NZ Golf Magazine | July 2019 | 11 A merican professional Gary Woodland was always easily dismissed by critics as being too erratic to win a major championship. The 35-year-old from Kansas who hits the golf ball a country mile (he has driven at an average of 309 yards (283m) from the tee in 2019), but he never had the complete game to match it with the best players in the world. Or so they said. The stats backed up that point of view as well. In his 13 years as a pro, Woodland had won only three PGA Tour events. The first 27 times he entered major championships, he didn’t ever finish inside the top-10. But things were trending in the right direction. In two of his past three majors, he improved to tie for sixth and eighth, but it is still fair to say that his win of the U.S. Open Championship at Pebble Beach in June was a surprise, even for himself. He didn’t just win, he turned some heads in becoming the 119th U.S. Open Champion. “That’s as good as I’ve ever been,” said Woodland of his maiden major win. Woodland shot rounds of 68, 65, 69, and 69 for a 13-under par total of 271. That tied the second lowest score in U.S. Open history. For the record Rory McIlroy (2011) and Brooks Koepka (2017) share the lowest total under par at 16-under, while McIlroy has the lowest aggregate of 268 from his record-breaking feats at Congressional in 2011. Woodland put on a masterclass on the iconic Pebble Beach layout. For the week, he carded no three putts and only four bogeys which also tied a U.S. Open record. Woodland was more nervous in the post-round interview than he was as he held off Koepka looking to become the second player in history to win the U.S. Open Championship three years in a row. Willie Anderson was the last person to do that, way back in 1905. “I tried to go as low as possible,” said Koepka, who started his round in incredible fashion, when he went birdie-par-birdie-birdie- birdie. “I thought, ‘All right, we got a ballgame now.’ But [Gary] played a hell of a round. Props to him. It dawned on me [after the last putt] that I was that close to accomplishing something that hasn’t been done in, what, more than 110 years. Nobody in the world played better than Gary did this week.” To put Woodland’s win into perspective, Koepka became the first player in history to shoot four rounds in the 60s (69-69-68-68) at the U.S. Open and not win. Woodland said it was hard to describe what it meant to have his name on the U.S. Open trophy with some of the greatest players to have ever played the game. “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.” WORDSPETERTHORNTON Gary Woodland poses with the trophy after winning the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links on June 16, 2019 in Pebble Beach, California.