By Andrew Both
CHIBA, Japan (Reuters) – Gary Woodland can kill two birds with one stone by beating Tiger Woods at the Zozo Championship.
A victory not only would add a prestigious title to Woodland’s resume but would also almost certainly impress Woods enough to earn a spot on the American’s Presidents Cup team.
Woodland, who won the U.S. Open so impressively at Pebble Beach in June, did not do enough the rest of the season to earn one of the eight automatic spots on the Woods-captained team, finishing 10th in the standings.
But he is on the shortlist for one of the four captain’s picks Woods will make at the end of next week to complete his 12-man line-up that will face the Internationals in Australia in December.
“He knows how much I want to be on that team,” Woodland said after rolling in a 15-foot birdie at the final hole to tie Woods for the first-round lead at six-under-par 64 at Narashino Country Club on Thursday.
“I’ve talked to him about it.”
Woodland, one of the longest hitters on the professional circuit, was considered a good but not great player, with three PGA Tour victories to his credit until he improved his short game to win a major this year.
But the 35-year-old said he has been focusing so much on his so called weaknesses that his long game had suffered.
Hence he recently turned his attention back to his long game, and the results were evident when he finished third at the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges in South Korea on Sunday.
However, he does not want to put extra pressure on himself about securing a place on the Presidents Cup team over the final three rounds here.
“I’ll just go out and play well and everything will take care of itself,” he said. “I started to hit the ball great last weekend and I hit it great again today.”
(Reporting by Andrew Both, editing by Pritha Sarkar)