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U.S. Open winner Gary Woodland remains ‘the other guy’ at British Open

Gary Woodland stands during a practice round at 148th Open Championship.
Gary Woodland looks on during a practice round prior to the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on Tuesday in Portrush, Northern Ireland.
(Francois Nel / Getty Images)

Since winning the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach last month, Gary Woodland is getting recognized a lot more in public. But at times, he’s still relatively anonymous.

Woodland went to breakfast in Portrush this week with tour veteran Matt Kuchar and decidedly was “the other guy.”

“I took about 20 pictures for him,” Woodland said. “Nobody knew who I was; they all knew who he was. He loved every second of that, I can tell you.”

Then again, Woodland is a lot more famous now than he was before Pebble Beach. He was feted in his hometown of Topeka, Kan., after that victory, and about 3,500 people showed up.

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“That was pretty cool,” he said. “Especially for my family, growing up there. My family has been there forever; they still live there. That was special.”

And then there’s the U.S. Open trophy, which Woodland scarcely has let out of his sight.

“It’s been very close to me the last month,” he said.

Very close. As in, on his nightstand.

Thanks to new eating habits that include regular fasting, Phil Mickelson is 15 pounds lighter heading into the British Open this week.

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“Yeah, the nightstand, so I can see it,” he said. “You want to wake up and make sure it’s not a dream. You want to make sure it’s real.”

He was going to let his parents keep it this week while he’s in Northern Ireland. Instead, he left it with his wife, Gabby, who is expecting twin daughters and is supposed to be resting at home.

“Our girls are supposed to come in two weeks,” he said. “So it was a decision. We sat down and we talked about it. And she was the one pushing me to come. Pretty confident they’re not going to come this week, but you never know. I’m hoping that’s the case.

“Next week, Memphis is only an hour away from home. I can get home pretty easily. It would be a little tough if they came right now; I’m not going to be able to get home.”

Foreboding skies

The sun has been out quite a bit in recent days, but the clouds rolled in Tuesday, threatening to turn Portrush into a much more challenging course.

The forecast for Wednesday calls for overcast and breezy weather with outbreaks of rain and drizzle throughout the day. Gusts are expected to reach 20-25 mph at mid-morning and into the early afternoon.

“You never know what the Open is going to bring,” said England’s Tommy Fleetwood, who‘s looking to win his first major. “I am trying to get a 2019 Open Championship umbrella — and that will go in the bag.”

New phone; Who is this?

Most of the players don’t know a lot about Royal Portrush, which hasn’t hosted the British Open in 68 years. So they’re looking for any morsels of information on the course.

That makes Portrush member Ricky Elliott a man in demand; no one knows the course better. The problem? Elliott is the caddie for Brooks Koepka, who has won four majors in a little more than two years, tied for second at the Masters, and was alone in second at last month’s U.S. Open.

“Tell you a funny story,” Tiger Woods said Tuesday. “I texted Brooksie, `'Congratulations on another great finish.’ What he’s done in the last four major championships has been just unbelievable. To be so consistent, so solid. He’s been in contention to win each and every major championship. And I said, '`Hey, dude, do you mind if I tag along and play a practice round?’”

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Then, Woods smiled broadly and said, “I’ve heard nothing.”

Running the table

Nine of the past 10 majors have been won by Americans, with the victory by Italy’s Francesco Molinari in last year’s British Open the lone exception. That impressive U.S. run hasn’t escaped the notice of the top players from other countries.

“The boys are pretty good, there’s no doubt,” said 2013 U.S. Open winner Justin Rose, who grew up in England. “I think that aggressive style of golf that they’ve been playing has sort of contributed to that. Obviously, Brooks has had a fair few of those. So he’s obviously on an awesome run.

“But other than that, I don’t really think there’s a reason why. … Hopefully that’s a nice run, and hopefully it’s coming to an end.”


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