Backswing RoundUp

Gary Woodland's major improvements in his game

Gary Woodland's major improvements in his game
Gary Woodland displayed characteristics of a PGA Tour veteran at his recent win at the US Open. However, this was his first big win at a major like this. So we asked some of the game’s top professionals what they think are the reasons for the improvement in his game.

Gary Woodland's improvement came in his short game.

I think Gary Woodland’s improvement came in his short game. The chip he hit on the 71st hole from the putting surface showed the confidence he has in his technique. His second shot on the par 5, 14th hole was a game changer as well. To hit that shot, he had to have incredible confidence in his short game as it was from 263 yards, uphill guarded by heavy rough and deep bunkers. His power fade matched with his great short game makes him a formidable player.

Marcum Golf Academy

Michael Marcum

Director of Instruction & Golf Activities

Performance Fitness for Athletes

Marcum Golf Academy, Riverside, CA

His maturity has grown to a much more confident person with a mental game stronger than ever.

It’s been a long tough road for Woodland. He has been through so much up to this point in his career. From his dad having a heart attack and almost dying, to his wife suffering two miscarriages last year. On top of his off the course difficulties he also had been fighting to win golf tournaments. He was 0 for 7 in every 54 hole lead tournament he’s been in.

At one point in Garry’s life he was actually a star basketball player. It wasn’t until his freshman year in college when he decided to just stick to golf, and this would be a decision that would change his life.

Now after 12 years on tour he has finally accomplished something only some of the greatest golfers have done before. The shot on #17 alone shows how much gut he has to pull something off like that under pressure. Not only did he win the U.S Open but he won on fathers day. Something truly special he did for his father, his son, his daughter in heaven and his twin daughters on the way.

I cannot be more happy for someone to win the U.S Open. Gary has always been a great player on and off the course. Showing his love for others at moments like when he brought out Special Olympics Golfer Amy Bockerstette during the Waste Management tournament was something special to watch.

He has now proven to himself and the rest of the world he can not only lead, but also finish tournaments at the top of the leaderboard. In my opinion he is a much more complete player. His maturity has grown to a much more confident person with a mental game stronger than ever. Not to mention his short game is off the charts!

Canyon Crest Country Club

Calvin Maranville

PGA Golf Professional

Director of Instruction

Canyon Crest Country Club, Riverside, CA

A new putting coach, Phil Kenyon appears to have given Gary the tools to fix his weakness.

In an age where stats are easily accessible it would appear that there really hasn’t been a significant improvement in any part of Gary’s game in the last year. He has frequently been referred to as a quality ball striker with putting being his Achilles heel. Last year he was ranked 3rd in strokes gained off the tee, 18th in strokes gained tee to green and 20th in total strokes gained. This year his corresponding rankings are 12th, 9th and 13th. No major differences there and definitely numbers that support the general opinion out there, relative to his ball striking.

When it comes to the flat stick Gary ranked 114th in strokes gained putting in 2018 and was 183rd in putts per round. This year those numbers are 120th and 159th. Major improvement? Not really. So why did he win the US Open? He was 1st in total strokes gained, 2nd in greens in regulation and……..4th in strokes gained putting. Quite simply he had a great putting week, just like pretty much every winner on any tour has to have.

A new putting coach, Phil Kenyon appears to have given Gary the tools to fix his weakness. Like any change, it has been a work in progress but if his performance on the greens at Pebble Beach becomes the new normal, then there appears to be no limit to his potential going forward.

San Gabriel Country Club

Alistair Philip

PGA Head Golf Professional

San Gabriel Country Club, San Gabriel, CA

Sometimes players need to change things up to create a new mindset and to climb to the next level.

Sometimes players need to change things up to create a new mindset and to climb to the next level. Gary is a great example of that. His equipment change is well documented but his swing change I feel is more telling. Gary has worked hard to get back to a left to right ball flight that really helped him control the golf ball which led to increased confidence. Making a swing change takes time but with diligent work can be the difference.

PGA Teachers Hall of Fame

Erik Horve

PGA Tour Instructor

PGA Teachers Hall of Fame

Tijeras Creek Golf Club, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA

I sat on the 17th tee at Pebble Beach all Sunday for the final round of the US open.

