by Mark Hayes on Pebble Beach
(thanks to USGA / JD Cuban)
Gary Woodland leads the US Open with a round to play – and he calls up his basketball background for help finding his first big championship.
Woodland, 35, played his third consecutive part 70-lap today at Pebble Beach, enough to provide a single-leg lead on good mate Justin Rose, who is at 10.
There are three more strokes back to two-time defending champion Brooks Koepka, who sits next to Chez Reavie and Louis Oosthuizen at seven, while Rory McIlroy is still lurking for six years.
Of the Aussies, Adam Scott is the only remaining contender, but while he has not yet given up hope, he will need countless miracles to win his second major at three o'clock tomorrow. Jason Day and Marc Leishman are equal, while Cam Smith slipped to seven today.
But all eyes, for the second day in a row, will fall on Woodland, who originally went to college as a budding hoop, averaging six points per game in his role as a backup guard in his only year at Washburn University.
The following year he moved to Kansas University with a golf scholarship and, he hopes, that the story of the story will be inked in his chapter tomorrow night.
But it is a basketball player that he appreciates in part by giving him the means to tackle the challenges of the big championship golf.
When asked about his third round 69, whether he could remember that he had filed a complaint that had led him to the hospital, Woodland's determination seemed straightforward.
"Yes, I remember that. I took a knee, (it) threw my windpipe (and I) on a stretcher," he said.
"That was on a Tuesday and I scored 20 points on Friday, was the player of the week. So I remember that. That guy tried to immerse me.
"But it has taught me a lot. Basketball, you will not always do your best, but you will find ways – if I don't shoot well, I can succeed, I can defend. There are other things I can do.
"I take that to golf. If I don't control the golf ball, I can now rely on something else to really get through it. It took me a while to get my game to that position, but I feel that I now feel comfortable doing that now. "
Woodland has long been considered a great long-ball striker, but his game is nicely completed in the big days on Pebble Beach.
He has only made two bogeys all week about the coastal classic – remarkably nothing about the brutal back nine.
Asked if he could have imagined that before the tournament his answer was again very revealing.
"I didn't want the other two bogeys on the front, I think I'd respond," Woodland said with a grin.
"I feel very comfortable on this golf course. I have played well on Pebble the last few times I have been here on the AT&T.
"And I (now) have many more shots. I have been a golf ball cutter for a long time. (Coach) Pete Cowen has made me comfortable working the ball in both directions when I need it … and that frees me up a little bit.
"I now have a short game that I can trust. I don't have to concentrate on hitting the ball. This is a golf course. I don't need to steal many drivers, I can play a little more conservatively, stick to my game plan
"And like I said, it's nice to be where I am now.
"But I look forward to continuing for another day."