JEJU ISLAND, South Korea (AP) — Gary Woodland finished runner-up to Brooks Koepka in last year’s CJ Cup at Nine Bridges. He returns this year for the first of three PGA Tour events in Asia with a major victory on his resume and two new infant seats in the back of the family car.
Woodland won the U.S. Open in June and in August, Woodland and wife Gabby welcomed twin girls Maddox and Lennox to join their brother Jaxson.
Turns out the added media requirements from his Pebble Beach major were more than equaled by the new family responsibilities.
“I have a lot more demands and more sponsor obligations now that I need to deal with off the golf course,” Woodland said this week at Jeju Island, the PGA Tour’s only stop in South Korea.
“Outside that, I have a bigger family now. So it’s been managing my time from my business side to my family to my golf side. It’s been the adjustment for me that I’ve never had to deal with too much. I am fortunate to have surrounded myself with some good people. I think right now I am in a pretty good spot.”
Woodland took an extended break after the Tour Championship and returned two weeks ago at Las Vegas, finishing tied for 55th and 13 strokes behind the leaders.
He’ll also play in next week’s Zozo Championship in Japan, but won’t play in the final Asian event at Shanghai, the WGC HSBC. That gives Woodland just two weeks to make an impression on U.S. team captain Tiger Woods to be a captain’s pick for the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne in Australia in December.
“I have two weeks left to go out and prove that my game’s in a good enough spot that I deserve a pick,” Woodland said.
Woodland will play the first two rounds with PGA Tour rookie of the year Sungjae Im and another player looking to get to the President Cup — Jason Day. The Aussie hopes to be a late pick by International captain Ernie Els.
Woodland’s runner-up finish to Koepka last season came after a final round of 9-under 63. Both are among the longest hitters on the tour, and Woodland said having the length off the tee will be “a huge advantage” at the 7,241-yard course.
“The biggest challenge here is the weather. If the wind is blowing, the course becomes extremely tough,” he said. “The wind depending, this golf course changes a lot. Driving the golf ball is at a premium this week.”
There are 78 players are in the no-cut, limited-field event, with at least 12 South Korean players. Justin Thomas, who won the inaugural 2017 CJ Cup, is returning, as is Koepka and Phil Mickelson. Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed are making their season debuts.
Spieth is looking to end a lengthy drought — he hasn’t won since the 2017 British Open at Royal Birkdale, a span of 54 tournaments worldwide. He last played in August at the BMW Championship, where he failed to advance to the Tour Championship for the second straight year.