What Gary Woodland said after winning the U.S Open


What Gary Woodland said after winning the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach by three shots

At the end of January, Gary Woodland hit headlines at the Waste Management Phoenix Open when he created a video with Special Olympian golfer Amy Bockerstette, and her infectuous personality – and incredible up and down – stole everyone’s hearts. 

It was during that video that she told herself over and over ‘you’ve got this’, and it was something that has stayed with Woodland. So much so, he repeated it to himself over and over again on his way to winning his first major championship at the U.S Open. 

“Amy told me a million times when we were on this hole I’ve got this, I’ve got this, and I told myself that a million times today, I’ve got this.”

Below, here’s what Gary Woodland said after his win, from his mental attitude, what it means to win a major, why changing coaches has helped, and those pivotal shots on the back nine at Pebble Beach. 

On what it means to win a major

It’s hard to — I’ve worked hard my whole life. I’ve been surrounded by amazing people and I always just wanted to be successful. I didn’t know what it was, what I was going to do. I fell in love with golf, and it’s transcended to today. And it all kind of came out of me. I never kind of let myself get ahead, just told myself it’s never over, and when the last putt went in, it all came out. I was more nervous afterwards than I was at all today. I’m glad it’s over with.

On what he was proud of this week 

I think from a mental standpoint I was as good as I’ve ever been. I never let myself get ahead of myself. I never thought about what would happen if I won, what comes with it. I wanted to execute every shot. I wanted to stay in the moment. I wanted to stay within myself.

I knew I was playing good going in, but I’ve been playing good going into a lot of tournaments before and haven’t had the results I’d like. I was proud of myself to stay in it, to slow down a little bit, to slow my thinking down and really focus on what I was doing and not let my mind wander at all.

On losing his swing mid-round

Yeah. 12 was probably really one of the worst swings I made all week. And we missed it in the right spot. We missed it where we wanted to, just it got a little far. Had to take my medicine. Played a little conservative, take your 4 and try to move on.

Hit a bad drive there on 13 as well. But really stuck in there and hit one of the better swings I made all week on the second shot. It’s nice to get away with 4 there.

And then we just wanted to play aggressive. I hit a great drive on 14. It was either we’re going to lay up or we’re going to go for it, and we sat there and thought about it for a while and said let’s go, we’re out here to win. Played aggressive, and it paid off.

On that par-saving chip on 17

Wasn’t too many options. If I putted it, I don’t think I could have got within 20 feet. Fortunately I did have that shot earlier in the week. And I was just trying to get it down there, trying to get it past the hole so I could be putting back uphill, and it came off perfectly. I clipped it nicely. Pete Cowen and I were working on trying to hit spinners off that early this week. That’s what I was thinking about when I was standing over it. And it came out perfectly.

I was just trying to fly it over the ridge. You’re trying to take your medicine a little bit. And 4’s not going to be the end of the world. So it came off beautifully, and I thought it had a chance to go in there. But that’s definitely one — it gave me a little cushion on the last.

On his emotions after his birdie putt on 18

Oh, just glad it was over. I didn’t let myself get ahead at all today. Didn’t ever let myself think the tournament was over. So I just stayed in it.

I knew the putt was big. I knew Tiger shot 12-under here when he won in 2000. So I knew trying to get one more would have been nice. But I would have taken 12 pretty easily too.

On not watching what Brooks was doing…

Yeah, I never thought about it, to be honest with you. I had Justin Rose, who obviously is a top whatever player in the world, 1, 2 or 3, I don’t know what he is, but I was watching him do everything he was doing today, too. You knew Brooks was going to make a run. Like I said, I saw he made birdie on 1. I heard the roars when he made birdie on 3, I think it was.

But I just tried to stay within myself. I knew if I played well, Brooks was four shots back, I believe. I knew if I shot a couple under, he’d have to do something really, really special. I also thought that at Maui last year or this year when I had a three-shot lead and shot 5-under and got beat.

But I told myself if I can continue doing that, and I did that playing with Rory McIlroy that day, and that was a big round for me. If I can stick to myself, I can put pressure on them instead of them putting pressure on me. No matter what he did, I still had those holes to make birdie, and that’s what I was telling myself.

On how it feels to win on Father’s day

It’s nice to have my dad here. Obviously I’ve got my son at home that turns two next week. I’ve got identical twin girls on the way in a couple months. So it’s a special day.

I wouldn’t be where I am without my dad. My dad worked nights growing up. Growing up I had somebody to shoot baskets with, whatever we did I had somebody to do that with. It took me a while once I got older because my dad always coached me. Golf was the only sport he didn’t coach me in. And my dad never forced me to do anything. But if I did it, if I decided to go play catch or basketball, he was hard on me. You had to do it the right way, if you were going to do it. He never let me win.

