Gary Woodland fires lowest round since brain surgery at 2024 Charles Schwab Challenge, admits ‘I probably came back too early’

FORT WORTH, Texas — Even though Gary Woodland’s first round on the PGA Tour came in 2009, the current campaign has the 2019 U.S. Open champion feeling a lot more like a sophomore than the wily veteran that he is.

The reason?

The 2024 season is the second with Gary Woodland 2.0, the player who has dealt with the symptoms from having a lesion on his brain and the after-effects of a subsequent craniotomy, a procedure that sliced his head open all the way down to his ear and cut about a baseball-sized hole in his skull to remove the majority of the tumor.

For example, Woodland’s recent appearance at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow reminded him that he started noticing the issue during the 2023 event there, even though he finished in the top 15.

“Charlotte was the first week I went back to where I had a tournament where I had symptoms the year before and it was eye-opening for me just to be, like, I don’t feel great, but I don’t feel like I did a year ago,” Woodland said. “Like, how bad I really was, I think I’ve forgotten about some of that because I was just so thankful to be back. So the last three weeks has been a lot more pep in my step, I think, a little more excitement. I needed that.”

Woodland, 39, had won four times on the PGA Tour, but in late April of 2023, shortly after the Masters, he started feeling some troubling symptoms at the Mexico Open at Vidanta: shaking, tremors in his hands, loss of appetite, chills, no energy. It became so bad that he called his longtime doctor and begged for help to deal with his anxiety.

After getting surgery on Sept. 18, 2023, he returned to the PGA Tour just 115 days later with a strong show of support.

In retrospect, Woodland realizes that his timeline might have been abrupt.

“It’s been a process for me, just coming back,” he said. “I probably came back too early.”

And while he’s missed the cut in over half of the 13 events he’s played in prior to the 2024 Charles Schwab Challenge, Friday’s round at Colonial Country Club reminded the Kansas native how well he can play when he’s feeling his best.

Woodland made seven birdies and an eagle in the second round, finishing with a 64, his best round since the first round of the 2022 Genesis Scottish Open.

“I mean, it is what it is, but it’s just not what it was. I’m still battling, still on medication, still battling all the stuff, but probably a little more positive, I would say, the last three weeks than I was earlier this year,” Woodland said. “I think I was getting down on myself just because I didn’t feel well. There’s a lot to be positive about because I’m in a different position than I was a year ago.”

Woodland had a couple of miscues, including a bogey on a second hole which is one of the easiest on the redesigned track. But overall, he was placed with an effort that has him sitting at 4 under through two days of play, just a few shots off the lead by midday on Friday.

In fact, he expected his Texas dinner to even have a little extra flavor.

“I just put everything together. It’s been a while,” he said. “It was nice. It was nice to have all aspects. I drove it well, iron play, controlled the ball really well, and short game was nice and made some putts. It’s been a long time since I put it all together. I’ve had some rounds this year where I putted it well or drove it well, but not together. That was a big change for me.

“Will definitely make lunch and dinner taste better today.”

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek