US Open champ Woodland sends Presidents Cup message to Woods

Inzai (Japan) (AFP) –


Gary Woodland has made a huge claim for a Presidents Cup wildcard after stringing together rounds of 65, 66 and 64 in Asia, but the US Open champion is taking nothing for granted.

On Thursday he matched US team captain Tiger Woods's superb six-under par opening-round to share the lead at the inaugural Zozo Championship in Japan.

That came straight after a stunning weekend at the CJ Cup in South Korea where Woodland backed up a third-round seven-under par 65 with Sunday's 66 to grab a share of third place.

Woods will decide his four captain's picks, which could include himself, straight after next week's WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai.

And the 15-time major winner does not even have to look down the leaderboard in Japan for a prime, in-form candidate.

Woodland has shot 19-under par with just one bogey in his last 54 holes and is guaranteed to share the lead with Woods for at least another 24 hours after Friday's play was washed out at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club.

"Right now I'm just trying to continue the golf tournament, give myself a chance on Sunday," Woodland said after his flawless opening round Thursday.

"I'm off next week, so I can think about it next week," Woodland added.

"I've talked to Tiger, I've spent a little time with him. He's made it clear he wants the guys out playing and he wants guys playing well.

"He knows how much I want to be on that team. So for me, I'll just go out and play well and everything will take care of itself."

- 'Had a lot going on' -

The 35-year-old Woodland missed two cuts after the US Open, where he beat world number one Brooks Koepka by three strokes at Pebble Beach.

Despite winning his first major, the form dip meant Woodland was 10th on the Presidents Cup points list with only the top eight gaining automatic selection for the matchplay event that will pit the US against the Internationals in Melbourne in December.

World number 18 Woodland enjoyed an extended break after the season-ending Tour Championship and said it was just what he needed after the demands of being a major winner.

Not only that, wife Gabby gave birth to twin girls in August, and the couple already have a two-year-old son.

"Obviously winning (a major) was huge, but we had a couple of babies as well, so I had a lot going on," he said.

Woodland opened his 2019-20 season in Las Vegas three weeks ago.

He finished tied 55th but claimed his play had been better than his score reflected, a view borne out by his form in Asia which is making a big case for a ticket to Australia.

"After Vegas, I put a lot of work in," said Woodland.

"The ball-striking's coming back where I want it. I've got to rely on that. And when I putt it well, good things will happen. I started to hit it well last weekend and I hit it great again today."