I sat on the 17th tee at Pebble Beach all Sunday for the final round of the US open. When Brooks koepka almost holed his wedge on the 3rd hole, I felt anxiety for Gary woodland. It was as if the Terminator was coming after him. That same type of dread and helplessness was felt throughout the crowd. Then I saw Gary woodland walking down the fairway with his hands in his pockets. When he calmly played his wedge to a five feet and answered with a birdie of his own, it seemed that he was on his way.

He’s clearly done some great work in his golf swing with Pete Cowen and drastically improved his putting with Phil Kenyon but he is a different player in terms of confidence and perspective. His pitch from on the green on 17 underscored how complete a player he has become.

Will Robins Golf

Ryan Williams

PGA

Golf Teacher

Will Robins Golf, Sacramento, CA

His mental approach and true understanding of HIS SWING.

Gary’s improvement is seen both in physical change, and mental. He has been recently working with Phil Cowen on short game and with Butch Harmons transition our of instruction he and Mr. Cowen added the full swing to their lessons.

The biggest improvement in Gary’s game, in my opinion, is seen with his mental approach and true understanding of HIS SWING. Too many players are playing tournaments trying to implement a swing modeled and laid out by the golf instructors. What Cowen has done with Gary is laid out how to play and fix his own swing and make it his.

His short game has improved and that is evident with the previous tournaments he contended and won. This has the potential to launch the rest of Gary’s career seeing how he now KNOWS he can win big events. Excited to see how he continues.

Timber Creek Golf Course

Derek Zachman

Head Golf Professional

Director of Golf

Timber Creek Golf Course, Roseville, CA

Gary Woodland has always had a great swing and a great game.

Gary Woodland has always had a great swing and a great game. He’s a solid player, however golf is just one of those sports where sometimes things all connect for a while and now is his time. He had some great showings in previous weeks and had competed well in the initial rounds at previous US Opens but this was his week and he got it done! The course suited his game for sure and he made a ton of putts early in the week to jump start the weekend!

Alison Curdt

PGA Master Professional

LPGA National Vice-President

Wood Ranch Golf Club, Simi Valley, CA

His decision to reach out to Pete Cowen was a great decision.

It has been well documented that Gary has had a rough time personally over the last two years coping with the loss of one of their unborn twins. We look at these golf superstars as inhuman as to the things they can make a golf ball do, but this tragedy shows us the “real” side of him. The loss of the baby I believe took a toll on Gary.

We all knew that Gary could hit it with the best of them but something was missing. He was constantly at the top of the leaderboard thru 36 and 54 holes only to make that crucial bogey or two coming down the stretch. It was obvious to him that his short game must get better if he wanted to win big events.

I think we all saw this past weekend that his decision to reach out to Pete Cowen was a great decision. The short game guru was just what he needed to get over the hump. I was told as a junior golfer by my dad “anyone can hit it long and straight, not everyone can get the ball up and down”. We witnessed that same thing this past weekend on those crucial holes that Gary needed to make that crucial par save, that had haunted him in the years before.

Congratulations Gary! Well played!

Scott Wasco

Director of Golf

Dove Canyon Golf Club, Dove Canyon, CA

I think the real improvement was mentally.

I think the real improvement was mentally. Gary Woodland is an athlete and winner but when it comes to golf you can’t attack it the same way you do other sports. Mr. Woodland realized he needed to adjust his mental approach and it paid off big time. I believe that with his skill set and now a revamped mental game we could see him winning more.

Cal State Monterey Bay

Jason Owen

Director of Golf

Head Men's Golf Coach

Cal State Monterey Bay, Seaside, CA

Quietly worked hard to gain his confidence, at a level that gave him the fortitude to stay focused

Although Gary Woodlands win was unexpected for most as Gary quietly worked hard to gain his confidence, at a level that gave him the fortitude to stay focused and keep his game together long enough to keep his lead and win!

