NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. (AP) — In his second full year on the PGA Tour, Gary Woodland has reason to feel like a rookie for the rest of the season. That’s not a bad thing, either.
Woodland can count on as many as eight big events based on his good performance this year.
His first tour victory at the Transitions Championship in March earned him a spot in the World Golf Championship at Firestone and the PGA Championship in August. It also helped him earn enough money to get into the British Open, and he has decided to prepare for links golf by playing next week in the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart.
After that is the FedEx Cup playoffs. He didn’t play well enough as a rookie to qualify for any of the four playoff events.
For the rest of the year, the only golf course he will have seen before is at The Greenbrier.
It starts on truly foreign turf. Not only has Woodland never played links golf, he’s never been to Britain. In fact, he’s never even traveled to Europe.
“I’ve been west, I’ve been south and north – but never east,” he said.
That’s why he signed up for the Scottish Open, which should be a treat.
“The closest links I’ve seen is probably Prairie Dunes in Kansas, which I guess is the most links we can get here in the United States,” he said of the Perry Maxwell design. “But I’m looking forward to getting over there. I grew up in the wind, I grew up in bad conditions playing in Kansas. Hopefully the conditions suit me pretty well, and I think we’ll be hitting that 2 iron quite a bit the next couple weeks.”
Woodland is ninth in the FedEx Cup standings. The goal now that he has a taste of it is to keep coming back for more.
“That’s what I’m here for. I’m here for the big events,” he said. “Obviously, world golf is the best players in the world. It’s great because I can take weeks off and prepare for that. I can get ready for that golf course. I’ve seen it on TV. But like I said, any time I can play against the best players in the world on the biggest stage, I’m looking forward to it.”
POULTER REACHES NO. 1: Ian Poulter once told a British magazine that when he reaches his full potential, it will be just him and Tiger Woods. Turns out the battle for No. 1 has come down to Poulter and Stewart Cink.
Poulter posted a picture on Twitter this week showing that he and Cink had the same number of followers – 1,210,083. That was followed moments later by another tweet: “Here are the numbers now 1,210,086 just moved past Mr Cink.”
It’s all in good fun, but it’s still a big deal to Poulter.
Poulter was talking about the value of Twitter and social media in March, when a reporter mistakenly mentioned that when Poulter and Cink faced each other in match play, Cink (who won the match) picked up some 42,000 additional followers.
Poulter reacted as if he had just been disqualified for his marker moving on the green.
“No, he barely put on any,” Poulter protested. “He’s been on 1.2 million for the last year. I’m telling you. I look all the time. Honestly. I’ll pick it up right now. I’ll pull it up just to prove it to you.”
With that, he took out his mobile phone and called up Cink’s account.
Turns out Cink had only gained 79. Call it a verbal typo.
“Stewart always has been 1.2 million,” Poulter said. “I’ve slowly, slowly, slowly been creeping up on him.”
And he finally passed him. By late Tuesday afternoon, Poulter had 1,210,602 followers, while Cink had 1,210,039. The only other golfer close to them is Tiger Woods, who rarely tweets but had 1,031,065.
Cink, however, still has something on Twitter that Poulter has yet to match: A photo of his first drink from the claret jug.
BRITISH OPEN SPOTS: Only four spots remain for PGA Tour players to get into the British Open, with three spots available at the AT&T National this week at Aronimink.
Two players will be exempt through a special money list that started at The Players Championship and included the last five events through the AT&T National. Those likely will go to Hartford winner Fredrik Jacobson and Memphis winner Harrison Frazar. Both are over $1 million. Paul Goydos is third at $646,000, and likely would need a runner-up finish to pass Frazar.
After that, the leading player – not already exempt – from the top five at the AT&T National and the John Deere Classic next week will get into the British Open.
This is a big week in another respect. The next world ranking will be used as the alternate’s list. The highest-ranked players not already in the British Open are Webb Simpson and J.B. Holmes, separated by one spot (No. 57 and No. 58). Both are playing Aronimink. And there figures to be at least one spot available if Tiger Woods doesn’t play.
CADDIE FOR A CHAMPION: U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy is playing in the Irish Open, as expected, only there’s a twist. Those who buy tickets for the tournament, to be played July 28-31, will be able to enter a competition to be part of McIlroy’s pro-am team.
The winner also gets a room at a four-star hotel for two nights.
DIVOTS: The LPGA Tour has added a new tournament north of the border. The Manulife Financial LPGA Classic will start next year under a three-year agreement. It will be played June 21-24 at Grey Silo Golf Course in Waterloo, Ontario. … The two-year run of the AT&T National at Aronimink ends this year, with the tournament returning to Congressional the next three years. Before leaving, however, the Tiger Woods Foundation is starting a learning center in Philadelphia in conjunction with the KIPP DuBois Collegiate Academy. The program begins this fall and will serve ninth-grade students. … Among the players who have withdrawn from the AT&T National are Ernie Els, Heath Slocum, Fredrik Jacobson and Ben Crane.
STAT OF THE WEEK: The last 10 regular PGA Tour events have been decided by one shot or in a playoff.
FINAL WORD: “I don’t feel sorry for Rory having to bear that burden of expectations now.” – Justin Rose on whether it’s fair for the public to build up Rory McIlroy after his win at the U.S. Open.