By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
After a season that included two wins and a leap to 52nd in the Official World Golf Ranking, Gary Woodland has signed with Excel Sports Management, the company announced Tuesday.
Woodland, who ranks 13th in PGATOUR.COM’s Players to Watch for 2012 , joins Tiger Woods and Matt Kuchar in being represented by the agency, where Mark Steinberg, the longtime agent for Woods, is a partner in the firm.
In 2011, Woodland won the Transitions Championship and the OMEGA Mission Hills World Cup, where he teamed with Kuchar to become the first Americans to win the event in 11 years. Woodland, 27, also ranked fifth in driving distance (310.5 yards), 12th in greens in regulation, 14th in scoring average and 28th in the all-around category.
Woodland ended his year with six straight top-10 finishes and ranked a career-best 17th in the FedExCup standings.
“Gary is a tremendous talent, a multi-dimensional
competitor and a powerful athlete,” Steinberg said in a
release. “He is truly coming into his own and realizing his
potential, and we are really
excited to work with Gary as he develops into one of golf’s marquis names.”
Our countdown of Players to Watch for 2012 continues Tuesday with five players that wouldn’t surprise anyone if they were to have huge seasons.
Jason Day and Gary Woodland are two of the TOUR’s brightest young stars, both big off the tee and capable of winning every week. Nick Watney turned 30 in 2011 and continued his high level of play, with wins at the WGC-Cadillac Championship and AT&T National.
Sergio Garcia is always intriguing but for 2012 appears to finally have his game back to the level it was a few years ago. His last win on the PGA TOUR was the 2008 PLAYERS Championship but many are expecting that drought to end very soon.
Below is a link to each of the 5 players who were revealed on Tuesday. PGATOUR.COM will countdown the players for the rest of December, with No. 1 unveiled on Dec. 30.
Be sure to check out this year’s new addition of the Three Wise Men – Chris DiMarco, Arron Oberholser and Craig Perks, who offer their takes on each of the players on the list.
Let’s us know how you think these players will perform in 2012 and whether we ranked ‘em too high, too low or just right.
The Presidents Cup wasn’t the last international competition of the year. This week, 28 teams will play in the OMEGA Mission Hills World Cup in Hainan Island, China, where the U.S. will be represented by Gary Woodland and Matt Kuchar, who was on the victorious U.S. Presidents Cup team. They’re not the favorites in this week’s Power Rankings, however. See who is below, and click here for the full field .
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – As the morning wave finishes on a windy Thursday, there is big group at the top of the leaderboard that includes the No. 1 player in the world.
Luke Donald, who is bidding to wrest the PGA TOUR money title from Webb Simpson, is among six players shooting 66. Simpson, who played with Donald, is two strokes back in the spirited competition.
“I know for most of the round I played a pretty solid round of golf today,” Donald, who trials by $363,029. “Couple loose shots at the ed. Wasn’t that easy out there. I think the wind was strong enough to make it a little bit tricky with club selection.
“Six birdies, no bogeys is always a good round.”
The last time the money title changed hands in the final week of the season was in 1996 when Tom Lehman overtook Phil Mickelson at the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola.
Two of the other leaders have their 2012 PGA TOUR cards at stake. James Driscoll came into the week ranked No. 125 on the money list while Nathan Green is No. 175.
Two of other three players tied at 6 under picked up their first TOUR wins this year – Scott Stallings and Gary Woodland – while Arjun Atwal broke through in Greensboro last season.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
LEMONT, Ill. -- To say Gary Woodland didn't get off to a good start at the BMW Championship would be an understatement.
Bogeys on his first three holes had the big-hitting man from Kansas in free fall early. Ditto for his playing partners, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson -- in fact, the group was a combined 11 over through their first eight holes on Thursday.
But Woodland turned things around with four birdies on his back nine to shoot 1 under in the first round. And on Friday he shot up the leaderboard with a 68 that left him at 5 under and tied for 12th.
"All of us got off to a rough start yesterday and fortunately I kind of settled down a little bit and got some putts to go in," Woodland said. "Today the course played a lot easier than it did yesterday. Yesterday the wind was blowing and it played pretty tough. Today there's no wind. it was out there to get one."
