Gary Woodland plays ‘best round all year,’ has blast with “T-Dub” Tiger Woods

Over the past year or so, Gary Woodland has been to hell and back.

He underwent surgery in September to remove a lesion doctors discovered on his brain. In the months before, he could barely focus, fearing for his life. He was overcome with anxiety, as headaches also made his life miserable.

Since his operation, Woodland has worked tirelessly to rebuild his golf swing and get back to competing among the game’s elite. Getting his body to rotate like it should has also been a part of the process.

Knowing this, one of his best friends on the PGA Tour, Tiger Woods, invited Gary Woodland to this week’s Genesis Invitational, the tournament hosted by Woods.

He made the most of the opportunity, carding a 1-under 70 at Riviera Country Club, one of the most challenging courses on the PGA Tour. He played alongside Woods and Justin Thomas.

“That was the best I played all year. My caddie even said that when I got done,” Woodland said.

Gary Woodland, PGA Tour, The Genesis Invitational

Gary Woodland plays his tee shot from the first tee at Riviera during the first round of the 2024 Genesis Invitational.
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

“Playing with T-Dub, really have to focus on yourself, you can’t get too distracted out there. I think probably earlier this year I’ve been a little distracted. Everyone’s been so supportive, fans, everyone. I probably took into that a little bit too much. Today, I was into myself, into my game, and I was very pleased with how it went.”

Woodland got off to a terrific start, making birdie on his first three holes to quickly get to 3-under through three.

Bogeys on the insanely tough par-3 4th and par-3 6th brought him back to 1-under, but he quickly bounced back with a birdie at the tricky par-4 7th.

He eagled the par-5 11th, which was quickly negated by a double bogey at 12. He then went on to three-putt the par-5 17th, making bogey.

“I haven’t played well in a long time, so starting to see some things just kind of validated that I’m doing the right things and I’m moving the right way,” Woodland explained.

“It was nice to see some putts go in. Outside of the three-putt on 17 and the double there on 12, I played beautifully, so I have a lot to build on.”

Considering where Woodland was a couple of weeks ago, seeing him have this much success at Riviera is an extraordinary sight to see.

“After I got home from Torrey Pines, I had a rough week the off-week. I just wasn’t there and didn’t feel like myself again, which is frustrating,” Woodland said.

Gary Woodland, PGA Tour, The Genesis Invitational

Gary Woodland and Tiger Woods read their putts on the 6th green during the first round of the 2024 Genesis Invitational.
Photo by Ben Jared/PGA Tour via Getty Images

“My team’s starting to talk a lot and communicate if they see something. My caddie’s been great, making me go home, and I go into a dark room for a couple of hours. I missed the cut. We stayed, and he forced me to take a day off. It’s hard for me. I want to get out and work. We’ve just got to monitor that a little bit, which is frustrating…

“But today was a big step for me in the right direction.”

Woodland has not made a cut yet in 2024, which has evidently frustrated the former U.S. Open champion. But that does not matter in the grand scheme of things.

What does matter is his health, and Woodland still finds himself feeling the ramifications of the brain lesion.

“[When I don’t] feel like myself, [I am] very irritable, moody, just not all there really,” Woodland explained.

“When that happens, I’ve got to get into a dark room. It’s concussion protocol more than anything: turn the lights off, no noise, no overstimulation… So I was very happy and pleased with today with everything going on that I was able to stay in it. As I said, it was definitely the best day I had all year.”

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough for more golf coverage. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko as well.

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