Don’t we love to see passion from the athletes we’re invested in from various sports? And sometimes, it’s fun to get a glimpse of how animated they actually get when cheering on their alma mater.
For KU grad and 2019 U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland, those emotions for his Jayhawks can take on a life of their own — even now, 13 years after he’s left the KU campus for the fairways of Pebble Beach and the PGA Tour.
Does the father of three’s reaction to Kansas basketball games on TV ever scare the kiddos at home?
“All the time,” Woodland said recently on the Beyond the Clubhouse podcast. “I was watching the game against Kentucky and I was screaming at the TV and I just hear my son (Jaxson) say ‘Mommy, what did Daddy just say?’ And (Gabby) said ‘Nothing!’”
Woodland who is the picture of emotional control on the golf course, seems to have a hard time when he’s watching college kids 15 years young than him playing basketball, a game he’s played his whole life growing up in Topeka.
“(My) kids need to be out of the room, I get a little emotional,” Woodland joked. “I’m pretty level and even keel on the golf course, but I would say I get pretty emotional watching KU play basketball. Hopefully, the kids don’t learn anything from me.”
Photo: Harry How, Getty pic.twitter.com/IkdFwR8mqQ
— Garrett Johnston (@JohnstonGarrett) December 29, 2020
“It’s been interesting. They were so good last year and then you lose two studs but they got a lot of young guys coming back, and they’ve had a lot of guys step up and they’re young,” Woodland said. “it’s going to be a roller-coaster ride this year but I think any time you’ve got Bill Self at the reigns, and they have a senior point guard which is huge and they’ve got some veteran guys kind of mixed in there. Any time you get to the tournament anything can happen.”
Back to Woodland’s day job on the course, he’s had a front-row seat to watching and learning from Tiger Woods in his resurgence from injury the last couple years. Woodland’s dealt with a fair share of injuries himself of late (torn labrum, hip) but he got to play for Woods in his first-ever team appearance on the 2019 Presidents Cup team and that required Woodland to spend many days leading up practicing with Woods, Justin Thomas, and other members of the team in Jupiter, Florida.
Not bad company to keep.
The 36-year-old loved having teammates again, after growing up in Kansas playing team sports for many years, and he very much wants to return to team competition in golf. The next opportunity would be September’s Ryder Cup.
“You get a taste of it and you want more. It’s like winning the U.S. Open, I got a taste of it, I want more of that,” Woodland said. “I got a taste of the international team, I want more of that, I want to be part of that. Talking to some of these guys, from an individual standpoint winning major championships are amazing and that’s what you’re remembered by. What they remember about their game is the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams and being part of something bigger than yourself.”
In fact, Woods and Woodland have developed a unique friendship that started comically during the 2009 U.S. Open in New York. Woodland was a wide-eyed 25-year-old major championship rookie. Woods? Just the defending champ of the event after his heroic win the previous year on a broken leg at Torrey Pines.
Woodland remembers their first exchange fondly.
“It was in the bathroom (laughs) at the U.S. Open at Bethpage (2009), I’d obviously only seen him on TV and I was in the restroom and he walks out and we kindbeyo of came out of the stall at the same time and there’s always that awkward (moment), you’re in the restroom and you don’t want to shake somebody’s hand,” Woodland laughed. “I was just ‘Hey’ and he was like ‘Hey, how you doing?’ and I’m like, ‘I’m good, nice to meet you.’ It’s like the first time that you kind of meet your hero, not hero, but somebody that you really look up to for a long time, so that was kind of an awkward first meeting.
“But he is the greatest, it’s great to pick his brain.”
Woodland admits Woods keeps his advice closer to the vest for his peers than he did in 2016 and 2017 when he was often injured and not competing as a result, but trash talk is something that’s always a constant between Woodland and Woods.
“He’s a big (Las Vegas) Raiders fan, I’m a Chiefs fan, we’re in the same division so they were the only loss the Chiefs have had in some 20 games and I heard about it all day,” Woodland said. “He’s also a Dodgers fan so I’m trying to avoid him with the Lakers winning and the Dodgers winning, he’s riding his high horse right now. So I’m going to avoid him until hopefully KU or the Chiefs win again, so then I’ll start chirping again.”
Speaking of trash talk, don’t we ever wonder the biggest trash talk moment that Woodland’s amazing U.S. Open trophy has afforded him since winning at Pebble Beach in June 2019?
When asked, Woodland knew right away, and this moment was courtesy of his friend Matt Kuchar who was waiting for him to finish behind Pebble Beach’s 18th hole along with Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas.
“Kuchar was there waiting for me when I got done,” Woodland said. “He gave me a hug and I said ‘Hey man, one day I’ll teach you how to win a major.’”
Kuchar, a notorious trash talker on Tour, smiled and laughed and “took it like a champ,” Woodland exclaimed.
Woodland, unfortunately, didn’t win in the 2019-2020 PGA Tour season, so he will not be at next week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Maui. He will however be spending the next few weeks working on a new golf ball from Titleist and getting his driver and other clubs dialed into its feel and trajectory.
At the moment, the Topeka native is circling his first start of 2021 at the American Express in Palm Springs, an event where he nearly got his first win in 2011 when he lost to Jhonattan Vegas in a playoff. Of course Woodland would go on to get his maiden victory only two months later in Tampa.
Woodland says he’s spending over an hour each day hitting full golf shots and around two hours with his short game around the practice greens.
Within a week of his first start, he expects to be shooting in the low 60s at his home club in Delray Beach, Florida, and making birdies on every par 5.
Must be nice to be that good, right?
Overall, Woodland is taking a measured approach to his expectations for 2021.
“When I’m doing the things I’m supposed to be doing and when I make putts I have a chance (to win) and as a golfer sometimes I focus too much on putting and lose focus of some of the other stuff that gets me in that position. I think I need to make sure I’m dialed in with my short game and just dial in so I can do great things,” Woodland said.
Garrett Johnston is a golf journalist and the host of the Beyond the Clubhouse podcast. He has covered 30 majors and seven Masters.
Here’s a link to the full podcast interview with Gary Woodland with much more discussion on his recent injuries, his golf superstitions, significant weight loss, offseason plans, and advice for us on how we can improve our games.
original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2021/01/02/gary-woodland-kansas-fan-trash-talking/