I also believe, his caddie, Brennan Little, provided a priceless amount of “Major experience” to keep Gary on track… Brennan was and is a great golfer himself and he completely understands what it takes to coach a player through the trenches of a major championship…

And now that Gary Woodland has been introduced to the world, via his Major win, he has won the hearts of many… whether it be from befriending Amy Bockerstette, embracing their relationship or supporting the Folds of Honor foundation that has helped support many military families all across the USA. These are kinds of actions that are the traits of a Hall of Famer! Way da go Gary!

Puerto Los Cabos

Len Zamora

PGA Head Golf Professional

Puerto Los Cabos, Puerto Los Cabos, Mexico

There is no doubt who I was pulling for being a former Jayhawk!

There is no doubt who I was pulling for being a former Jayhawk!  Gary had the 0 for 7 when being a 54 hole leader in his memory bank. That gave him the ability to remain cool, calm, and collected down the stretch! Nothing like experience.

Vets Whole In One

Jim Dennerline

PGA Golf Professional

Vets Whole In One, Los Angeles, CA

Over the last couple of years he’s focused more on the scoring elements of his game.

Gary Woodland has always been a great ball striker . Over the last couple of years he’s focused more on the scoring elements of his game. He actually has two short game coach’s. One for putting and one for chipping pitching and bunker play. Phil Kenyon and Pete Cowen.

His short game improvements have freed him up on the course to be more aggressive in certain situations and take advantage of his length. We saw this in the final round of the U.S Open. On the 14 hole he went for the green on the par 5 and hit a great shot just off the green and got up and down for a birdie. On the 17 hole we all saw his amazing touch, playing l a pitch shot over the edge of the green from the fringe to a few feet to seal the championship.

Coronado Golf Course

Brian Smock

Head Golf Professional

Coronado Golf Course, Coronado, CA

Gary is an athlete first and a golfer second.

Gary Woodland is the type of player who would not have played golf had it not been for Tiger Woods. Tiger made golf cool for athletes to switch over and try golf. Gary is an athlete first and a golfer second. As a instructor of juniors, I encourage the singular sport parents to sign up their kids in as many sports as possible. Long gone are the days of only playing one sport; and with the USGA and course designers making the courses long and the rough high, the athlete will win in the long run.

Indian Wells Golf Resort

Eric Solander

PGA Golf Professional

Lead Teaching Professional

Indian Wells Golf Resort, Indian Wells, CA

By being a feel player and trusting his natural talent he's able to create a rhythmic on-plane golf swing that is powered by his core.

Gary Woodland is a pure athlete.  He received a scholarship to play collegiate basketball, however, decided to switch to golf half way through.  I believe his golf swing is based more on athleticism rather than technique.  By being a feel player and trusting his natural talent he’s able to create a rhythmic on-plane golf swing that is powered by his core.  His style allows him to generate tons of energy into the ball and he demonstrated that this athletic move can hold up under pressure last weekend at Pebble Beach as well!  It was great to see him do so well and I look forward to seeing him up in the leader board more frequently.

GOLFTEC

Bryan Padua

Center Manager

Director of Instruction

GOLFTEC, Colma, CA

His work over the last few years with Pete Cowen on his short game

I think Gary Woodland showed us ‘a la Lebron James’ that he is ‘more than an athlete’ who hits bomb drives. His work over the last few years with Pete Cowen on his short game clearly patched up the holes in his game that he needed to be a major winner. His new friendship with Amy, and being a new father has also given him a new perspective on life. With a decorated history as a competitive athlete from years of basketball and baseball, now empowered with a brilliant well rounded golf game – watch out for Gary Woodland.

Westchester Golf Course

David Kulla-Mader

PGA

Teaching Professional

Westchester Golf Course, Los Angeles, CA

Gary Woodland's US Open victory is shocking but not surprising.

Gary Woodland’s US Open victory is shocking but not surprising. And I say that only because none of the stories were about a first-time winner; it was all Phil, Brooks, Rory, Tiger, etc. I say the victory is not surprising because Woodland is a Brooks-esque player. Koepka wins when his length AND his short game are firing on all cylinders. Woodland also hits it long, also is in great shape, and this week also had a great short game. I think more players who fit that bill–starting with Dustin Johnson who may have been the inspiration Brooks looked to as a long ball hitter who can contend in majors consistently–are going to start winning on the big stage.

