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August 5, 2020

Gary Woodland

San Francisco, California, USA

Harding Park Golf Club

Press Conference

PAT KRAVITZ: Welcome back to the 2020 PGA Championship. We're joined by Gary Woodland.

Gary, you've enjoyed a couple consecutive top 10s at the PGA Championship. Do you feel that in any way that set the stage for your breakthrough at Pebble?

GARY WOODLAND: Yeah, it definitely helped.

Obviously I think the biggest deal was what I learned playing with Tiger on the final round at Bellerive. I kind of got out of my element a little bit, got distracted by everything that came with playing with him on a Sunday at a major and I learned a lot from that.

Fast forward, my game is getting a lot better. I'm a more complete player obviously. I hadn't had a top 10 in a major until Bellerive. I worked hard on the short game, worked hard on the putting and obviously the ball-striking continued to improve. All that adds up to being able to contend on different golf courses in bigger tournaments, and that's what I've started to do the last couple years.

Q. This is a question about Tony Finau, who obviously you know a bit. We all know the kind of talent he is. You, having closed the U.S. Open and having won some stuff, have experienced victory in big moments. Tony probably by his own admission hasn't won as much as he probably thinks he should have, and he's got like 30 top 10s in the last four years and whatnot. What do you see in him in terms of his talent, and do you think it's just a matter of time that he breaks through? Given your experience, breaking through with a major, what does that do for you?

GARY WOODLAND: Yeah, there's no doubt. Tony and I, we go back to Monday qualifying together a lot in 2007. So I've been around Tony for 13 years now. Played a ton of golf with him. We get paired a lot together I think just because of the distance things.

But Tony is one of the best guys we have out here. His game from 2007 along with myself to today is -- it's a joke how much better he is, how much well-rounded he is as a player. We were talking, a lot of guys on the Presidents Cup last year, we were shocked to only know that he had won once. Tony; just feels like he's been out here forever and he's won a million times.

It's only a matter of time. He putts it well. His hands are phenomenal chipping the golf ball, and obviously his distance speaks for itself. Sometimes it's a mental hurdle I would say. I was 0-for-7 going into the U.S. Open last year, and I woke up Sunday morning believing it was my time. Sometimes it takes that for some guys. There's a lot of guys out here that probably haven't won as much as they expected to, and I put myself in that category.

It's a belief. It's a confidence factor, and winning that tournament, and maybe I didn't have my best stuff on Sunday ball-striking gives you confidence going forward because now I know I don't have to be perfect to win. I've worked on the right things. I know my game is well rounded, I don't have to be perfect. I think sometimes you press, you try to be perfect, you live for the results instead of sticking to the process and realize: I'm getting better, I'm getting better, and today is my day.

Soon, soon, Tony will be there.

Q. Two parts: What kind of boost do you get pulling into a parking lot at a place where you've had success?

GARY WOODLAND: A ton. I would say I got a lot of confidence just landing here Sunday night, just being back up in the northwest. I haven't been back up here since U.S. Open at Pebble, so just getting those good vibes and then coming back here where obviously I played great in 2015. I had a lot of good memories coming back.

It's been a struggle for me ball-striking since we came back from quarantine, and I've got some great vibes this week. I started working with Justin Parsons on the full swings. Started hearing a lot of the same things Butch has been telling me over the years.

I've been excited to be at and leave the golf course the last couple days. I don't know if that's being back here or because I'm starting to feel some good vibes with ball-striking.

But I'm excited to be back. You get on these holes and you start seeing some -- I had a great week in 2015. Played a lot of holes and a lot of golf, so I had a lot of good memories.

So it's nice to be back and feel some of those and see some of the sight lines and everything.

Q. You only got a chance last year to tee it up once after having won a major, but do you think that can free up, after you get over the hurdle of winning a major, give you different perspective moving forward?

GARY WOODLAND: Definitely. I'm definitely a more confident player.

