PEBBLE BEACH — Let's get this out of the way: Gary Woodland is not a fluke major champ. The 35-year-old entered this week as the 25th-ranked player in the world with three previous PGA Tour titles, and he's not even the lowest-ranked player to win the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in the past decade (That honor goes to a 37th-ranked Graeme McDowell in 2010). But that still doesn't mean we should have expected him to win on Sunday. After all, one glaring stat suggested it wouldn't happen.
No, we're not talking about the fact that Woodland had never won a major championship but rather that he had never won any PGA Tour event as the 54-hole leader. And it's not like he hadn't had his chances.
Entering Sunday's final round, Woodland was 0-for-7 in those situations in his career; all three of his previous wins had been come-from-behind efforts. So how did he manage to close the deal in this manner for the first time? In a major championship, no less?
"I think from a mental standpoint I was as good as I've ever been," Woodland said. "I never let myself get ahead of myself. I never thought about what would happen if I won, what comes with it. I wanted to execute every shot. I wanted to stay in the moment. I wanted to stay within myself. I knew I was playing good going in, but I've been playing good going into a lot of tournaments before and haven't had the results I'd like. I was proud of myself to stay in it, to slow down a little bit, to slow my thinking down and really focus on what I was doing and not let my mind wander at all."
Following his win, the former college basketball player also talked about how he used to be a 90-percent free-throw shooter. So as a guy who knows a thing or two about percentages, we're sure he understands that being one-for-eight now at something still isn't great.
That being said, he certainly picked the right time to convert. And having finished off a major championship, at Pebble Beach, while playing with a former World No. 1 and being chased by the current World No. 1, he's answered any questions anyone might have had about his ability to close for good.