up a little short and I was actually sitting on a leaf in the bunker, which was the hardest bunker shot I had all day,” Woodland said. “I told my caddie I struggled early with bunker shots and I guess I just needed to make it a little bit harder on myself I guess. I hit a great bunker shot there and really gave myself a little momentum.”
Woodland followed the 12th with a great tee shot on 13 in between a pair of bunkers and then had good shots on 14 and 15 also with all resulting in pars.
Play was once again suspended after Woodland finished his 15th hole. He resumed action on Friday morning and parred the final three holes.
Overall, he was pleased with his performance.
“Fortunately I wasn’t hitting it very well, but I was saving them making some good putts and didn’t make any big numbers so I held in pretty good today,” Woodland said.
Woodland began Friday’s second round four strokes off the lead after shooing an even 72 in the first round.
He started play on the 10th hole and got off to a good start with a birdie on 11 after sinking a 20-foot putt to put him under the first time on the tournament at minus-1.
But then he began to slip as many competitors struggled on the day with a record 113 balls finding the water resulting in a number of high scores. Woodland posted bogeys on 14, 17, 18, 1, and 3 before a double bogey on 7 to put him at 6-over on the day with a 78.
Woodland is tied for 34th at 6-over through two rounds, which is seven strokes off the lead as only four players are under par at minus-1 for the tournament that has proven to be much harder after the changes to the course.
Woodland recorded his best score in the tournament with a 1-under 71, which included four birdies and three bogeys while playing with fellow American Russell Henley to put Woodland at 5-over through three days, which is tied for 28th heading into the final round.
Woodland began his round with a 22-foot birdie putt on the first hole (Click here to watch highlight). He followed with a bogey on 2 before posting birdies on 5 and 7 and closing with another bogey to finish with a 35 in the front nine.
He bogeyed 11 and birdied the par-3 15.
Woodland shot a 1-under 71 in the final round while playing with Kevin Streelman.
Woodland’s day consisted of five birdies—the most he had on the weekend—and a number of near birdie attempts including three on the back nine.
Still, Woodland didn’t feel comfortable with his swing on Sunday with three balls reaching the water.
“I struggled with the golf swing today, I really did,” Woodland said. “I drove the ball well, which kind of kept me in it, but the swing really felt bad. I actually made some putts to hang around there, but had a frustrating three-putt on the last hole. It was one of those days that I was actually kind of happy with what I scored with the way I felt on the golf course.”
He started off the round with an excellent third shot on the 1st hole setting up a birdie on the par-5. But his first shot into the water out of the bunker resulted in a bogey on 3. A great iron shot on 6 led to another birdie.
After a bogey on 9, Woodland regrouped and nearly had three straight birdies from 12-14, but a putt that came up short on 13 prevented him from doing so.
He went for the pin on 16 instead of laying up short and came through with a 315-yard drive into a bunker 21 yards from the hole. A good bunker second shot put him five feet from the hole for his fifth and final birdie of the day.