After a couple unsuccessful attempts at rekindling the magic at the CIMB Classic, Gary Woodland is once again thriving thanks to a new strategy.
Woodland was a runner-up at TPC Kuala Lumpur in both 2013 and 2014, finishing second to Ryan Moore on both occasions. But he failed to crack to the top 40 either of the last two years as Justin Thomas took Moore’s place as a back-to-back champion. In evaluating where things went wrong, Woodland realized his gameplan needed an adjustment.
“It was different, there was rough then, a little bit firmer. The last two years there’s been no rough,” Woodland told reporters. “I played pretty conservative the first two years when I finished second. The last two years I kind of played conservative, I just got lapped. JT obviously lit this place up, but you can play aggressive out here with no rough, you can let it go and I did that today.”
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Full-field scores from the CIMB Classic
The adjustment yielded immediate results for Woodland, who opened with a bogey-free 66 to sit in a tie for fifth, two shots behind leader Cameron Smith. Woodland started on the back nine and his round was highlighted by four birdies in a seven-hole stretch from Nos. 1-7.
Woodland remains one of the more consistent players on the PGA Tour, having now made the Tour Championship four of the last five years including last month’s 19th-place finish. While he has not won since the 2013 Barracuda Championship, the veteran has once again put himself in the mix this week in hopes of bettering his two prior runner-up finishes in Malaysia.
“I drove the ball in play, which is the key out here. I also saw some putts go in, which I haven’t seen go in in a long time,” Woodland said. “So it was nice to get off to a good start. Obviously a golf course I’m familiar with, and I’m excited to be here.”