HONOLULU, Hawaii – Gary Woodland never feared anything except the fear of failure. That is until he began being jolted awake with the fear of dying.
“I had gone four and a half months of every day really thinking I was going to die,” he said on Tuesday. “Every day it was a new way of dying, new way of death. The jolting in the middle of the night scared the heck out of me.”
It turned out he had a legion on his brain, and on Sept. 18, Woodland underwent a craniotomy, slicing his head open all the way down to his ear and cutting about a baseball-sized hole in his skull to remove the majority of the tumor.
“Then put it back with plates and screws. So I’ve got a robotic head, I guess,” joked Woodland, who required 30 staples in his head.
Woodland is set to make his return to competitive golf this week at the Sony Open in Hawaii at Waialae Country Club, something that even a couple weeks ago he wasn’t sure would be possible.
“I had some people tell me this was a little optimistic to be here this week, but last week my family and I came over to Hawaii early,” he said. “Ramped up practice, ramped up the training and the body responded beautifully. Kept getting better and better.”
Woodland, 39, has won four times on the PGA Tour, with his biggest victory coming at the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links. But in late April, shortly after the Masters, he started feeling some troubling symptoms at the Vidanta Mexico Open: shaking, tremors in his hands, loss of appetite, chills, no energy. It became so bad that he called his longtime doctor on May 24 and begged for help to deal with his anxiety.
“You think you can overcome stuff. I couldn’t overcome this,” he said. “I was like, ‘Man, I need something to calm me down.’ ”
His doctor said he couldn’t prescribe any medication without Woodland undergoing an MRI. Woodland went to get an MRI that night and it revealed a lesion on his brain, which led to more testing and eventually an appointment with a specialist.
“The lesion in my brain sat on the part of my brain that controls fear and anxiety,” Woodland explained. “He’s like, you’re not going crazy. Everything you’re experiencing is common and normal for where this thing is sitting in your brain.”
Woodland was prescribed anxiety seizure medicine that he took twice daily but his fear of dying only got worse initially.
“It was Wednesday (May 31) or Thursday night (June 1) of the Memorial and I’m laying in…