ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI | Gary Woodland has become very efficient at trying on clothes.
In each of the last seven years, Woodland said he has been fitted for team outfits for both the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup. In a sense, he’s been all dressed up with no place to go, having failed to so far make one of the U.S. teams.
That could change this year if Woodland can complete what he’s started at the PGA Championship where his opening rounds of 64-66 put him atop the leaderboard after Friday’s morning wave at Bellerive Country Club.
Given his place in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings (22nd), Woodland needs a late-season rally – or better yet a victory in the PGA Championship – to be on captain Jim Furyk’s team. That’s getting ahead of things, however.
Woodland, 34, has never finished better than T12 in a major championship and he’s playing in his 28th major. His game has been built around power and it still is but consistent scoring has been elusive.
So what’s changed at Bellerive?
It could be as simple as the grip on his putter.
On Tuesday, Woodland put one of those thick SuperStroke grips on his putter “and it fixed everything, to be honest with you,” Woodland said.
He made 153 feet of putts on Thursday and felt like he putted better on Friday. Woodland recently began working with putting coach Phil Kenyon, who suggested a few significant changes, and the results have come quickly.
Throw in Woodland’s short-game work with noted instructor Pete Cowen and he’s put in the work to improve his weaker areas. He ranks 192nd in strokes gained around the greens on the PGA Tour and 99th in strokes gained putting but it’s been different so far this week.
Maybe it’s being back in the heartland. Woodland is from Kansas and he’s heard plenty of chatter from the massive galleries about the KU-Missouri rivalry that stays as hot as August in these parts. He has so many friends and family members following him that Woodland said he has to work to keep from being distracted by all the well-wishers.
Bellerive is built for a guy like Woodland, whose power is at the high end of the PGA Tour scale. While most players see the 597-yard, par-5 17th as a three-shot hole, Woodland hit a soft, 3-wood cut shot into the green Friday, setting up an eagle that sparked his second round, which began on the 10th tee.
Woodland sounds like a guy who expects spend the weekend building on what he’s gotten started.
“I feel safe because I feel safe where my game is. I’m not too worried with what anyone else is doing out there. The golf course is gettable, I think,” Woodland said.
“For me, I’m very happy with where I’m at. I’m very comfortable with how I’m driving the golf ball. The iron game, the distance control this week has been phenomenal. And when I stand over a golf ball putting as comfortable as I am right now, I’m pretty excited.”