Nobody had even even thought to complete a 900 in skateboarding until Tony Hawk did it in 1997. Once he did, the floodgates opened and now many boarders can do it. I think the same applies to players on tour who make their salary with their driver. Woodland had won regular tour events but majors were for guys who had sparkling short games and dazzling iron play. Then Dustin Johnson won a major. Now Koepka is winning majors. I think Gary Woodland sees this success of people who play the game in a similar way to how he plays it and that gives him the confidence to go out and win a major in that fashion as well.

Trevor Cassidy

Assistant Golf Professional

El Caballero Country Club, Tarzana, CA

Gary Woodland improved his mental practice in order to win the US Open.

Gary Woodland improved his mental practice in order to win the US Open. It was noticeable during the closing holes on Sunday. He was visibly uncomfortable with the spotlight and the pressure, but he kept himself composed through his mental routine between shots. Mantras were being repeated in his mind which allowed him ample energy for the decisions that needed to be made and the shots to be played.

Bel-Air Country Club

Troy Arfsten

PGA Golf Professional

Bel-Air Country Club, Los Angeles, CA

For Gary, it was a “perfect storm”:

More than game improvement, I think the difference maker for Gary Woodland at Pebble Beach was his mental focus on one shot at a time, staying relaxed in the moment and concentration on his own golf game.

At the elite level, players understand the formula for success: Stay close, avoid big numbers, middle of the green, hit fairways, putt well, etc.
For Gary, it was a “perfect storm”: calm demeanor and thoughtful execution. He didn’t change his style. Gary confidently maintained and owned his way to play. He excelled at the right time in the perfect place.

Most golfers could benefit from Gary’s mental approach when they play golf. Stay in your lane, do the things you can, keep it simple, etc. All good advice. Those who understand and can apply these simple thoughts to their own game will experience more enjoyment and more success. For the others, hopefully, they can find a PGA Professional to guide them there.

Ducky O'Toole

PGA Golf Professional

DNA Golf, Carmel, CA

Not only did Woodland seek out Cowen he also started working with the UK putting guru Phil Kenyon

In regards to Gary Woodland’s improvement, clearly he was always a premiere ball striker but as his stats showed he struggled with his short game. What I was really struck by is how Gary Woodland’s coach Butch Harmon graciously showed a genuine interest in the improvement of his pupil’s game by suggesting that he should pay a visit to the great UK teacher Pete Cowen to focus mainly on the short game.. As you are well aware Pete Cowen instructs Henrik Stenson and many other European stars. I have always looked upon Cowen as the “Butch Harmon” of Europe. Not only did Woodland seek out Cowen he also started working with the UK putting guru Phil Kenyon. This dynamic teaching trio of Harmon, Cowen and Kenyon mixed with Woodland’s immense talent created a perfect blend for success which was so beautifully displayed at Pebble.

As a teacher it was wonderful to see a legendary instructor like Butch Harmon put his ego aside by making a suggestion that would ultimately change Gary Woodland’s career and life forever.

Tim Terwilliger

PGA Head Golf Professional

Brookside Golf Club, Pasadena, CA

I think his calm, business type attitude is what really helped him keep it together over the weekend at Pebble Beach.

I know Gary Woodland has been working on his short game, mainly putting being the focus, but I think his calm, business type attitude is what really helped him keep it together over the weekend at Pebble Beach. His calmness under pressure is a lot like Brooks and when you know you have the physical ability to do what you want with a golf ball that does lead to calmness. Enjoyed the pieces over the weekend also showing the type of person he is and again all he has seen and learned about himself has brought him to this point. Continued good luck Gary.

Barry Clayton

PGA Golf Professional

Director of Instruction

Westin Mission Hills Resort, Rancho Mirage, CA

His short game was significantly better for the US Open.

Gary Woodland has been a very good player for many years. His short game was significantly better for the US Open. His short game stats for the season would not lead you to believe he would have had that success. Just a great week where everything came together.

