Woodland credits multi-sport influence for PGA TOUR revivalThe 34-year-old takes lead from NBA, MLB stars LeBron James and George Brett to fuel FedExCup rise
January 30, 2019
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
Inside the PGA TOUR
Waste Management Phoenix Open preview
SCOTTSDALE Ariz. — Gary Woodland has the body of a Major League Baseball third-baseman, shares a trainer with NBA stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, owns two Ping-Pong tables, and is a three-time PGA TOUR winner.
He also played college basketball and is pals with an MLB Hall-of-Famer George Brett, a 4-handicap who has a home here in Phoenix.
“He’s been a good person to talk to and a good person to be around,” Woodland said.
Part of the new wave of athlete-golfers on TOUR — also including Tony Finau, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Luke List — Woodland, the defending champion at this week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open, is off to another strong start this season. The 34-year-old pro, who recently inked deals with Wilson and Puma, is third in the FedExCup after five top-10s already. They include runner-up finishes at THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES and the recent Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he shot a bogey-free, 5-under 68 in the last round, only to lose to Xander Schauffele’s 62.
Woodland’s style of golf is working. But what is that style, exactly?
It’s more complicated than you might think, informed by science and psychology more than grip-it-and-rip-it. For Woodland, cashing in on his outsized potential has meant embracing lifestyle and training choices that have worked in alternate but equally intense arenas: Professional basketball and baseball.
“You look at guys that are successful,” he said, “and you ask yourself: What are they doing that I’m not?”
Just over three years ago, Woodland was feeling vexed by injuries and looking to change things up. Venturing far afield from the usual golf circles, he called friend Ray Allen, then with the Miami Heat.
“Ray told me to come to Miami to come check out this guy named David Alexander,” Woodland said. “We ended up renting a house down there for six months just to be around this guy.”
Alexander is the Founder/Director of DBC Fitness, which stands for Dumbbells, Barbells and Cables, with a deep roster of star athletes. According to the company website, DBC uses biomechanics and detailed assessments to create custom correctives and training programs, and thereby “close the increasingly growing gap between training and science.”
DBC reshaped Woodland’s workouts, but also the way he ate, hydrated and even traveled. He learned about his body, and what he could do to maximize productivity and longevity. He even moved to South Florida (Delray Beach), which had the added benefit of facilitating further skull sessions with Alexander.
“It’s just changed everything,” Woodland said. “My body’s been healthy for the last two and a half years.
“Seeing the way these other guys work and what it takes to be successful for a long period of time, it’s been pretty cool,” he added. “Dwyane Wade and these guys, and LeBron — he’s my age, and he played every game in the NBA last year. To do that at 33, 34 is unbelievable. I had to make some changes, learn what I can and can’t do, and how to rest.”
At 6-feet-1, 205 pounds with a broad, V-shaped back, Woodland is a solid 20 pounds heavier than he was as a point guard for Division II Washburn University in 2002-03. (He transferred to Kansas and played only golf, dropping basketball.) If golf is a striking contest, as has been said, Woodland, who was third in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee last season, has few peers. In winning the WMPO, he went 10-under-par on TPC Scottsdale’s three par-5s. He went for the green in two 10 times, succeeded six times, and manhandled the par-71, 7,261-yard TPC Scottsdale.
Success, though, is a thousand little things, and Woodland has harnessed his brain as well as his brawn. Enter George Brett, who won batting titles in three different decades and now the Vice President of Baseball Operations for the Kansas City Royals. A devout Brett fan growing up in Topeka, Kansas, Woodland wore the number five in baseball, so it was a big deal when they were paired together at a Web.com Tour charity event in Kansas City about five years ago.
“It was only nine holes,” Woodland said. “But yeah, I was nervous to meet him.”
They hit it off, and took their friendship to another level last year. Brett lives part-time in Phoenix, spring training home of the Royals, and came to the third round of the WMPO to watch Woodland. Brett mentioned he would be having people over to watch the Super Bowl the next day and asked if Woodland wanted to come and bring his family.
It was a no-brainer, especially for his father, Dan, who was among several family members on hand for the tournament.
“I think my dad was more excited to go there than he was for me to win,” Woodland said with a laugh. “My dad had never met him, so that was awesome. We got done here, rushed home and changed, and watched the end of the Super Bowl at his house. We’ve become good friends, and we talk all the time. It’s really cool. He’ll be here again Saturday.”
What has Woodland learned from Brett?
“With him it’s more mental,” Woodland said. “George, mentally, believed he was better than everybody else. You ask him questions about today’s game, and it comes across, that confidence he throws out. We play a lot of golf together now, and the way he fights out there on the course is something anybody can learn from — he’s out there to win.”
So is Woodland. And now, more than ever, he’s putting himself into position to do so.