March 13 2012
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- The toughest part wasn’t physical. Then again it never is for Gary Woodland, who earlier this year hired Butch Harmon and has since undergone a major swing change.
“I showed up in San Diego this year and I didn’t know how I was going to play,” Woodland said. “The big deal for me is I’m not making changes at home, I’m making changes on the golf course.”
It’s shown in the results. Since hiring Harmon as his coach, Woodland has yet to finish in the top 25 in five starts.
But to look at only the finishes would be short-sighted.
Even though Woodland won the Transitions Championship a year ago and was one of the longest hitters on the PGA TOUR, he was also one of its least accurate. He ranked 137th in driving accuracy and this year is 165th.
He also didn’t have much variety in his game, which was mostly all about power.
“It’s been been an adjustment, but it’s definitely come along quickly,” Woodland said.
The record of Harmon’s players -- past and present -- in majors was also part of the appeal for Woodland, who knows his length, when used properly, can be a huge advantage at Augusta National.
“He obviously knows the advantage, he’s won a million majors there with Tiger and Phil,” Woodland said of Harmon, who helped coach Woods and Mickelson to a combined four Green Jackets. “He knows the ins and outs and which shots you need to compete there, and I think I was lacking a couple of those last year.”
Even though Woodland’s results have been lacking this year, he hasn’t missed a cut.
Part of that speaks to the competitiveness he’s had ever since he was a multi-sport star as a teenager.
“I think the biggest thing I learned with that, in baseball and basketball you have to learn to win when you’re not playing well,” said Woodland, who played basketball at the Division II level in college before transferring to Kansas and focusing on golf. “I didn’t have my best stuff Sunday [at Transitions] last year, but I found a way to get it in the hole.”
And that’s given Woodland plenty of confidence despite the swing changes.
“We’ll be ready by Augusta,” Woodland said. “And I think we’ll be ready before then.”