The past year has provided quite a ride for Gary Woodland.
It was a year ago Tuesday that Woodland, a Topeka native and former golfer at the University of Kansas, won his first PGA Tour title. He shot a final-round 67 for a 1-stroke victory over Webb Simpson in the Transitions Championship in Palm Harbor, Fla.
“Obviously last year this was a big week for me,” Woodland said. “It kind of jump-started my career going forward.”
Since his memorable victory last year, Woodland has had some ups and some downs on the golf course. He played in 18 more official PGA Tour events in 2011, finishing in the top 10 twice but also missing two cuts.
During the offseason, Woodland left agent Blake Smith of Hambric Sports Management and signed with Mark Steinberg at Excel Sports Management. Woodland’s coach at the time was Randy Smith, Blake Smith’s son, and Randy decided to also part ways with Woodland.
After beginning his 2012 season with a 24th-place finish at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, Woodland started working with new coach Butch Harmon.
“I didn’t really anticipate making a big swing change, but it’s bigger than I thought,” Woodland said. “It’s more mentally tough than anything.”
One of reasons Woodland chose Harmon is the success he has had working with past Masters champions, including Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Woodland finished 24th last year at Augusta and hopes to improve on that this year.
“He knows the ins and outs and which shots you need to compete there,” Woodland said, “and I think I was lacking a couple of those last year.”
When they started working together, Harmon indicated that a complete overhaul of Woodland’s game wasn’t necessary.
“We’re getting him to move the ball around,” Harmon said, “change his trajectory a little, change the setup and the path of his swing and get more of a variety of shots, which he needs to have.”
Harmon said Woodland will be tough to beat once he starts believing that he can play as well in tournament as he does in practice.
“He’s good on the range. He’s good in practice,” Harmon said. “But he reverts to his old stuff in tournaments because he doesn’t trust it.
“The kid has a chance to be the best player in the world.”
Woodland hasn’t missed a cut on the PGA Tour this season, but he has finished no better than a tie for 26th in five tries since the opener in Hawaii.
“ I’m pretty competitive, and I don’t want to come out here and embarrass myself,” Woodland said. “I don’t want to lose.…
“I’m not making changes at home; I’m making changes on the golf course, playing against the best players in the world, and that’s tough.”
Woodland said that he saw improvement in his game recently while finishing in a tie for 29th place March 10 in the Cadillac Championship in Doral, Fla. His short game was better during that tournament than it had been all season, Woodland said, but he didn’t hit a lot of good tee shots.
“Last week was the first time I started making putts,” he said. “To see putts go in the hole, now I know my swing is not too far away.…
“We just need to put all the pieces together.”
Woodland hopes to achieve that by the Masters, which will be April 5-8 in Augusta, Ga.
“We’ll be ready by Augusta,” Woodland said. “And I think we’ll be ready before then.”