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Topeka native and KU golfer Gary Woodland leads US Open at halfway point

Gary Woodland leads the U.S. Open at the halfway point, and the top of the leaderboard is chock-full of big names and big storylines.

UPDATE: Gary Woodland had a two-under par 3rd round, and still holds the lead after 54 holes with a one-stroke advantage over Justin Rose. Coverage of the final round begins at 1:00 p.m. Sunday on FOX, with Woodland teeing off at 2:30 p.m.


Brooks Koepka is seeking his third consecutive U.S. Open and his fifth major championship in nine tries. Matt Kuchar is questing to cap off a 2019 renaissance with a career-defining win. Chez Reavie is fighting for the little guy. Rory McIlroy is battling to end a five-year major drought. Aaron Wise looks to establish himself among the best young players in the game. Louis Oosthuizen and Justin Rose are looking for their second major championships, sending their careers to another level. And those are just the guys in the top 10.

They all trail one man, Woodland, who got red-hot Friday and punctuated his six-under 65 with a cracking par save on 8 and a 50-foot birdie putt on the 9th hole, posting 9-under 133 through 36 holes, tying the Open scoring mark at the course.

Woodland’s round was workmanlike and blemish-free. He started on No. 10, birdied No. 12 and No. 16 and made the turn in style with a birdie at No. 1, too, surging within a shot of the lead.

But Woodland’s round reached another level in the closing holes. At No. 5, he canned a 15-footer for birdie. At 6, he hit the green in two and cleaned up another birdie. Facing adversity at No. 8, he coolly made a big-breaking putt for par.

Woodland ended his Friday round at No. 9 with this feel-good birdie finish, even after his drive landed in a divot.

Woodland, currently ranked No. 25 in the world, is famous for being a big hitter, but he’s getting most of his work at Pebble Beach done with the flatstick. Through two rounds, he has gained over seven strokes on the field putting, best of any player.

One of the biggest changes Woodland made, began in earnest last July when he started working with Kenyon on his putting. He simplified his approach, which helped him reduce the tension in his pre-putt routine and lessen his anxiety. Woodland also added a larger grip to his putter. The combination resulted in a boost in confidence.

The 35-year-old now gets another shot at that elusive major title as he sits on top of a U.S. Open leaderboad by himself with two more rounds to play at one of the game’s most iconic venues, and with experience on his side, for a change.

“Being in that position, you learn you have to stay within yourself. You can’t get caught up in what’s going on around you. Obviously there’s a lot more noise going on. Playing with Tiger on Sunday, I’d never seen anything like that. I’d never been in that atmosphere,” recalled Woodland. “But you learn to slow your breathing. Adrenaline is a huge deal. All of a sudden you start hitting the golf ball a little bit farther. You learn to stay within yourself and what you have to do to calm yourself down and stay within your game plan.”

Justin Rose (-7) and Louis Oosthuizen (-6) are his closest competition, with Aaron Wise and Rory McIlroy (-5) one shot further back. Woodland and Rose tee off in the final pairing Saturday afternoon at 4:45 p.m.


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