Gary Woodland underwent surgery to remove a tumor from his brain on Sept. 18, 2023. Just 115 days later, the four-time PGA Tour winner was back to work with a strong showing of support.
The 2019 U.S. Open champion made his return to PGA Tour play on Thursday in the first round of the 2024 Sony Open in Hawaii at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. Woodland was visibly emotional on No. 10 tee, his first hole of the day, as he received a warm aloha from the crowd on hand. Woodland missed the fairway on the short par 4 but scrambled for par.
“I had gone four and a half months of every day really thinking I was going to die,” Woodland said on Tuesday ahead of his 2024 debut. “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.”
An emotional opening tee shot.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 11, 2024
Before his surgery, Woodland competed in 24 Tour events in the 2023 season and earned six top-25 finishes, with two inside the top 10.
He shot a 1-over 73 and was tied for 83rd but that was secondary.
“Probably the happiest I’ve ever been shooting over par, tell you that,” he said. “At the end of the day the goal this week was to see how I was mentally, and I was really, really good.”
Woodland had three bogeys in his first eight holes – he played the back nine first – but birdied two of his final seven, including his last hole of the day, the par-5 ninth.
“This was one of the hardest rounds I’ve ever had here,” he said. “And got off to a rough start. I was excited and was doing a lot of breathing trying to slow everything down because I was moving fast. I settled in, especially the last nine holes, and played really, really well. A lot to build on and. Like I said, I’m excited. The energy stayed up. Focus stayed up. A lot to be proud of.”