Gary Woodland has been playing steady golf recently, but he thinks he might be reaching top form at the right time.
Woodland, who grew up in Topeka and played at Kansas, is confident that he can do well in the U.S. Open, which runs Thursday through Sunday in Pinehurst, N.C.
“I am in a good spot,” Woodland said Wednesday evening from Pinehurst. “I am excited with where my game is at.”
Woodland hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since capturing the Reno-Tahoe Open last August, but he has frequently played well since the 2013-14 season started in October. He has made the cut in 14 of his 15 PGA Tour starts this season, and he has finished in the top 20 in six of eight starts since the beginning of March. His best finish recently was a tie for seventh at the Byron Nelson Championship last month.
“I’m trending in the right direction,” Woodland said. “I feel like I am getting better and peaking at the right time.”
Woodland spent the day Wednesday working on his game with Greg Norman, who was a two-time U.S. Open runner-up during his career and won 20 times on the PGA Tour.
“We’ve been working on all aspects of my game,” Woodland said. “I’ve been working with him since the beginning of the year. I believe things are really starting to come together.”
Norman gained a lot of attention as he walked with Woodland during a practice round, and they went to the practice area when it was over.
“He’s got so much talent, and I hate to see good talent go to waste,’’ Norman told The Topeka Capital-Journal. “I don’t tell him a lot. I tell him what I see, because I was a power player, and some of the minor adjustments that are needed.”
Woodland is playing in the U.S. Open for the fifth time. His best finish was a tie for 23rd in 2011.
The U.S. Open is known for being played on some of the country’s toughest courses, and this year is no exception. Pinehurst No. 2 is playing host to the Open for the third time.
“The golf course is unbelievable,” Woodland said. “Visually, it is awesome.
“Physically, it is very demanding. We’re supposed to get a little rain, which would soften things up. I think that would work to my advantage.”
If there is a lot of rain, that could make the course play longer and favor powerful players like Woodland.
It could also lead to lower scores than in past U.S. Opens at Pinehurst. Payne Stewart was 1-under when he won in 1999 and Michael Campbell finished at even par in his run to the title in 2005.
One thing Woodland and other American players are trying for this year is a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Kansas City’s Tom Watson will captain the U.S. squad when the biennial international competition is played Sept. 26-28 at Gleneagles in Scotland.
The top nine players in points after the PGA Championship in August will be on the team, and Watson will get to make three selections. Woodland enters the Open in 20th place in the standings but likely would move up with a strong showing this week.
“Obviously growing up, I looked up to Tom Watson,” Woodland said. “To represent America and play for him in the Ryder Cup would be quite an honor.”
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