Gary Woodland gets plenty of airtime with his big-hitting drives, but this son of Kansas is very much a man with his feet on the ground.
Since asking his mom to rent him golf instructional videos rather than cartoons when he was two-years-old, Woodland has been a success at most sports he's turned to. By the age of six he was already highly competent in golf, baseball and basketball, and there's no doubt he could've picked any one of which as a professional career.
He gave up baseball for basketball, and helped his school to two state titles before securing a scholarship at Washburn University. And then he gave up basketball for golf, taking up a scholarship with the University of Kansas. It wasn't long before the singular focus that saw him as a three-year-old hit balls until he got blood blisters on his hands began to show itself in his golf. He won four college tournaments and then turned professional in 2007.
He played on what was then the Nationwide Tour, and at the end of 2008 entered the PGA Tour Qualifying School. Woodland finished tied 11th to secure his PGA Tour card. But he struggled to adjust and made only eight cuts in 18 tournaments in 2009, then had his season cut short by a shoulder injury.
At the end of 2010 he was back at the PGA Tour Qualifying School and again finished tied 11th to secure his card for the 2011 season. He came close to a victory when he was beaten in a playoff for the Bob Hope Classic byJhonattan Vegas. Then in March he broke through with victory in the Transitions Championship, beating Webb Simpson. Later that year he teamed up with Matt Kuchar to win the World Cup of Golf.
Woodland ended the 2011 season ranked 17th on the PGA Tour moneylist and his career was truly up and running. This year he won the Reno-Tahoe Open to cement his place amongst the best in the game on the PGA Tour.
But this is far more than just a player who hits some of the biggest drives in the game. Woodland has always thought deeply about the sports he has competed in and his place therein.
When he was 16 years old he suffered the loss of his mentor and basketball coach, Scott Duermeier. It was then that he realized the value in surrounding himself with quality people who he could talk to and learn from.
He finished tied 24th in his first Masters, and did so largely thanks to being able to play a practice round with Phil Mickelson learning as much as he could. But while Mickelson may have his measure at Augusta National Golf Club, Woodland is convinced he can beat him at Ping Pong, which is a passion for both of them.
One thing Woodland is not interested in at all is seafood. He doesn't eat anything that comes from the sea, saying, "I come from Kansas; we're steak-and-potato boys. I grew up on meat. The look of (fish or shellfish), the smell of it, the texture - I can't stand any of it. So I've never had it and I don't ever plan on doing so."