Woodland, who picked up his first TOUR win earlier this year, said the turnaround was more psychological than physical. He concentrated on making pars and when the birdie opportunities presented themselves he was ready.
"Finally I got a putt to go in and the door opened up for us," Woodland said. "I just had to calm down and start over. It's all mental. I didn't hit that bad of shots and that's what I told myself. Just got a couple of bad breaks and hopefully just get one to go in."
Woodland, who ranks fifth on TOUR in driving distance, trails the leaders by seven shots but he has two days to make up the deficit. He's pleased with the way he’s playing overall.
"I was a little frustrated with the three bogeys yesterday and I made a double on a par 5 today but outside of that I played great,” Woodland said. “So eliminate the mistakes and hope we have a big weekend.
“Obviously, if you're going to make three bogeys in a row, you might as well do it the first three holes out and get it out of the way. But I'm in pretty good position and there's a lot of golf left so I'm going to have to play well.”
‘tLEMONT, Ill. – Length can be a big asset at Cog Hill, which measures 7,616 yards. Just ask the big-hitting Dustin Johnson, who took a one-stroke victory over Paul Casey in last year's BMW Championship.
That's what made the first- and second-round pairing of Bubba Watson, Gary Woodland and Phil Mickelson so intriguing. Watson ranks No. 2 in driving distance while Woodland is fifth and Mickelson clocks in at No. 22.
So far, though, the three have struggled and the group is a combined 11 over through six holes. None of the talented threesome has even made a birdie yet.
Woodland started his round with three straight bogeys. Watson has made four bogeys while Mickelson got going in the wrong direction with a double bogey at the par-3 second and bogeys at Nos. 4 and 5.
Finding fairways on this tree-lined layout has been particularly problematic for the threesome. Mickelson and Woodland have only hit one of their first five while Watson has found three.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
LEMONT, Ill. -- David Toms will never be confused with J.B. Holmes or Dustin Johnson or Gary Woodland.
After all, the 44-year-old from Louisiana ranks 177th in driving distance, averaging 279 yards. That's 39.4 yards behind Holmes, who leads the TOUR, and well behind the other 23 players who top the 300-mark like Johnson and Woodland.
Toms, who is in his 19th year on the PGA TOUR, has had plenty of time to come to grips with this disparity. But he admits he would still love to find the magic potion -- or the consummate driver -- that would give him added distance off the tee.
"I chase it every week," he said candidly. "It seems like I ask for another driver every week and always go back to the same one. It's just such an advantage on the courses that we play."
Toms' wife Sonya is the voice of reason, though. She's quick to point out that Toms has had an enviable career with 13 wins, including the 2001 PGA and Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial earlier this year. He enters this week's BMW Championship ranked 20th in the FedExCup and 10th in the Presidents Cup, too.
"You try not to take golf home from the golf course, and a lot of times my wife has set me straight," Toms acknowledged. "Well, you've done plenty good with the way you've played for so long, so you're not doing yourself any justice to try to go out there and either change your golf swing or go to a longer driver or whatever. You've just got to really do the things that you do well and do them extremely well."
Just when his wife thinks she's got Toms convinced, though, he goes out and plays with Bubba Watson, who ranks second in driving distance, at the Deutsche Bank Championship. And then his son Carter starts asking what Watson does to hit the ball so far.
"I said, 'Don't worry about your swing, you need to go to the weight room,' and that's when she went off on me again," Toms said. "She's like, will you get off of that? I'm like, okay, whatever. What are you going to do?"
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
EDISON, N.J. -- Matt Kuchar was ready to pull out all the stops to sell Gary Woodland on a Thanksgiving trip to China.
Turns out, Woodland was thrilled that Kuchar picked him to be his partner in the OMEGA Mission Hills World Cup. The tournament will be played Nov. 24-27 at Mission Hills Golf Club on Hainan Island.
“He was excited straightaway,” the perennially smiling Kuchar said.
Kuchar, who is ranked No. 12 in the world, has been impressed by the big-hitting Woodland, who earned his first PGA TOUR victory earlier this year.
“I think he's going to be a guy we are going to see more and more playing some great golf,” Kuchar said. “And so I'm pretty excited to have a guy that plays as well as he does and hits it as far as he does as my partner, I think there's a lot of upside to that.
