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Not many people can say they had to guard Kansas Jayhawks star Kirk Hinrich when playing college basketball, and then a few years later go head to head with Rory McIlroy in the WGC World Match Play Finals on the PGA Tour.
Woodland talks about growing up as a 2 sport start in the state of Kansas, playing those 2 sports at the college level, the current state of his game and the relationship he has with Under Armour.
Oh, and he goes on the clock with our “5 Questions in 50 Seconds” challenge.
Many thanks to Gary and the folks at Under Armour for arranging the interview.
Tom: Welcome to Golf Better at Worldwide Golf Shops. Episode 185. Hello everyone, my name is Tom Brassell, thanks so much for joining us. We say it most every time. If you’re a first-time listener or a long-time subscriber or maybe somewhere in the middle, it doesn’t matter. Either way, we are just glad you joined us. Especially glad you joined us today. We have a special guest from the PGA Tour who’s having quite a year. He’s ranked 34th in the Official World Golf Rankings, 27th in the FedEx cup standings, he’s had four top tens this year, two second places, like we’ve said, off to a great, great year. Brought to us from our friends at Under Armour, Mr. Gary Woodland. Gary, thanks so much for joining us. It’s great to have you, man.
Gary, one of the questions we like asking our guests on the show and our listeners really like hearing it was how did you get started in the game of golf? This love affair started somehow, where did it start for you?
Gary: Luckily for me, my father loved to play golf. He loved to hit balls and when I was a kid, just learning to walk, he’d drag me with him, I’d sit there on the range and just really … I loved just hitting the golf ball. Anything with a club and a ball I was into when I was a kid and fell into this game pretty quickly at a young age. It was a love at the first start, obviously growing up in Kansas but the weather did cooperate to play all year. When the weather was warm I was outside beating balls.
Tom: Your college experience, obviously you’re very athletic, a little bit different. You started out playing college basketball and then went over to golf. Share a little bit about that with us.
Gary: I was a late bloomer in golf. I loved to play but I played so much baseball and basketball growing up, I didn’t get out, I didn’t play in any of the big national junior tournaments, I wasn’t really recruited to play golf outside of the University of Kansas. They’re thirty minutes down the road so they knew me just for being a local kid. I didn’t think maybe I was good enough to play at the next level so I decided to play basketball. I signed, my junior year in high school I had a pretty good basketball career, won a couple state championships in high school in basketball and then really I started to blossom a little bit in golf my senior year in high school after I’ve already committed to play basketball, I won five times, I had a pretty good summer … I’m like, “Maybe I was pretty good at this game.”
I ended up going to play basketball at Washburn but it was the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I was a young kid playing with a bunch of upperclassmen, I learned a lot, I learned a ton from the [mental 00:02:50] side of the game. In golf, you’re not always perfect, you don’t always win but you learn in basketball and I think in team sports how to fight through adversity, how to win when you’re not on top of your game. That’s one thing I think I can translate for playing basketball into golf, played one year of basketball and made the decision to change for University of Kansas.
Luckily they still had a scholarship waiting for me. Really it took off from there. It took me a little while to get my feet wet but after my first two years in school I started to come to my own and started to play some pretty good golf and that’s propelled me to where I am today.
Tom: I would think coming from the state of Kansas, that’s a pretty brave decision. You’re bred to play basketball, maybe in like Kentucky or Indiana, it’d be like the same thing but a big decision to switch it and say, “No, I think I’m going to go ahead and play golf.”
Gary: My first game in college, in basketball, we played University of Kansas. It was a dream come true to play in Allen Fieldhouse. I always dreamed about playing for KU not against them but I learned very quickly in my first game in college I needed to find something else. Basketball wasn’t going to be for me after school. I needed to fall back on something, golf … Luckily, I had an opportunity to play golf at the University of Kansas and it was a dream come true to play in Allen Fieldhouse, it’s something I can always say I did but we got our butts kicked which wasn’t the outcome I was hoping for.