Jim Hartnett

PGA Golf Professional

Founder

Myhome4golf.com, Irvine, CA

...his frame of mind was the best it's ever been.

I was under the impression from his Saturday and Sunday interviews that his frame of mind was the best it’s ever been. He stated boldly that he had already experienced losing was clearly ready to win. I’ve always told my clients that golf is 80% mental and 40% mental (ha)

David Stephens

PGA Golf Professional

Founder

David Stephens Golf, Westminster, CA

it has not gone unnoticed how hard he has worked on his short game

I have watched Gary gain valuable experience the past year leading up to his first major win at Pebble Beach last Sunday. First, last year at Bellerive with the 36 hole lead and being paired with Tiger in the final round leading to his first top 10 in a major. Next, following up with another top 10 at the PGA last month at Bethpage. I believe this gave him the confidence to win his first major. What I noticed last week was that how calm, cool and collected he was coming down the stretch to deliver shots like he did on 16, 18 and the amazing chip on 17 that will be talked about for years to come. Doing all of this with a player that has won 4 of the last 9 majors breathing down his neck.

Gary has always been known for his ball striking ability, but it has not gone unnoticed how hard he has worked on his short game to improve it. All of his hard work has rounded out his game to make him more of a complete player. A player that now in my opinion that has vaulted himself to one of the best in the world. The question has been asked all week, will he win another major? My answer is yes. The lid is off the jar, and I think he will win multiple majors. Don’t count him out in Northern Ireland next month, he has had success playing over there.

Nexbelt

Barrett Martens

PGA Golf Professional

National Sales Manager

Nexbelt, Rancho Cucamonga, CA

The coming months will determine if he has made a lasting improvement to his game...

I’m not sure that it’s accurate to say that he improved his game over the past year. He was 169th in scrambling for the year coming into the Open and 1st for the week of the Open. Does that constitute an improvement or just a hot week? The coming months will determine if he has made a lasting improvement to his game or if he just had a “hot hand” last week.

Either way, he seems like a very nice guy who certainly deserved to win last week but only time will tell where he belongs in the pantheon of golf greats.
Balbi Golf

David Balbi

PGA Quarter Century Club

Balbi Golf, San Carlos, CA

He’s always been a tremendous ball striker but needed his putting stats to dramatically improve.

The only thing that has stopped Woodland from being a 10+ time winner on the tour is his short game, especially putting. He’s always been a tremendous ball striker but needed his putting stats to dramatically improve. He will win many more times. Way to go GW, nice guys finish first.

Spring Valley Lake Country Club

Mike Pearson

Head Golf Professional

Spring Valley Lake Country Club, Victorville, CA

His demeanor and attitude

I think just the fact that his demeanor and attitude during the US open and at the Waste Management with Amy Bockerstette shows great character and is what the PGA and golf needs.

Woodland Hills Country Club

Richard Stegall

PGA Head Golf Professional

Woodland Hills Country Club, Woodland Hills, CA

This improvement has been a work in progress for years.

This improvement has been a work in progress for years. Gary has a strong will to be a top tier player and has just been the guy on the outside looking in for many years. Some players figure it out early and some get it later. He has always given it 110 percent! Knowing Gary from his college days…he’s a stand up gentleman, long hitting and really just a straight up Stud! I am not at all surprised with his success and I also feel this isn’t the last time you will see Gary lift a Major Championship trophy!

And also his short game has imagination now…that shot he hit on 17 was never a consideration in his past. That really showed what the man is made of!

Full Swing Golf

Phillip James

PGA Golf Professional

Full Swing Golf Inc, San Diego, CA

His trajectory and left to right ball flight matched the conditions perfectly.

His trajectory and left to right ball flight matched the conditions perfectly. He strikes the ball with a piercing trajectory. He kept the ball out of the elements.

Mitchell Moncrief

PGA Golf Professional

College Golf Center, Palm Desert, CA

Gary had the ability to stay focused during the US Open.

Gary had the ability to stay focused during the US Open. Gary had sense of calmness during the tournament …when a mistake occurred he did not not panic ..Gary knew what correction to make because of his understanding of his swing and knowing what old habit tendencies showed up …The greatest reward is to fix yourself during the heat of the battle …during the US Open.