“I think I can be the steady one that makes a lot of pars and watch him just make golf look pretty easy.”
The Kuchar family is going to log a lot of frequent flier miles in November, too. The week prior to the World Cup, he’ll be playing in his first Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne in Australia.
“I'm really excited to go to Australia for The Presidents Cup,” said Kuchar, who currently ranks second in the U.S. standings. “And then to be elected to play in the World Cup is something that I think is just a super cool opportunity, to represent the United States in another competition and to have two guys representing the United States is amazing, I think to be one of those two guys representing your country is really an honor.”
We’re six holes into Anthony Kim’s final round and he’s even par and still leads by two, though Brendon de Jonge has bounced back from his third-round 72 and is now within just two after playing his first dozen holes in 3 under. The problem for de Jonge, however, is that he might run out of holes before he can catch Kim.
Bill Haas, Gary Woodland and Webb Simpson are all two off the pace as well. Though Haas is the only one of those three under par on his round -- 1 under through eight holes -- Simpson has done a nice job recovering from a rocky start.
Simpson got off to a shaky start with a double bogey on the opening hole, where he pulled his tee shot way left before struggling around the green. He bounced back with a birdie on the next hole but gave right back on No. 4, where after hitting it into trouble left off the tee he had to pitch back to the fairway. But then Simpson bounced back with birdies on Nos. 5 and 6.
One other item of note: The third-rounder leader has held on for the win 18 of 30 times this year, most recently Chris Kirk at the Viking Classic a few weeks ago. That’s good news for Kim of course.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. -- Scott Stallings couldn't believe his eyes.
The rookie, who had just tied for 22nd at the RBC Canadian Open, was on the charter plane from Vancouver that landed at Greenbrier Valley Airport at about 4 o'clock on Monday morning. The sun was still about two hours from rising over the West Virginia hills but even so, about 30 people were on hand to greet the players who had come to play in The Greenbrier Classic.
"It's one of those things like, man, they definitely care about the players and they want 'em to have a good experience and they want 'em to come back," said Stallings, who has also enjoyed the nightly concerts and other amenities at the resort. "I have no complaints whatsoever. I've had an absolute blast, and I can't wait to come back."
Of course, Stallings would like nothing better than to come back as the defending champion -- and the 26-year-old who lives in Knoxville has given himself that chance after Saturday's bogey-free round of 66. Stallings, who trails Anthony Kim by one stroke, will play in the final group on Sunday for the first time in his career.
"I played within myself," Stallings said. "I guess I did all the
things that you're suppose to do: I kept the ball play; I kept the
ball below the hole; I hit it to the fat part of the greens when I
didn't have a good angle, even though I really didn't want to.
"Hats off to my caddie. He did an unbelievable job as far as just keeping me patient. You see all the low scores and, definitely when I had opportunities to make birdies, he did a great job as far as kind of pulling me back a little and making me play a little smarter. It was really good day."
Stallings was in the hunt earlier this year at the Transitions Championship. He finished a career-best solo third there -- three strokes behind the champion, Gary Woodland, and two behind Webb Simpson, his playing partner in the penultimate group in that final round. Ironically, Woodland and Simpson will be playing a group ahead of Stallings on Sunday
"So it's kind of funny to see all those names on the leaderboard," Stallings said. "Kind of eerily similar to Tampa with all the names that were up there."
Stallings said the final round of the Transitions Championship was a learning experience. Simpson grabbed the lead early, and Stallings felt like he got caught up in chasing him. On Sunday, he hopes to play within himself and let things happen.
"That's all stuff that takes care of itself," Stallings said. "I
mean, you could play really good and not win. In Tampa I felt like
I played great and I didn't win. Gary and Webb both played
awesome and I felt like I got beat.
"At the end of the day, you just do as you possibly can. If it's good enough, that's awesome. But I was telling the guys outside, as a little kid watching the PGA TOUR and stuff like that, I mean, I was that guy that Sundays, that's all I did.
“To have an opportunity to play out here with the best players in the world is a dream come true every single day. It's my rookie year. I am kind of three-fourths of the way through, and I'm sitting there and just kind of pinching myself every single day to have the opportunity to play out here. I love it."