Woodland wins as Rose implodes
Gary Woodland has won his first PGA title at the Transitions Championship courtesy of a Justin Rose implosion.
Gary Woodland claimed his first PGA Tour title at the Transitions Championship at Innisbrook’s Copperhead course on Sunday, partly thanks to a Justin Rose implosion partly to a new game plan, but mainly to a lethal putter.
While Woodland was closing with a four-under 68 and a 15-under final tally that earned him his first slot at next month’s Masters and moved him up to No 3 on the FedEx Cup standings, Rose, the overnight leader by a shot, blew himself out of the water with four bogies in succession from the seventh that saw him card a disappointing, final-round 74.
In the end the lanky Englishman, who won twice on the US Tour last year, finished all of five shots behind Woodland and the man who went closest to stopping the American was compatriot Webb Simpson whose 69 left him just one shot shy of forcing a play-off.
Then came two more Americans, struggling Tour rookie Scott Stallings, who finished three off the pace, and seasoned Brandt Snedeker who was a further shot back. Both shot 70s.
Rose finished with a share of fifth place along with Scotland’s Martin Laird (70), Zimbabwe’s Brendon de Jonge (73) and the American trio of Roland Thatcher (70), Chris Couch (71) and Marc Turnesa (66).
Woodland, a powerfully-built, natural athlete who played college basketball at Washburn until deciding to transfer to Kansas to play golf eight years ago, said, thanks to the recent realisation that smashing the ball mile seldom paid dividends, he had adopted a new game plan in which moderation and accuracy held sway over power
“I can’t come out here and hit the golf ball 900 yards and expect to win,” said Woodland.
“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.”
Even so, Woodland’s march to victory was very much a see-saw affair. He didn’t par a single hole on the drama-laded back nine until the last hole where he managed a high-pressure 10-foot par putt that proved to be the difference in his slender victory over Webb Simpson.
Looking back at Woodland’s closing stretch, we saw him pick up a shot at 10 but drop one at 11 before surging into the lead with three straight birdies.
It briefly looked as if his nerves were getting to him when he next made two successive bogeys in his see-saw round, but he held his nerve, birdied the par-three 17th and then holed that match-winner at the last.
Simpson could have forced a play-off there, but saw his unthreatening 20-foot putt roll wide and he had to settle for second spot.
“I just didn’t hit a very good second shot,” Simpson said of his only his only bad putt of the day.
In contrast Woodland putted superbly, taking only 23 putts in the final round and just 10 on the back nine.
He certainly wasn’t exaggerating when he said: “One thing that helped me was my putting, and today it saved me, Luckily, it won me a golf tournament.”
Spain’s Sergio Garcia, playing his first PGA Tour event in seven months, signed for a 71 to finish eight shots off the pace in a tie for 15th after being just one shot off the pace after the first round and World No 1 Martin Kaymer of Germany closed with a 69 to finish a further shot back in a tie for 20th.
Nick Watney, coming off a World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship victory at Doral last week, played with Woodland but fell out of the final round battle quickly by failing to make key putts.
Watney didn’t make a single bogey but then he didn’t make a birdie either as he closed with a 72 in a tie for 13th.
It was his first time this season that he has been out of the top 10 – and it meant his two-month bet with caddie Chad Reynolds was over.
Both can now go out and get a hair cut.
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