Playing against a group of fresh, up-and-coming PGA Tour golfers instead of the grinders whose names are regularly found hovering on the top-ten of the leaderboard was quite possibly the catalyst which helped Lake Nona golf pro Gary Woodland transition from competitor to winner.
Woodland said, after his victory at the Transitions Championship, that he has been learning a lot this year on the PGA Tour about "how to play this game", from controlling nerves to basic strategy. Even though he has been a pro golfer since 2009, Gary was sidelined with an injury that took him out of competition.
"Get it on the green and let the putter do the work. That's what I'm learning," said Woodland. "I'm learning you can't just come out here and fire at every pin and hit driver on every hole. I did that '09 and it didn't work out very well."
During this week, Woodland's name was clumped together with other golfers hard-pressed to be recognized on a leaderboard. PGA Tour events such as the Transitions Championship are training grounds for players battling to break out and shine while the more well-known draws like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson "rest up" before their next event (which will be at Bay Hill).
After this win, Woodland has moved up one hundred places in the world rankings (to 491st), has a spot reserved for him at Augusta and has gotten exempt playing status through the 2013 season.
The win this week has also given Gary Woodland the respect of the field, the title "PGA Tour Champion" and the notice of the fans.
Kathy Whitworth once said about Michelle Wie that, "at some point, for her sake, she needs to place herself in a competition where she is expected to win." Gary Woodland did this at the Transitions Championship: Woodland knew he was good enough, he just had to prove it to himself.
Has this victory given Woodland the confidence needed for future events against a more mature field like he will encounter at Bay Hill?
"I was athletic, but I didn't know what I was doing out here," Woodland commented. "I got hurt and I had to step back and really figure out how to play this game. And I'm starting to figure that out right now."
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