Tom: You turned pro I think it was in ’07? What kind of advice would you have for a young golfer like in the junior ranks going through what you went through. What kind of advice would you have for them if they decided to go this route?
Gary: It’s a great question. I think for any young kid, whether you’re a junior year, an amateur year, a college kid or even if you’re a young professional, you have to set goals, you have to be true to those goals, you have to be honest with yourself, surround yourself with the right people that believe and want what you want and are willing to push you to achieve your goals. You got to find a way to take your weaknesses and turn them into strengths. Some kids, today you see how kids just beating balls are doing certain things. If you can find a way to turn your weaknesses into strengths, keep getting better every day, you’ll reach your goals as hard as you work to get there.
Tom: You said great question, I say great answer, turning your weaknesses into strengths, that’s what I was going to lead into … The state of your game right now, you’re known as one of the longest hitters out on tour but I was looking at your stats and you’re second on tour from just off the [inaudible 00:05:31], I guess it was ten yards and in. Your short game’s phenomenal, you’ve had four top tens this year, two seconds? Tell us about state of your game right now, Gary.
Gary: It’s trending in the right direction. We’ve put a lot of work in this year, I’ve made a switch to Jim McClean as the instructor, he’s been great for me. He’s got my ball striking back to where it was when I first came on tour and it was [pretty at 00:05:55] the top ten, I think when I was going there in 2011 so we’re getting back to that but we’ve also worked tremendously on the short game, just from the putting to the wedge game, driving the ball better. Jim’s allowed me, I believe, to work to become a well-complete player where when I came out here I was just a long-hitting kid who was [perfectly 00:06:16] athletic. I’m starting to turn into a complete golfer and that will allow me to go where I believe I’m able to go and reach my dreams.
Tom: Being complete also means complete fitness-wise and all, we had Dustin Johnson on a month or so … No, a couple months ago. One of the questions I asked him was one of the changes I could tell in him or we could all tell, is certainly his physique, his fitness, what goes into his body, tell us about your fitness routine because obviously you’re a very, very fit guy. What goes on as far as what you do as far as physical fitness routine and also is there any diet things that you do differently?
Gary: Absolutely. When I got done last year, I hit a wall last year while I was playing about July. Really ran out of gas, knew I needed to make some changes, I ended up hiring a nutritionist out of LA, a sports nutrition out there, I’ve been working with her, I’ve dropped twenty pounds this year. I feel unbelievable. Yet that with the training that I’ve always done, just the diet I think is what really what held me back. I train hard, I train full body, I do a lot of cross-fit, a lot of [band work 00:07:20], a lot of mobility, a lot of rehab. The key in this game is to stay healthy, you feel a lot of stress in your body, swinging the way …
Dustin and myself do … We throw a lot of energy into that golf ball and our bodies need to be able to hold that for a full year. A lot of training, a lot of rehab, and to stay on top of it, do it consistently, do the things that I feel need for my body but obviously you try to knock weaknesses out in your golf game, you’re trying to knock weaknesses out in your fitness as well just to stay healthy for a full year. It’s an everyday grind, but it’s something that I enjoy and it’s something I definitely feel that I need to do.
Tom: Gary Woodland, ladies and gentlemen, brought to us by our friends at Under Armour and what a great segue, Under Armour. You got a great relationship with the folks at Under Armour, they’re obviously heavily invested in this great game of golf. Talk about that relationship if you will.
Gary: It’s been one of the coolest things for me. Obviously being an athlete my whole life, and being involved in athletics, it was important for me when I got into golf to keep that direction going for me. There was no better partner than Under Armour. I’ve been with them now since 2010 so a little over five years and to be able to join a company who strives for what I strive, they strive to be the best, they were young and upcoming, you can tell from the progress since I’ve been with them, it’s night and day that the stuff we have out now is unbelievable. It’s continuing to get better, I think they’re the best brand in golf and I think they’re starting to prove that and they’re starting to [show 00:08:56] that and it’ll be awesome when we get some golf [shoes 00:08:58] out next year, gloves coming out as well. They’re doing some pretty special things and I think the golf world’s starting to see that pretty quickly.
