U.S. Open: Long-Driving Gary Woodland Putts His Way to Victory

Woods, 43, a three-time champion, closed with a 69 to finish tied for 21st at two under.

Woodland, a native Kansan, confessed Saturday that he never stood over the ball on practice greens as a youngster pretending he was putting to win his national championship.

“I don’t know if I spent any time on a putting green when I was a kid,” he said with a laugh. “I was too busy hitting driver.”

Woodland, who had three PGA Tour victories in his first 10 years as a pro, is known as one of the game’s longest hitters. Over the past five seasons, he has ranked seventh to 13th on the tour in driving distance. He still has the eye-popping power, as he demonstrated on Sunday on the 582-yard par-5 14th when he found the fairway with a 314-yard drive and, using a 5-wood, sent his second shot into the rough, just past pin-high.

The chip shot was not easy, but Woodland pulled it off with ease, hitting to 3 feet and then making the birdie putt. For all his length off the tee, the key to his success this week was his play in and around the greens. After his tee shot landed on the fringe, 91 feet from the cup on the par-3 17th, Woodland chipped to 2 feet to save par. He then sank a 30-footer for birdie at No. 18 to punctuate a performance in which he scattered only four bogeys over 72 holes.

“I have a short game now I can rely on,” Woodland said. “I don’t have to focus on ball striking.”

Woodland watched golf instructional videos as a toddler and started hitting balls on the range beside his father, Dan, who had also been a multisport high-school star, when he was not much older than his own son, Jaxson, who will turn 2 this month. Woodland’s wife, Gabby, is expecting twin daughters in August, so Father’s Day had taken on a whole new meaning for Woodland even before he secured the biggest win of his career. “It’s special,” he said.

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