Gary Woodland, an athlete who didn't pursue serious golf competition until eight years ago, figured out quickly that hitting the ball from here to the moon was not going to help him win tournaments.
Perhaps it was only fitting that his biggest shot Sunday at the Transitions Championship came with his putter.
The race to the finish at Innisbrook was so wild that Woodland didn’t make a single par on the back nine until the last hole. He made a 10-foot par putt at No. 18 for a one-shot victory over Webb Simpson in Palm Harbor, Fla.
“I can’t come out here and hit the golf ball 900 yards and win,” said Woodland, exaggerating only slightly. “I was very conservative this week, laid back almost all day – all four days – and just tried to get the ball in the fairway, get it on the green and let the putter do the work. That’s what I’m learning.”
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The final par – after five birdies and three bogeys on the back nine – gave Woodland a 4-under 67 and his first trip to the Masters.
Simpson flew his approach long to the 18th green and faced the same scary shot as Woodland had minutes before. From the back of the green, he chipped 20 feet past the hole and his par putt was the only bad stroke he made all day. The bogey gave him a 69 and a runner-up finish.
“I just didn’t hit a very good second shot,” Simpson said.
Woodland had 23 putts in the final round – 10 on the back nine. According to the Shotlink data, he didn’t miss a single putt inside 20 feet in the final round.
Woodland, who played college basketball at Washburn in Topeka, Kan., until deciding to transfer to Kansas to play golf, became the first player to earn his inaugural PGA Tour title at Innisbrook.
Woodland, who heard chants of “Rock Chalk Jayhawk” from fans at the 16th green, finished at 15-under 269 and earned $990,000.
“One thing that helped me was putting, and today it saved me,” Woodland said. “Luckily, it won me a golf tournament.”
Australia’s Karrie Webb rallied to win the LPGA Founders Cup in Phoenix for her second straight victory, shooting a 6-under 66 at Wildfire Golf Club to beat Brittany Lincicome and Paula Creamer by a stroke.
Webb won when Lincicome bogeyed the final hole, missing a 10-foot par putt.
The 36-year-old Hall of Famer, the winner three weeks ago in Singapore, earned $200,000 for the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation and Japan relief efforts in the charity event.
Instead of paying the players, the tournament honoring the 13 tour founders donated $1 million to charity – half to The LPGA Foundation and half to the top-10 finishers’ charities.
DELAY IN SICILY
France’s Raphael Jacquelin held a one-shot lead over England’s Anthony Wall when final-round play at the inaugural Sicilian Open was suspended because of darkness in Ragusa, Italy.
A lightning storm before the leaders teed off at the Donnafugata Golf Resort & Spa delayed play. The year’s first event on European soil will be completed today.