October 26 2013
Only a few months ago, Gary Woodland was in danger of losing his TOUR card. Now, the 29-year-old has a shot of winning for the third time in four years.
Woodland has arrived in the new 2013-14 season armed with a new caddie (veteran Tony Navarro) and plenty of confidence thanks for a torrid finish in the FedExCup Playoffs, thanks to continued work with Butch Harmon.
Woodland won the Reno-Tahoe Open in August, and with the pressure off to keep his card, went on to nearly win The Barclays, missing a birdie putt on the 72nd hole that would have put him in a playoff with eventual winner Adam Scott.
Ironically, it was Scott's former caddie that has gone to work for Woodland. Navarro, one of the more recognized caddies on TOUR after his work with Scott and fellow Aussie Greg Norman, is on the bag this week at the CIMB Classic, where Woodland fired a 5-under 67 to put him only a shot back of Ryan Moore and Chris Stroud heading into the final round.
Woodland has always been a good ball-striker -- he's one of the longest hitters on TOUR -- but his putting held him back during a difficult 2012 season, when he was 178th in strokes gained-putting.
A putting lesson this week from Phil Mickelson didn't hurt.
"I've been playing good," Woodland said, "I've been playing good for a long time, I just haven't been putting it great and got a little putting tip from Phil actually this week, and it's been working pretty well. Excited about that."
Woodland said it was important for him to have a big week. He wanted some FedExCup points before the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in January, and this week's event is the first-ever FedExCup event in Asia.
"That's why I came here, was to get off to a good start (to the year)," Woodland said. "I wanted to come over and obviously play well and enjoy the off-season a little bit better. You can do that when you get off to a good start."