Keep on Growing

Gary Woodland crushed the field at Pebble Beach last week and confirmed his position among the PGA Tour’s elite. His character and heart had already been revealed. Each interaction between Woodland and Amy Bockerstette should help us all strive to become better human beings. Their friendship formed earlier this year at the Waste Management Open in Scottsdale, Arizona.

They’ve remained in touch over the last five months and Woodland took a call from her minutes after his U.S. Open champion’s press conference, telling Amy he borrowed her familiar phrase, telling himself, “you got this” as he held off Brooks Koepka down the stretch to win his first major championship.

Woodland surprised her again Monday, joining her on set at the Today Show in New York City, trophy in tow.

Power gave Woodland a start on the Tour but his putting and pitching allowed him to finish last week at Pebble. He improved his short game by learning from top-flight instructors Pete Cowen and Phil Kenyon, taking what they taught him and going to work. He logged countless hours around the green improving his technique and building confidence.

Then he had to learn how to compete in major championships. Woodland missed the cut or withdrew in 9 of his first 27 major starts without a single top-10 finish. Dating back to last year’s PGA Championship, he’s finished in the top 10 in three of the last four.

Woodland has dealt with personal tragedy also. In 2017, Woodland’s wife Gabby suffered a miscarriage.

Golf Channel premiered its excellent two-hour documentary, Hogan, earlier this week, blending archival footage with observations and thoughts from modern golfers and writers. The anecdotes from Dan Jenkins are especially poignant because he knew Hogan, played golf with him, wrote about him for decades. Also, Jenkins is arguably the best to ever sit down at a keyboard and write about golf. He passed away earlier this year at age 90, but not before leaving us with institutional knowledge of professional golf unlike any other. So we’re grateful to have his insight. The film would’ve been incomplete without him.

Through the years, I’ve read most of the Hogan biographies, been down an internet rabbit hole or two, fascinated by the compelling life story a great champion. I know the facts. How he survived poverty and his father’s suicide, persevered through a slow penniless start to his pro career, survived a horrible auto accident in early 1949 and recovered to play golf for the next four years on a level few have ever matched (although Brooks Koepka is sure trying).

Still, the images and stories in the film are fascinating.

Removing a 7-iron because it wouldn’t be necessary – at a U.S. Open at Merion of all places – only adds to the Hogan mystique. His reluctance to grant interviews and protection of his privacy make us cherish the rare moments captured on camera.

Golf Films, the documentary division of Golf Channel, produced another winner, like its in-depth looks at the lives of Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus before. I just wish they’d made it twice as long.

Watching what Hogan endured and overcame after the accident just so he could walk and then later return to tournament golf should be an inspiration to us all. I sprained my right hip last week during an overzealous workout. It was painful, aggravating and inconvenient, but healing comes in time with rest and perhaps those minor injuries are necessary on occasion. The respite reminded me to remain in tune with reality at this point in life. Sometimes, it’s wise to slow the train, cool out and reflect. So I had a bad golf round and missed a few workouts, others have climbed much steeper hills. Perseverance is perhaps the most valuable possession anybody can possess.††

I wrote two pieces for The Caddie Network last week. The website is just a year old and flourishing. If you’re a golf fan bookmark it and learn from the men on the bag.

I looked back at Tiger’s 2000 U.S. Open romp and weighed in on the ‘incident’ between Jordan Spieth and caddie Michael Greller, which was blown out of proportion on social media – shocking, I know.

On to Hartford and this week’s picks for Greensky Shortgrass, my entry in the Caddyshacks group of PGA Tour Fantasy Golf.

Last week was the first in this, the – can you believe it? – final segment of the 2018-19 season. The condensed schedule has made the season fly by and we’re 25 days away from the final major championship, The Open at Royal Portrush, which should be a phenomenal venue.

Greensky Shortgrass needs to soar on up the standings after last week’s dismal performance – 117th in the segment but still 20th on the season out of the 855 or so competitors.

Leading our lineup for this week’s Travelers Championship is C.T. Pan, who won in Hilton Head earlier this season and finished top 10 in this tournament in 2017. Charley Hoffman has 12 consecutive rounds in the 60s at Hartford. Paul Casey has back-to-back top-5s at Hartford while Patrick Cantlay seems to play well every week and has a solid track record in Cromwell. Ryan Moore and Kevin Tway are on the bench.