U.S. Open: Gary Woodland is back in the gym and coming off a swing tune-up, but you won't see him playing instigator this week
Gary Woodland, who's healthy again, says he would have relished a grouping alongside Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau.
SAN DIEGO – A year ago, as the defending U.S. Open champion, Gary Woodland didn’t like his chances.
“I wasn’t physically able to play. I just wanted to defend,” he said.
He missed the cut and his injured hip required four cortisone shots to get through the end of last year.
As for now?
“I started working out again two weeks ago, which is amazing, so body is feeling better and definitely with that comes a lot more confidence,” he said.
Woodland also got an added boost of confidence from his longtime instructor, Butch Harmon. They have worked together on and off since 2011, but Harmon retired from tending to his stable of pros at Tour events and so Woodland has seen less of him. He stopped on the way to Torrey Pines for a tune-up of sorts. Usually, Harmon can pinpoint one area of weakness that he needs to work on, but this time Woodland required more assistance.
“Last week there were four things that were off. That’s a lot for me, and it was all stuff that I wasn’t able to do last year and stuff that I started doing because I was hurt,” he explained. “That part is a little frustrating, so usually I’m one day with Butch. I spent three with him. Thursday, he told me I was horrible, and Saturday he told me I was pretty good and I had a chance to win this week. That’s what I like about Butch. He keeps it honest.”
Woodland, 37, has made three cuts in his last four events, including finishing fifth at the Wells Fargo Championship last month. He also is returning to a Torrey Pines course that he’s played regularly and has always fit his eye and power game. Woodland is paired for the first two rounds with fellow past U.S. Open champions Martin Kaymer and Webb Simpson despite the rumors he would be grouped with defending champion Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka.
“I would have loved to have played. I think the energy in that group would have been amazing,” Woodland said. “I would have instigated and tried to start fights or whatever I could have done.”
Woodland’s injury not only dented his confidence, but his chances of playing in the Ryder Cup, which was postponed a year, this fall. He’s plummeted to No. 21 in the U.S. Ryder Cup team point standings behind Will Zalatoris. (Only the top six automatically qualify for the team.)
“I think I would have made the team if we would have had it before COVID, and then I battled injuries and battled a lot and I dropped way down,” he said. “I’m happy with where my game is. I’m happy where the confidence level is. I don’t think I’m too far off where I can play my way back in. I think I can do that, and that starts this week.”