Monday, June 17

2019 U.S. Open Champion Gary Woodland: 'We're Out Here to Win'

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By USGA Communications

GARY WOODLAND NO LONGER HAS TO ANSWER questions about an inability to close or win a major championship.

Entering Sunday's final round of the 119th U.S. Open Championship at Pebble Beach Golf Links, the 35-year-old from Topeka, Kan., was 0-for-7 when holding a 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour, and he had never finished better than a tie for 23rd in eight previous U.S. Opens.

That's now all in the past.

Woodland holed a 30-foot birdie putt on Pebble Beach's iconic par-5 closing hole to punctuate a three-stroke victory over two-time defending champion Brooks Koepka, who was trying to become just the second player to win three consecutive U.S. Opens.

By carding a 2-under-par 69, Woodland became the fourth player to claim the U.S. Open title with four sub-70 rounds. He's also the second Open winner at Pebble Beach to post a double-digit under-par score (13-under 271), joining Tiger Woods (12-under 272) who won the 2000 championship by a record 15 strokes.

"I just kept telling myself that records are meant to be broken," said Woodland. "I'm [actually] more nervous right now than I was playing today.

"I didn't let myself get ahead at all today. Didn't ever let myself think the tournament was over."

Four players – 2013 U.S. Open champion Justin Rose, Chez Reavie, Jon Rahm and Xander Schauffele – shared third at 7-under 277. Rose started the day one stroke behind Woodland, only to fade over the final 11 holes in carding a 74. Major champions Adam Scott and Louis Oosthuizen tied for seventh (278).

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"He deserves it. He's worked hard and I'm happy for him." 
–Brooks Koepka

"I played great," said Koepka, who was hoping to join Willie Anderson (1903-05) as the only players to win three consecutive Opens. "Nothing I could do. Gary played a great four days. That's what you've got to do if you want to win a U.S. Open, win a major championship and hats off to him. Cool way to go out on 18, to make that bomb. He deserves it, he's worked hard and I'm happy for him."

In the pantheon of heroic U.S. Open shots at Pebble Beach, there is Tom Kite holing out for a 2 on the par-3 seventh in 1992. There's Jack Nicklaus' 1-iron that hit the flagstick and stopped inches away in 1972, and Tom Watson's miraculous hole-out from greenside rough on the same hole 10 years later.

You can add Woodland's 265-yard, 3-wood second shot to the par-5 14th hole to that list. On a hole where most players were laying up, and just one eagle was recorded in the final round, Woodland decided it was time to be aggressive. At the time, he held a precarious one-stroke lead on Koepka and Rose was still in the chase.

The ball barely cleared the front greenside bunker and stopped in the rough just left of the green. His deftly executed pitch stopped 3½ feet from the flagstick, and he converted the birdie putt to extend his lead to two. Koepka never got closer the rest of the way.

"We sat there and thought about it for a while and said let's go, we're out here to win," said Woodland of his decision to go for the green.

"Played aggressive, and it paid off."

There were other momentous shots down the stretch as well. On the par-3 17th hole, his tee shot wound up on the far-right side of the hourglass-shaped putting surface. Forced to pitch the ball to the back-left hole location, Woodland executed a perfect shot from 93 feet to 2½ feet to save par.  

When Koepka missed a 9½-foot birdie putt on 18 that would have gotten him within one of the lead, Woodland could play the closing hole conservatively. With three putts to win the title, Woodland accomplished the feat with a birdie flourish. It was a fitting end to a glorious week for the Kansan, who was 169th in scrambling on the PGA Tour this season, but first this week.

All of his work with instructor Pete Cowen and putting coach Phil Kenyon came to fruition.

Many of his fellow PGA Tour professionals congratulated Woodland as he walked off No. 18 to the scoring trailer, including Koepka. His parents, Dan and Linda Woodland, were also in attendance, but wife Gabby and son, Jaxson, were back at their Florida residence. She is due with twin girls in August.

What a Father's Day it turned out to be. 

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