PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS INSIDER
Insider: Woody Austin played his best at Warwick Hills
Seven of his 52 career top 10s on the PGA TOUR came in Grand Blanc, Michigan
September 12, 2018
By Bob McClellan, PGATOUR.COM
- September 12, 2018
- Woody Austin is a favorite this week based on his history of success at Warwick Hills.
The 2019 Buick LaCrosse with the 3.6L V6 engine delivers an EPA-estimated 30 miles per gallon on the highway.
Or roughly the equivalent of the distance made in putts by Woody Austin at the Buick Open at Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club in Grand Blanc, Michigan, over the course of his PGA TOUR career.
Austin won the Buick Open in 1995, and seven of his 52 career top 10s came at Warwick Hills. He always posed a threat there, so he’s very happy to see PGA TOUR Champions return to the site where the Buick last was contested in 2009 for this week’s new Ally Challenge.
“It will be nice,” Austin said Tuesday. “It’s gonna be fun to see the place again, that’s for sure.”
How does Austin, 54, explain his success there?
“Part of it was because if you drove it well it’s an easy golf course,” Austin said. “Because it’s not really long, even for PGA TOUR standards, even back then. If you drove it straight you had a chance to shoot low scores.
“For me it was a course where I happened to, over my career, I probably made more putts there than anywhere. I must have since my career putting stats are so bad.”
Austin could be a contender this week, and not just based on his past history at Warwick Hills. He has been rounding into form since missing the cut at the U.S. Senior Open. In six events since, Austin has two top 10s and has not finished any worse than T19.
His ball striking has been solid. He’s ninth in driving distance, too. And his putting this year actually hasn’t been as bad as he might lead one to believe; he ranks 24th in putting average.
Austin’s putting always is a work in progress. He said he took a lesson from Dave Stockton Jr. about three months ago. While he loved the mental approach Stockton delivered, the physical stroke just didn’t work for Austin.
“I actually was putting worse, which is pretty scary,” Austin said.
Enter Hall of Famer Lee Trevino, who gave Austin some help on his stroke while at the 3M Championship. It felt better, so Austin combined the philosophy of Stockton and the move of Trevino for something that he believes is working well for him.
But Austin certainly isn’t the only player with fond memories of Warwick Hills on which to draw. Other past champions at the old PGA TOUR event who are entered this week, listed alphabetically, are: Fred Couples, Billy Mayfair, Rocco Mediate, Larry Mize, Tom Pernice Jr., Kenny Perry, Vijay Singh and Scott Verplank.
Robert Wrenn established the tournament scoring record at 26 under when he won in 1987.
“I’m pretty sure we were using hickory shafts and gutta percha balls,” Wrenn cracked.
Wrenn said the course doesn’t cater to any one playing style. He wasn’t one of the longer players on the PGA TOUR, but it was won by Tiger Woods as well as the aforementioned PGA TOUR Champions big hitters.
“It’s interesting because it was a pretty good cross section of playing styles that won there,” Wrenn said. “ … It’s a very fair golf course. It didn’t favor one player or another. If you didn’t putt well you were not going to be in contention.
“There are a handful of holes where it’s pretty important to drive it in the fairway, but the greens are absolutely perfect, like putting on a pool table. I’m sure they’re in just as good a shape as they’ve always been.”
Wrenn said he’ll be watching this weekend.
“It’s nice having shot 26 under,” Wrenn said. “I’m pretty sure they won’t do that in three rounds. But goodness I know they can come close.”