My takeaways from Woodland’s popular victory at the US Open

I don’t believe I’ve ever watched more golf on TV than I did this past weekend. Perhaps it was the venue. I’ve always loved the amazingly scenic Pebble Beach. Maybe it was the great golf that was on display. I shudder to think what I would shoot if I was to play this famed course.

Whatever the reason for my interest, I did indeed come away with a smile on my face. Here then, are my takeaways from a great tournament.

Pebble Beach: The course was as beautiful as ever. There is something about ocean vistas that make this place incredible. I have been there twice and a couple of words come to mind in a feeble attempt to describe its wonder.

Mesmerizing and captivating would be the words. Television does it justice, but to be there in person is special.

USGA: Congrats to this group. They did not do anything to ruin the course as they have in recent years. I for one have no desire to watch the best golfers in the world be humiliated. No totally unplayable rough. No fast putting surfaces that send balls off the green if just slightly mishit.

Pebble was left to itself, and though the lack of wind took some of the bite out of the course, I thought it was still a stern test. So many people shot under par. So what? That’s just fine with me.

Viktor Hovland: The engaging Norwegian out of Oklahoma State was the low amateur, as he was at Augusta. He beat Jack Nicklaus’ record for the lowest 72-hole total for a rookie at the U.S. Open.

You will hear more about this young man. He turned professional this week, so it will be interesting to see how he fares at Hartford.

Chez Reavie: Did you see him on Sunday? No, I didn’t either. He shot an even par round finishing the tournament at -7. But after his first hole, he was barely covered. That doesn’t seem fair, but he has to feel good about his week.

Justin Rose: Rosie had another great major tournament despite his lackluster final round. The Olympic champion is a nice guy, though I’m not sure many fans know that. He had to back off a few times when inconsiderate fans distracted him. That bothers me, but it only takes a few bad fans to spoil the day.

The fans – Why do people feel the need to shout out stupid things at a golf tournament? When a golfer tees off on a par 5, it seems silly to yell “get in the hole,” don’t you think? Yet you hear it all the time.

I was not impressed with the chants of USA after the final group teed off on the first hole. Leave that to the Ryder Cup competition, and if you want, you can keep it to yourself there as well.

Again most golf fans are great. It’s the few loudmouths who get to me.

Brooks Koepka: I have to admit part of me was rooting for him to win for a couple of reasons. No. 1, he is a nice guy. No. 2, he had a chance to do something special. No American has won the U.S. Open three times in a row. When you have a chance to do something historic, and you are a good guy to boot, it’s hard NOT to root for them.

Koepka came close, finishing second. I guess he will have to wait for next summer to try for a three-peat at the PGA Championship.

Gary Woodland: His was a popular win. When several of your fellow professionals stick around to congratulate you afterwards…

During the telecast Sunday, it was revealed what Woodland and his wife went through a couple of years ago. Pregnant with twins — a boy and a girl — Gabby had problems late in the pregnancy and only the boy survived. Understandably, the couple was devastated, but they did have their miracle son.

Now she is expecting again in August with twin girls on the way. Let’s hope this time all goes well.

I wrote earlier this year about Woodland’s experience at the Phoenix Waste Management Open. In a practice round he invited Amy Bockerstette to play the famed 16th hole.

There weren’t many spectators at this normally rowdy golf hole on this day, but what they experienced was amazing. Amy hit her tee shot into the greenside bunker. Woodland was going to hit the ball out of the trap for her, but she refused his help, stating “I’ve got this!”

She plopped the ball to within 12 feet before draining the putt for a par. The biggest grin on the green belonged to Gary Woodland. The video of the moment went viral with over 15 million views.

I found out this week that Woodland and Amy have stayed in touch since that day. In fact Amy texted Woodland on Saturday night with the message “you’ve got this.” On Sunday Woodland repeated Amy’s favorite phrase over and over reminding himself that, “I’ve got this.”

Amy was watching on TV Sunday and when Woodland sank the birdie putt on 18 for a three-stroke victory, she jumped off the couch in joy. After signing his scorecard, Woodland had a chance to Facetime Amy Bockerstette.

“She has such a positive attitude” Woodland related. I want to teach my kids that trait. Woodland told Amy that he would play golf with her soon and she responded with this gem.

“Maybe your video (the putt on 18) will surpass mine!”

Yes, this was a popular victory. It’s hard not to be a sports fan when things like this happen.

Al Stephenson is a columnist for The Advertiser-Tribune.

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