Paul Wise

Pro Emeritus

Hillcrest Country Club, Los Angeles, CA

He has done a great job working with specific coaches on different areas of his game.

I think he has done a great job working with specific coaches on different areas of his game. He definitely understands his hitting pattern and knows how to execute shots that help keep him in control of his ball flight. The short game work with Pete Cowen has definitely paid off. What a great shot he hit on 17 to help solidify the win. Putting was very good as well. His whole game seemed very sharp at Pebble. Most important may be the way he handled his emotions throughout the final round. This combination of skill sets earned him one of the most prestigious titles in golf!! Congratulations to he and his team!!

PGA WEST Golf Academy

Bryan Lebedevitch

PGA Golf Professional

PGA WEST Golf Academy, La Quinta, CA

Working on the correct balance of physical and mental

Gary Woodland apparently has done what is required to take his game to the next level, in his case win a major. His best before winning at Pebble had been just two top-10 finishes in his major career (T-6, 2018 PGA at Bellerive; T-8, 2019 PGA at Bethpage).

I like what he and his coach Pete Cowen are doing with his shortgame, he has the shaft more vertical at address which enables him to use the bounce and slide through the grass easier. He showed composure and when he needed courage to pull off the tough shot, he listened to his caddie when he told him to be aggressive on 14 and go for it with his 3 wood .With his work with putting expert Phil Kenyon his approach became simplified, then he had less tension in his pre-putt routine which lessened his anxiety.

Gary is a super talented athlete but talent alone doesn’t do it, I give credit to him for working on the correct balance of physical and mental to win the US Open.

Links at Mariners Point

Gary Monisteri

PGA Golf Professional

Links at Mariners Point, Foster City, CA

Dedication to work on his weak point of putting while not losing his acumen in other areas

Gary Woodland has always been a solid tee to green player. I think his dedication to work on his weak point of putting while not losing his acumen in other areas is something to be looked at. So often when players attempt to improve one part of their game they neglect another and it begins to deteriorate. I would be very interested in how he goes about keeping his complete game sharp while still improving.

Tyler Olson

PGA Golf Professional

Crystal Springs Golf Course, Burlingame, CA

he has always been a great player…now the world knows…

he has always been a great player…now the world knows…

REDD GOLF

Eric Redd

PGA Golf Professional

REDD GOLF, Palm Desert, CA

very impressed with his emotionless poise at Pebble from tee to green

I haven’t really followed Woodland throughout his career, but I know he has just a few wins on tour with his last one being by far the biggest. I was very impressed with his emotionless poise at Pebble from tee to green and some gutsy shots he hit there, like he had won many majors before. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the winners circle again anytime soon.

Brian Powers

PGA Golf Professional

Master Golf Teaching Professional®

Tee Time Practice Facility, Carpinteria, CA

Gary Woodland's victory was inspiring in so many ways.

Gary Woodland’s victory was inspiring in so many ways. Though a successful tour player for many years, he hadn’t yet elevated to that upper echelon, getting it done in a major. The turning point was 14. Any doubt that he could get it done was gone after that shot. I think that the moment he hit that shot, he crossed over to a completely new level. Expect him to be in the mix for years to come!

Golf Development Complex

Roger Gunn

PGA Golf Professional

Golf Development Complex, Moorpark, CA

Gary has surrounded himself with the best coaches and has a strong support group

Gary has surrounded himself with the best coaches and has a strong support group around him. All the areas in his life are solid from his home life to his physical fitness. It is everything is a bit better than it was.

GOLFTEC - Oxnard

Tom Szwedzinski

Center Manager

Director of Instruction

GOLFTEC - Oxnard, Oxnard, CA

Gary has not only sharpened his putting, but his mental strength is that of the likes of Brooks Koepka.

Gary has not only sharpened his putting, but his mental strength is that of the likes of Brooks Koepka. He doesn’t try to make the cut, but win! He is a good guy and I think good things happen to good people.

Empire Ranch Golf Club

Morgan Malone

PGA Golf Professional

Empire Ranch Golf Club, Folsom, CA