LAWRENCE, Kan. – Former Kansas golfer and Topeka native Gary Woodland recently hoisted a world-wrestling-like championship belt after claiming top honors in a Callaway long drive contest in Phoenix. The 376.5-yard blast was mostly a promotional effort for his new equipment provider, but it’s a telling part of what’s already been a scorching start to the 2013 season.
It would appear that Woodland and the rest of the field would need a sandstorm of epic proportions to catch Phil Mickelson, but the former Jayhawk was tied for eighth at the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale heading into Sunday’s final round. Woodland shot in the upper 60s for the third consecutive day and tied with four others at 13-under after three rounds. He sits just five strokes back from second-place Brandt Snedeker, but 11 strokes behind Mickelson.
Woodland opened the 2013 campaign nearly three weeks ago, and although he missed the cut at the Humana Challenge (Jan. 20), he shot a 66 in the second round and finished 8-under-par.
A week later, the 2007 KU graduate fired back-to-back rounds of 69 in the middle of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines and earned a little money for his alma mater on University Day. Aaron Baddeley shot a 68 in the third-round nod to the tournament sponsor’s “University of Farmers” to earn $15,000 for Arizona State University. Woodland tied Tiger Woods (Standford), Adam Hadwin (Louisville), Hunter Mahan (Oklahoma State), Snedeker (Vanderbilt) and Cameron Tringale (Georgia Tech) with third-round 69s to claim $2,000 for the Kansas golf program.
Woodland, whose last (and first) PGA Tour win came at the 2011 Transitions Championship, finished the tournament with a 4-under 284 and tied for 27th.
Earlier this week, the powerful Woodland used his Callaway X Hot driver to out distance Luke List, Nicolas Colsaerts and Andres Gonzalez, and continued to strike the ball well while posting a 3-under 67 and 5-under 66 in the first two rounds in Scottsdale. Woodland turned heads in the opening round by driving the green at the 313-yard, par-4 No. 17 and knocked in his fifth birdie in eight holes.
In early January, he was picked by a couple of PGATour.com contributors to be the season’s biggest surprise and it looks like a fully healthy, post-swing-change version of Woodland is ready to make a larger impact on the tour.
Woodland continues play at the Waste Management Phoenix Open Sunday with an 11:30 a.m. (CT) tee time with Mahan and Roberto Castro. The round can be seen from Noon-2 p.m. (CT) on the Golf Channel and 2-5 p.m. (CT) on NBC.