Gary Woodland makes debut at 2011 Sony

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With sub-freezing temperatures in Kansas this week, former Kansas golfer Gary Woodland will be teeing it up in short sleeves with temperatures in the 70s this week.

Woodland, a 2007 Kansas graduate, will make his 2011 PGA Tour debut when he tees off in the Sony Open Thursday.  Woodland is a member of the PGA Tour after tying for 11th at the annual Qualifying School in December.

Woodland first made the PGA Tour in 2009 and participated in 18 events before having his rookie season cut short due to a shoulder injury.  He had surgery in August of that year.  Prior to his surgery, Woodland had made eight cuts and won $121,031.  He made the cut at the U.S. Open that year and called that his golf highlight.

After the surgery on his left shoulder, Woodland was out of action for three months.  He was able to putt after three months and then hit chip shots after four months.  He returned to play after nine months, which he said was too early.

“I am just too competitive to sit on the couch,” he said.  Woodland said it took a full year after the surgery to be able to play without pain.

He returned to the tour in 2010 on a major medical extension and played in eight events, making three cuts and earning $95,815.  He posted his best career finish, tying for 21st at the John Deere Classic.

Woodland also saw time on the Nationwide Tour in 2010, making the cut nine times and posting five top-25 finishes in 14 events.  His efforts earned him $56,370.

Woodland said the time off actually benefited him.

“During the nine months off, my coach and trainer worked together to put out a schedule, which would make my body stronger and to help prevent any further injuries,” Woodland said.  “During that time I was able to learn what the weaknesses in my game were and work on making them strengths.  I worked on my short game and keeping my drives in play.  I also worked on course management.

Last month he was one of 29 players to qualify for the PGA Tour after tying for 11th at Q School.  He entered the grueling event with confidence.

“I had made eight of the last nine cuts on the nationwide tour and I was feeling good,” Woodland said.  “I had played well in Dallas in the early stage of the qualifying and then the finals were in Orlando, Fla. where I live, so I was familiar with the course.  I played better than I scored (at Q school), but I did enough to get by.”

As Woodland enters his third year on the tour, he has plenty of goals.

“I have to get healthy,” he said.  “I am not where I want to be and I have to continue to get stronger out on the road, which is tough, but I am ready to play.  A goal is to be in contention week in and week out.  During bad weeks you have to find a way to get the ball in the hole.  I would like to win a tournament and get into the finals of the Fed Ex cup, but the main thing is to get healthy.”

Woodland tees off Thursday at 1 p.m. Central time, in a group with Joe Affrunti and Shunsuke Sonoda.  The same trio will tee off at 5:30 p.m. Central time of Friday for the second round.

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