Tom: Yeah, one of the things that Under Armour did uniquely, they started off at the beginning is the different gear for different types of weather. For cold weather, for warm weather. You just got back from some pretty cold and pretty wet weather. Tell us about how the gear felt over there in those cold and wet conditions over in St. Andrews.
Gary: It’s always exciting, the week before the British Open to get your bag from Under Armour and see the new weather gear that’s coming out. The stuff we had last week was unbelievable. The conditions were windy, rainy, cold, hot … To have multiple pieces that is not only just wearing rain gear anymore, now we have sweaters that are waterproof, that are windproof that do so much more that allow us to move and allow us to function but still give us the right temperature and everything that we need. It’s unbelievable, the stuff that came out that will be in market soon. It’s definitely some of the best stuff I’ve seen and definitely benefited for myself and Jordan and Hunter and all of us that were wearing it last week.
Tom: Gary, before we close, we’d like to put you on what we call Five Questions, Fifty Seconds. Five random questions, the last three that have done it have been Dustin Johnson, Corey Pavin and Ryan Moore. You’re ready to go on the clock?
Gary: I’m ready for it.
Tom: Question #1 for Gary Woodland, if you had the choice and you got to pick which major championship would you most want to win?
Gary: I would love to win Augusta National.
Tom: Question #2, what impresses you the most about Jordan Spieth, one of your Under Armour compadres?
Gary: His [head 00:10:45] on the shoulders. He’s obviously a great golfer but he’s a better kid, he’s got an unbelievable head on his shoulders, he’s moving in the right direction and he’s so humble off the golf course, it’s great to see him, it’s great for the game.
Tom: Question #3 for Gary Woodland, what’s the longest drive you’ve hit on tour and if you don’t know the distance, tell us where it was?
Gary: I do. 450 at Maui on the 18th hole at Maui, 2012 I believe. Downhill, downwind, got it going, rolling down that hill, 450.
Tom: 450? We used to play Par-5s that length when I was a kid. Golly … Question #4 for Gary Woodland, who’s the best college basketball player you played against?
Gary: I guarded Kirk Hinrich the year I was playing, playing University of Kansas. He drove me to play golf, we’ll put it that way.
Tom: Question #5, are the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl contenders this year, 2015?
Gary: If we stay healthy, I believe so. They had an unbelievable year two years ago, we got pretty beat up on defense. Last year, had a bunch of injuries. They brought in a star receiver in Jeremy Maclin. I think we stay healthy, we’ll do some great things.
Tom: Great job Gary, you did it five questions, fifty seconds. Hey, once again, I want to thank you for taking the time out, you’re a busy guy. Thanks to our friends from Under Armour for bringing you to us. Final thoughts from Gary Woodland to our listening audience as we close this episode of Golf Better?
Gary: Yeah, looking forward to … It’s been a long, quick year. Obviously I’d like to finish big, get up there and knock Jordan Spieth off his little pedestal that he’s on right now and [continue 00:12:27] and obviously get going into the playoffs and have a great finish to the year and propel myself into … To get going in that top ten of the world.
Tom: Gary, thanks so much for joining us. We’re going to be following, be pulling for you, my friend. It’s been great having you on and maybe we could do it again some time in the future. Good luck the rest of the year.
Gary: I look forward. Thanks for having me. Have a great one.
Tom: How about that. A little bit of everything from Gary Woodland talking about hiring a nutritionist, working on that part, working on that, working on his short game. We always say if you want to reduce your handicap and score better, no better place to start than fifty yards in. A little bit of history about him playing against his old dream team from Kansas and then also closing how he would like to pop in to that top ten and take Jordan down. We’ll see, but what a great guest, Gary Woodland, thanks again to our friends at Under Armour for providing that.
Thanks again to all of our listeners for listening. You’re the reason we’re here and we’ll do it again next time when we have another episode of Golf Better at worldwidegolfshops.com. So long, everyone.