Going back to the Tony thing, you work so hard and you know you're getting better, but sometimes you need the results to feel that. You don't always get them as quickly as you'd like. I saw the results obviously very quickly after working with Pete Cowan on short game and Phil Kenyon on putting; you break through and have some top 10s and win a major championship, that's a big deal, knowing that, like I said, I don't have to be perfect.

I know I can contend and I know I can win. That's a huge relief. Definitely helps you sleep better at night, and you definitely show up at the golf course in a better mood; that I don't have to be perfect today and still come out and my stuff is good enough to win.

Q. You had mentioned that you made some changes to your diet over quarantine. I'm curious what specifically those changes were. Like what foods did you eat more of, what foods did you eat less of?

GARY WOODLAND: Pretty much cut out fried food and sugar. I would say my three-year-old probably eats better than I used to.

It was one of those deals, I knew I had a significant amount of time off. It's probably something I should have done a long time ago, take care of my body a little bit. I'm getting a little older, being out here, hanging around Justin Thomas and all these young guys, I need to take care of myself if I want to be here for a lot longer.

I knew we had a lot of time off. I knew we had a huge stretch coming up. I've played quite a bit now, and we have a massive stretch starting PGA this week, our Playoffs are coming up, then we have U.S. Open, a little bit of break before the Masters.

So we're getting my body ready for a big stretch, and I needed to lose some weight. I was down just over 27 pounds, I'm down about 20 pounds right now, which I feel I'm in a pretty good spot where I want to be right now. I feel better when I get done walking after the round.

So that's the big deal, with all the travel going to East Coast, West Coast, the strain of hitting all these golf balls and everything with your body, I wanted to feel better, and more than healthy, I wanted to be healthy. I wanted to be out here for a long time, and I needed to change my body to do that.

Q. I know it's a different routing than it was for the Match Play, but how similar is the golf course going to play this week to back then? And Tony and Bryson have both said that they're going to continue to be aggressive, hit driver a lot. Do you feel like this is the type of golf course that you should do that on?

GARY WOODLAND: The routing, like you said, is completely different, and I think the setup will be a little different. Obviously with match play, it usually sets us a little more aggressive, allowing guys to make birdies and take different chances.

We've obviously played the back tee boxes the last couple days. This golf course is long. It's been cold and wet. Yesterday it seemed like the marine layer never got out of here and the golf course was brutal hard. I was hitting 5-iron into a lot of holes.

I don't see too many guys being too conservative off the tee box. Obviously Bryson, he's kind of transitioned to hitting driver off every hole anyway. So I don't think that's any different this week for him.

But for me you've got to drive the golf ball in the fairway. The fairways are tight. The rough when it gets wet like it was yesterday, it doesn't matter if you miss 3-wood or driver, very hard to get to the greens, especially on some of the longer holes.

Driving the golf ball this week I think is as premium as any week we've seen, especially if it gets cold and damp. If it firms up a little bit and we get some sun; the rough is patchy and you can get some good lies. But if it's wet, it's brutal. So driving the golf ball in the fairway is a premium this week, which was a little different at Match Play. I think I hit some irons off sine holes, some 2-irons; it was firm, the ball was rolling a lot. We haven't seen that the last couple days.

From that standpoint it's different, but then again, it's playing longer and harder, which I think sets up pretty good for myself.

Q. Whenever you're away from the golf course, what are some things you do to feel like you're staying productive both during tournament weeks and when you're at home?

GARY WOODLAND: Ooh, good question. At home, I've got three kids running around at home. Now I've got three kids that are mobile, so I'm on my feet a lot.

It's a big transition for me now having kids. When I go practice, it needs to be there; it's more quality or quantity. I need to make sure I'm getting my work in there and still being at home and being a dad and a husband.

On the road it's completely different. It's more of I'm here to win a major championship. So I'm at the golf course most of the day. I'm doing recovery before and after. We have a chef at the house. There's a couple of us staying together. We come home; we got food ready for us, and then we're getting in bed and resting, relaxing. There's not much time to mess around or do anything. Especially in the times we are with COVID, it's pretty easy. Everything is pretty shut down.

