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Archive for Thursday, July 7, 2011

Links up next for Gary Woodland

July 7, 2011, 12:00 a.m. Updated July 7, 2011, 9:15 a.m.

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The newspaper in your hands rolled off the presses at 1 a.m. Thursday, 55 minutes before Gary Woodland was scheduled to tee off in the Scottish Open, his first taste of golf in Great Britain.

Next week, Woodland competes in the British Open in southeast England, which to European golfers is known simply as the Open.

Woodland’s body clock isn’t as likely to affect his ability to clock the golf ball a long way in his second week of competing overseas as it could in his first, but in many ways it’s likely to feel like a different game to him.

Conrad Roberts, winner of the past five Lawrence Amateur Golf Association city championships, knows well the style of golf to which Woodland’s strong game has traveled. Roberts, 36, grew up in Wales.

“The biggest difference is you never seem to hit the same shot twice,” Roberts said. “You can’t just go for the green all the time. You have to hit run-up shots.”

Or run-up putts. Greg Wyatt, who plays often with Roberts, joined him and a number of other Alvamar golfers for a trip last October to Wales, where Wyatt said they played nine rounds of golf and caught very little of the Ryder Cup because it was rain-shortened that day.

“I hit a putt from 150 feet in front of the green,” said Wyatt, who carries a 6.5-handicap index.

Said Roberts: “Left himself a 10-footer and made it.”

Wyatt said he was amazed at what “an absolutely beautiful country Wales is,” and singled out Royal St. David’s as a must-play for golfers making a trip to Wales.

“The ocean was on the other side of the dunes and we almost never saw it because the dunes were so huge,” Wyatt said. “We could hear it, but we couldn’t see it.”

The harder ground enabled Wyatt to roll the 50-yard putt and makes running mid-iron shots to the green preferable in many cases to hitting high wedges.

“In Britain, there are only two things you can build by the coasts,” Roberts said. “Golf courses and railroad lines. You can’t build on that land because it’s all sand. The air coming off the ocean dries it out.”

The hard ground and high winds change the game, as do the deep pot bunkers.

“From 150 yards, you might hit a pitching wedge if you’re down wind, and from the same distance, a 3-iron or a 4-iron if you’re into the wind,” Roberts said. “Land them short and roll them up. The greens are going to be rock-hard, too.”

Adjusting to links courses can present a difficult challenge, but Roberts said he thinks Woodland has factors going for him that other links-novices might not.

“Playing in the wind in Kansas will help him,” Roberts said. “And Gary has a low ball flight anyway. I read on Twitter that Graeme McDowell has taken his hybrid out of his bag and put a 2-iron in to get ready for the Open. The 2-iron already has served Gary real well. Keep it on the fairway and it’ll roll forever.”

Roberts, who won’t compete in the city championship (July 23, Eagle Bend, July 24 Lawrence Country Club) because of a scheduling conflict, doesn’t have a rooting interest in that event, but he’ll be pulling for Woodland next week in the Open.

• A previous version of this story has been updated.

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