Gary Woodland has new equipment in his golf bag but more important, he’s got an improved short game.
Stronger putting and wedge play have helped Woodland build a three-shot lead at the Tournament of Champions after he put up a second straight 67 on the windy Plantation course at Kapalua.
After winds on Thursday that blew about 20 miles-per-hour, things got interesting on Friday as they gusted in the 30-35 mile-per-hour range then died down late in the day. The conditions didn’t bother Woodland.
“I played really good actually tee to green. It’s been nice,” Woodland said after his day’s work . “I have driven the golf ball very well, controlled. The wind today I thought was a little tougher than yesterday, but I’ve controlled the ball great into the greens. I think I hit 16 greens today which was nice. Big deal just staying patient on the greens. It’s very tough putting with the crosswinds and didn’t see anything go in early, but nice to see the chip go in on 11 and kind of got me going, propelled me for the rest of the round.”
Woodland had a mixed-bag of clubs last year but he’s switched to Wilson Staff irons and he looked comfortable with the new gear. Most important, however, he showed up ready to play.
“I wanted to come out and be aggressive. Obviously it’s nice to be here, but I have a little different mindset this week, playing a little more aggressive, trying to contend, and trying to win instead of just enjoying the views out here, which I’ve done in the past.”
That mindset has him as the only player in double-digits under par. He’s 12-under and has a three-shot lead over Rory McIlroy (69-68), pin-putting Bryson DeChambeau (69-68) and first-round leader Kevin Tway (67-71).
Defending champion Dustin Johnson had a tough time of it on day two and a one-over par 74 left him five-under, a whopping seven shots back.
His day began to fall apart when he his a wayward drive at the par four fourth.
Johnson’s drive found what they now call a “penalty area” which in his case was the long grass bordering the first cut of rough. After being told by a marshal that his ball was just inside the grass line, Johnson played his next shot onto the green. He made it only a few more yards down the fairway before he discovered his mistake.
“When I walked up 20 yards, and I saw my ball. That’s what made me realize it wasn’t mine,” said Johnson, who was penalized two shots for playing the wrong ball.
Johnson took it all in stride but declared afterward: “That won’t happen again.”