Published January 13, 2015
Narrowly missing birdie attempts early on, Gary Woodland told himself to be patient as he made the turn in the final round of the Reno-Tahoe Open.
It paid off down the stretch when he nearly lost his ball in the pine needles and sagebrush on the par-4 14th before chipping in from the rough from 58 feet for one of his four birdies Sunday en route to his second PGA Tour victory.
"I couldn't get any putts to go in early," Woodland said. "I felt like I hit every lip and lipped out every hole."
"I was hitting great putts and I just kept telling myself, 'Just keep grinding, keep grinding and you'll get something to drop," he said.
"That was the big key for me was just to say patient. And finally — I missed a bunch of putts obviously, but the chip was unbelievable on 14 because that gave me some momentum," he said.
Woodland finished with 44 points in the modified Stableford format that awards eight points for double eagle, five for eagle, two for birdie, zero for par, minus-one for bogey and minus-three for double bogey or worse.
Jonathan Byrd and Andres Romero tied for second with 35 points, and Brendon Steele had 33 at Montreux Golf Club on the edge of the Sierra.
Woodland, also the 2011 Transitions Championship winner as a tour rookie, earned $540,000 for the victory and got a spot next week in the PGA Championship.
"It felt like it was meant to be this week," said Woodland, whose best finishes this year had been three ties for 16th at the Phoenix Open, Memorial and AT&T National.
Byrd had an eagle, seven birdies and a bogey to set a single-day scoring record with 18 Stableford points that would have equaled a round of 64 under the usual format.
Dicky Pride and David Mathis tied for fifth with 32 points, followed by Seung-Yui Noh and Rory Sabatini with 31, and Chris DiMarco with 30. David Toms and Stuart Appleby tied for 16th with 26 points.
Woodland, the 2011 PGA Tour rookie of the year who played basketball at Washburn before transferring to Kansas and becoming a golfer for the Jayhawks, didn't have a bogey Sunday until the 17th hole thanks to some nifty work around the greens getting up and down to save par five times on the day.
"Even though I wasn't hitting greens I was hitting it in the right spots and gave myself opportunities to get up and down," he said.
On the front nine, Woodland had sand saves out of three greenside bunkers and made his only birdie from 7 feet on the par-3 second.
On the 367-yard, par-4 14th, he drove into a waste area with pine needles and sagebrush short and right of the green, then hit 20 yards over the green into the rough before watching his 58-foot chip roll against the pin and into the cup.
"I got lucky to find my ball on 14 there in the hazard and I kind of chopped it out," Woodland said. "The chip that went in I was just trying to get it on the green, let alone go in. It was one of the best shots I've ever hit."
He added a 21-foot birdie putt on the next hole to open up an eight-point lead over the late-charging Byrd and Woodland's playing partner Steele, who made his birdie putt ahead of Woodland on the 15th.
"To follow up after Brendon Steele made the putt on 15, to answer him was huge," Woodland said. "He had a lot of momentum and I sort of stole it all back and sort of rode it the rest of the way."
He closed with a birdie on the 616-yard 18th when he drove 338 yards into the middle of the fairway, hit his approach 231 yards just in front of the green, chipped to 2 feet and tapped in for the win that also earned him his tour card for the next two years and boosted him from 116th to 54th in the FedExCup standings.
Byrd birdied five of his first seven holes then eagled the par-5 13th when he hit his second shot 219 yards to inside 7 feet.
"My whole mindset was just to be a little more aggressive and give ourselves chances and just free it up," he said. "And I was able to do that today getting off to a hot start. ... Just felt like I was off to the races."
Romero, who finished third at Reno last year and was this year's second-round leader, had five birdies and a bogey to jump from 137th to 110th in FedExCup points. The top 125 advance to the playoffs.