Gary Woodland made a mockery of his long ante-post odds of 75/1 as he scooped his first major title at the 2019 US Open after he fended off former champions Brooks Koepka and Justin Rose. The American coolly slotted home a stunning 30-foot birdie on the 18th hole to win the 119th US Open at Pebble Beach by three shots.
If you’re not too familiar with golf’s latest major winner, then here are four things you need to know about the 35-year-old.
A Real Baller
If it wasn’t for a switch in scholarships Woodland could have been shooting hoops on the basketball court, not booming tee shots on golf courses across the world. As a freshman Woodland attended Washburn University on a basketball scholarship, only to have a change of heart during one game in particular when he realised he was not going to cut it. After a year he transferred over to Kansas University where he took up a place on the golf team. The rest, as they say, is history.
Earlier this Woodland surprised Special Olympics golfer Amy Bockerstette, who has Down syndrome, at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. The defending champion invited 20-year-old Amy to play the famed par-3 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale - check out the video below - and there are some cracking shots. The PGA Tour’s Twitter video has since amassed over five million views, higher than any other golf video this year.
“I've done a lot of stuff being the defending champ, but that was by far the coolest thing that I got asked to do and something I'll never forget,” said Woodland.
From Major Misfit To Major Hit
In his first 26 major appearances Woodland’s best showings were two T12 finishes at the 2011 PGA Championship and the 2016 Open. In fact, these were the only occasions in which he came in the top-20 of one of golf’s top four events - he failed to make the cut eight times. Then, last year his breakthrough came in the form of T6 at the PGA Championship, followed by T8 at this year’s edition, then his first major at Pebble Beach last weekend. It’s been a remarkable rise within the last year.
Woodland also has three PGA Tour wins to his name: 2011 Bob Hope Classic, CIMB Classic, and last year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open. Alongside Matt Kuchar, he helped the United States win the World Cup of Golf in 2011.
In 2017, Woodland withdrew from the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play after he and his wife Gabby tragically lost one of their twins during pregnancy. Three months later the couple’s son Jaxson was born 10 weeks premature and weighed only three pounds. Jaxson, now two, has grown up to become a healthy child and in a few months time he will be joined by a couple of new additions as the Woodlands are expecting identical twin girls in August.