U.S. Open leader Woodland using past experiences in pursuit of major glory

Gary Woodland is using his past experiences to help spark a breakthrough major victory after claiming the U.S. Open lead.

American Woodland surged to the top of the leaderboard thanks to a bogey-free six-under-par 65 at Pebble Beach on Friday.

The three-time PGA Tour champion, who joined Justin Rose and Tiger Woods as the only players to shoot 65 in a U.S. Open round at Pebble Beach, holed a monster 50-foot birdie putt for a two-stroke advantage.

Woodland never recorded a top-10 finish in any of his first 27 majors, however, he has managed two top-10s in his last four appearances.

The 35-year-old tied for sixth at the 2018 US PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club and he was eighth following the same tournament this year.

Woodland was in contention with Brooks Koepka and Woods at the US PGA 12 months ago before Koepka sealed the title and the former is relying on that 2018 experience to help see him through in California.

“Being in that position, you learn you have to stay within yourself,” Woodland told reporters. “You can’t get caught up in what’s going on around you. Obviously there’s a lot more noise going on. Playing with Tiger on Sunday, I’d never seen anything like that. I’d never been in that atmosphere. I played in a basketball arena with 16,300 people right on top of you when I played against KU. There was nothing like that.

“…But you get used to it. You stay within yourself. You slow down little bit. Playing with Tiger, it’s not the people, really, it’s everybody inside the ropes. It’s everybody moving around, there’s so much excitement.

“But you learn to slowly slow your breathing. Adrenaline is a huge deal. All of a sudden you start hitting the golf ball a little bit farther. You learn to stay within yourself and what you have to do to calm yourself down and stay within your game plan.”

Woodland, who is nine under heading into the weekend, added: “I’ve been in the situation recently, which has been a huge help. I was leading after 36 holes, played with Koepka there on Saturday. Playing with Tiger on Sunday at Bellerive was a huge daily shot, whatever he shot, 64, or whatever he did. Being in that atmosphere.

“I kind of got away a little bit early but held in and ended up shooting under par I believe there, which was nice. The comfort is within myself. I know what I’m capable of doing.”

“From all those experiences you learn,” he continued. “I’ve been in this position before. Last year in August at Bellerive and didn’t come out where I wanted to but I learned a lot from that.

“I don’t have to be perfect with my ball striking, because I have other things that can pick me up, that’s been a big confidence boost for me, knowing I don’t have to be perfect I can still contend and have a chance to win.”