This article is part of our Weekly Recap series.
For a few years now, we've been writing that Gary Woodland is one of the longest, straightest drivers in golf. That's a key ingredient for success in major tournaments. But we've also been writing that Woodland had long been terrible in majors.
Woodland withstood a fierce charge from Brooks Koepka, denying the world's No. 1 golfer a record-tying U.S. Open three-peat by claiming his first career major title with a three-stroke victory at Pebble Beach on Sunday.
As of 10 months ago, the 35-year-old Kansan had never so much as finished in the top-10 in any big tournament. By big tournament, we're talking major, WGC or The Players. Woodland had played in 27 majors, 14 stroke-play WGCs and seven Players. In 48 of the biggest tournaments – FORTY-EIGHT! – he had never had so much as one top-10.
In fairness, Woodland had previously won three times, and he is one of the best athletes, maybe the best, on the entire PGA Tour. He was an all-state high school basketball player in Kansas and had visions of playing for the mighty Jayhawks. Instead, he went to the University of Kansas on a golf scholarship. Interestingly, in his post-match news conference, Woodland said his basketball days contributed to his golf woes.
"It took me a lot to learn to control adrenaline; and other sports you use adrenaline to your advantage," Woodland told reporters at Pebble Beach. "Out here, when I get a little excited, I need to find a