I remember the first time I beat him in golf I was 13. I don’t know if I beat him in basketball until I was 14 or 15. He was bigger than me and never let me win. It was hard when I got older of him not coaching me anymore to now the relationship where we can be best friends. And I wouldn’t be where I am today without my dad and the way he treated me and the way he was hard on me. And that’s something that I look forward to doing with my son.

On the viral video with Amy and how he inspired her…

She’s meant everything for me from a mental standpoint. The world needs more of her in it. Her attitude, her love for life, love for the game and her positive energy is so contagious. And I’ve had the pleasure to continue to speak with her. 

Really the only thing you can control — and I said this yesterday. The only thing I can control today is my attitude. My caddie told me, when I got done, it’s the best he’s ever seen my attitude all week. I just tried to control that because that’s really all you can control.

And Amy’s attitude is phenomenal. That’s something I want to teach my kids, is you have to — positive energy is contagious. And life’s not always going to be bells and whistles. There are going to be bad things in your life, a lot of ups and downs, but the only thing you can control is your attitude. And if you do that, in the end good things will happen. I said — Amy told me a million times when we were on this hole I’ve got this, I’ve got this, and I told myself that a million times today, I’ve got this.

I was more nervous for her putt than I was for my putt, I can tell you that. The bunker shot she hit, too, was amazing. I wanted to get it out of the bunker for her, and she’s like, no, I’ve got this.

The putt on 18 was nice. Obviously I was trying to get down there close. To go in was amazing. I was a little excited. I know Tiger shot 12-under in 2000. To finish 13-under was pretty cool.

On trying to keep calm and in the moment…

I didn’t really look at the crowd too much. They were very vocal. They were big. The energy was phenomenal in the last group. You could hear what Brooks was doing up ahead. I could see what Rosie was doing.

When you get on those holes, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, you come back on 17, I was just trying to take in the beauty of the whole moment. I think that takes some ease out of, kind of puts things in perspective real quick, takes my mind off some things, and then you can get back to work. I enjoyed the moment more than anything.

On changing coaches from Butch Harmon to Pete Cowen and how influential that has been…

Pete’s been amazing for me. I worked with Butch for a long time. Butch is the one that recommended me to go to Pete a year and a half ago for the short game. When Butch decided to retire, it was an easy transition for me to full swing everything with Pete.

Pete to me is like a coach. He’s not really a teacher, he’s a coach. He tells you this is the game plan, this is what we’re going to do, and then it’s up to me to go out and do it.

But like Butch, he knows what to say and when to say it. He sent me an unbelievable text this morning that had nothing to do with my golf swing or technique. He said: Every man dies, but not every man lives, and you live for this moment.

So that — I thought about that a lot today. He’s been great for me. But I think we’re only on the tip of the iceberg. We were working on short game shots, he’s like, no, I don’t think you can execute that under pressure. Let’s go back and do it this way, let’s simplify things. That’s huge having him here. I didn’t hit it well on Thursday. I went straight to the range, and we worked for a long time to figure it out. And that’s nice to have him here under huge moments and guided me along the way. It’s a work in progress. We’ve only been full swing since December. I’m hitting as good as I ever have.

On taking trips here with friends paying off…

It definitely helped me be more comfortable. I tried to put myself back into that situation a little bit to get out of the moment, I guess, the big picture, what was going on this week. But I love Pebble Beach. I haven’t played the AT&T a lot. I struggled on some of the other golf courses, but I found a way to play well here at Pebble.

I’ve enjoyed — it sets up well for my eye. When I hit driver, I think it’s a huge advantage. And it allows me to really be aggressive with my iron play. And I’ve enjoyed — I started to love poa annua greens, I struggled on the greens, and I put in a lot of work to start to really like poa annua greens, and that’s what paid off this week.

On focusing on golf later after going to college to do basketball, and becoming a complete player…

I mean, the moment really got forced on me. I went to school, to Washburn to play basketball, and I always believed if basketball didn’t work out I could fall back on golf.

And our first game we played Kansas at the University of Kansas. They were ranked No. 1 in Division I, and we were ranked No. 2 in Division II. And that decision got forced on me really quickly. I was guarding Curt Hinrich, and, like, okay, I need to find something else, because this ain’t gonna work. And that was my first game in college. I was a two-time State champion, All-State, blah, blah, blah, but that was a different level.

And so when I transitioned to golf the next year, that was the first time in my life I’d ever focused solely on golf. It took me a little bit, but I got out here a year after school on the PGA TOUR in 2009. It’s 11 years later now being out here. I don’t think my game is where it needs to be, but it’s getting there.

I’m becoming a more complete player, I have more shots. I can rely more on my putting, rely on my short game. Things I couldn’t do even last year.

We put a lot of work in this year in becoming a more complete player. I can play different golf courses. People probably growing up said U.S. Open wouldn’t suit me, because I’m a long hitter, I’m a bomber. Coming to Pebble Beach, on top of that, it’s a shorter golf course. And went out and proved, I think to everybody else, what I always believed, that I’m pretty good.

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