So for me, I'm at the golf course most of the day, and if I'm not, I'm doing recovery getting my body ready and resting for a big week.

Q. This PGA Championship starts a stretch of seven majors in 11 months. You'll probably never see that again. It's really an opportunity to chase history. How excited do you think players are for this stretch?

GARY WOODLAND: Awesome. That's what we live for. You're obviously remembered in this game pretty much on the golf course for what you've done in major championships, and for us now to have seven in a stretch is a huge deal because we were all gearing up. You're gearing up for THE PLAYERS to start the year, to start that major season. You know the Masters is right around the corner after THE PLAYERS, and then we get shut down.

You kind of -- it was kind of like I would say the Olympic athletes that were getting ready for the Olympics. You have to refocus. Knowing that we're going to have seven in 11 months, which we've never had and will probably never have again hopefully is a big deal, especially mentally and physically, getting my body in the right mind frame preparing for that.

The golf courses were playing, this is a big-boy golf course, we're going to Winged Foot and then we're going to Augusta, which we've never seen in November. It'll be different. Next year will probably be a little more familiar when you get Augusta starting the year in April.

But this will be different. This is some big-boy golf course, and you'd better be geared up and hitting good golf shots because there's a lot of trouble out there.

Q. You talked a little bit about being more well-rounded player, and we see Bryson continuing to just grab a driver and hit it everywhere. Where does that balance come into play, and how hard is it sometimes to maybe back down and hit an iron off the tee, especially in major championships on these big-boy golf courses?

GARY WOODLAND: Yeah, I think a lot of that comes into playing into your strengths. For me, I rely a lot on my -- I would say I'm a long hitter, even though the older I get, that's starting to come down a little bit. But I rely a lot on my ball-striking. I rely on my iron play. So for me, even though I hit it a long way, driver is not always the best case for me.

I want to be able to play every golf course. I don't want to just be stuck this is the way I'm playing no matter what golf course we're at I'm going to hit it a long way. I want to be able to play different ways, and that's what I feel my strength is.

I can't speak for Bryson. I would imagine -- the one thing about Bryson that we don't talk about, Bryson is one of the best putters out here. Even though he bombs and he's doing all this stuff, the way he putts allows him to do that. So that's one of his strengths. He believe he's a great putter, and so he can hit it and he can get off-line sometimes and knowing his putter is going to save him.

So I think from that point, it's not getting talked about enough, that's one huge deal for him and why he's been so successful. I played with him last week for the first time. It is impressive. I mean, he's launching it so high and it is going a mile, but his putting is really, really good, and that's the one thing that allows him I think to be that aggressive.

For me I think being more well-rounded, being able to play different styles on different golf courses, I think it's exciting, and it makes me feel more comfortable knowing that I don't always have to stand up there and bomb it. I can stand up there and work my way around the golf course, play smart, and especially on major championship golf courses like this where par is a good score, I think that sets up better for me. That's the way I attack it.

Q. When you start this game, winning a major is what you're thinking about. You're not thinking about winning multiple majors. Once you get back that hump, how important or how defining in your career is it to win two versus being what most people would say is a one-hit wonder by winning one?

GARY WOODLAND: Definitely. I think the big deal with that is more of the mental hurdles of winning one and not trying to change what you've done.

Obviously I work the right way and I validated what I was doing. I won the U.S. Open, really, relying on my short game. I got it up-and-down from everywhere. I was leading or towards the top in putting. And I think after the U.S. Open last year, wanting to do that again, I focused so much on my putting and short game, I kind of lost my ball-striking. My ball-striking is what has been able to get me to this point and where I am.

Obviously I know when I putt well, I'm going to contend, but I need to have that ball-striking at the top -- one of the top ball strikers out here to be able to do that. That was where I kind of lost myself at the end of the year last year. I was focusing, oh, I won a major with putting and short game, that's all I need to do.

