Gary Woodland has risen to a career-high world ranking of 12 after his triumph at the U.S. Open, with the American “trending in the right direction” having only committed to golf after starting college.
Woodland produced a superb performance at Pebble Beach to win the first major of his career and prevent Brooks Koepka becoming only the second man to claim three successive U.S. Open titles.
He had not previously been ranked inside the top 20 but is now on the fringes of the top 10 in a sport that for him was initially second to basketball.
In his post-tournament media conference Woodland spoke about how he knew needed to give up basketball for golf after guarding NBA player Kirk Hinrich during his time at Washburn University.
Woodland transferred to Kansas to play collegiate golf and has always felt he has been at a disadvantage to those who focused on the sport earlier in life.
However, after becoming the sixth player to win the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach – joining the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Tom Watson – he believes he is narrowing the gap.
U.S. Open champ @GaryWoodland is a baller.
• Named all-state in basketball in high school
• High school team won two state titles
• Attended Washburn University on scholarship
• Shot 87% from free throw line (41/47) pic.twitter.com/RrU7rrFaos
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 17, 2019
“I think from a golf standpoint I’ve always been a little behind just from what you’re talking about, guys that have grown up doing this their whole life,” Woodland said.
“But from a competitive standpoint, I don’t think I was behind at all. I competed all my life at every sport and every level. It was just learning how to play golf.
“It was learning to complete my game, to get that short game, to get that putting, to drive the golf ball straighter. And that was the big deal.
“From a golf standpoint, I was probably a little behind, and that gets frustrating at some points, because my whole life I’ve been able to compete and win at everything I’ve done, and I haven’t been able to do that as much as I’d like to in golf.
“It’s taken a while, but I think we’re trending in the right direction.”