That's not really the case for me. I need to make sure I'm one of the best ball strikers out here, continuing to improve. I think I proved into the top 25 in putting, I don't know if I've ever been in the top 80, so I've obviously done a lot of good stuff with the putting.

But I need to make sure I'm still -- my ball-striking is getting back to where it was, because that's what's going to continue to drive me, and then when I putt well like I did at the U.S. Open, I'm going to have some great weeks.

So the big deal for me is having a team around me to make sure I'm doing the right things and not changing because I won a major championship to try to win two or try to win 10 or 20 or whatever it is, who knows what the number is. Make sure I continue to do the right things and get better because I know what I'm doing that, I'm good enough to win major championships.

Q. I want to ask you a question about -- you know Brooks pretty well, but how well do you know Shane Lowry? You won so impressively in front of the U.S. fans last year. How impressive was it the manner that Shane did it at Royal Portrush?

GARY WOODLAND: That's probably like me winning in Kansas, what Shane did. Shane is one of the best guys we have out here. I actually played with him at the U.S. Open the first two rounds.

I get good vibes playing with Shane again. We played together a couple weeks ago at Memorial, I believe it was, in Columbus, I know. But Shane is a great guy. He obviously drives the golf ball amazing.

From that part -- Brooks and I have very similar games. We seem to play, I would say, golf courses kind of suit us the same. It will be nice playing with Brooks. Ricky Elliott is on his bag. I've known Ricky for a long time being around Lake Nona. It's a great pairing for me. You've got a bunch of great guys who are out there who have obviously played successful in major championships in the last year, and for Brooks I guess for the last couple years he's won a bunch.

It should be a great week. We're all out there -- you'd be able to talk a little bit, I guess, with Shane and Brooks. You've got a lot in common to talk about. But for the most part we're out there taking care of our own business and trying to win a major championship.

Shane is a great guy, and what he did last year at home was, like I said, it would be like me winning in Kansas. That was very special, and I think that was a very popular win out here on Tour.

Q. Can you tell me a little bit about the backstory of starting to work with Justin Parsons, and when you lose 20 plus pounds, do you have to make some alterations with your swing at all?

GARY WOODLAND: Yeah, the deal with Justin was I've worked with Pete now the last couple -- Butch retired two years ago, I've worked with Pete the last couple years, and I haven't seen Pete through COVID. He obviously wasn't allowed to get over here, and so I was struggling with the golf swing.

So I got on a plane and I went and saw Butch. I hadn't seen Butch in a long time. Saw Butch and worked with him for a day, and it was Butch's kind of idea. It was like, "Hey, if you ever need something and you're stuck," he said, "I would call Justin Parsons." That was Butch's idea, and I didn't think too much of it at the time.

I didn't play great in Columbus for two weeks, and I called Pete and I'm like, I just need somebody over here. I need somebody with a second set of eyes on me. It's hard for me -- I only see Pete at golf tournaments, and I like to work outside of golf tournaments. I like to get here and just prepare, not working on golf swings.

Pete actually recommended Justin Parsons, as well, so it was a perfect storm for me. Justin is able to talk to Butch and know what Butch and I were doing, and when I went to Pete I wasn't trying to change my golf swing, I was just trying to continue what I was doing and get better. The problem is when it got off, I was hearing different terminology than I was hearing with Butch. It was the same stuff; it was just different in my head.

So being able to sit down with Justin and Pete and Butch together and get some of that same terminology and simplify things for me, that's a big deal. If I'm comfortable standing over the golf ball, I'm going to be pretty good, and I haven't been very comfortable the last cup the months, so it's been nice, Pete and Justin are here. I'm still working with Pete, especially on short game, and he's still kind of overseeing everything.

But Justin will be the day-to-day guy that will be in my ear, and getting that same terminology that I heard from Butch, that was so easy and simple for me, and puts me in a pretty good mind frame setting up for the week. It was an easy transition when Pete and Butch were willing to work with Justin and Justin was willing to work with me. It was a pretty good fit.

PAT KRAVITZ: Thanks, Gary, for your time, and good luck this week.

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