PEBBLE BEACH -- When Gary Woodland awoke Sunday morning holding the 54-hole lead at the 2019 U.S. Open, he did what any other father would when he's away from his family on Father's Day: FaceTime with his wife and kid.
Then, he received a message from his swing coach Pete Cowen.
Every man dies, but not every man lives, and you live for this moment.
Leading a pack of major champions to begin the final round of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach would be enough to rattle anyone's nerves. One look at the leaderboard to start the day and it would be easy to envision Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy or Justin Rose surpassing Woodland as he tried to win his first major championship.
But Woodland preached the belief in himself all week. And each time it looked like he was about to give in to the pressure, he steadied himself.
On Saturday, there was the chip-in for par at No. 12 and the 42-foot par putt at No. 14. Again, on Sunday, with Koepka charging up the leaderboard for a chance to make history by winning his third straight U.S. Open, Woodland didn't buckle.
After a par on No. 1, he birdied the second to put some distance between himself and the hard-charging Koepka. As the day turned to twilight and the waves painted the rocks along the Pacific Coast, Woodland maintained his lead and his composure.
But Koepka and Rose would not give him the trophy.
After a bogey on No. 12, Woodland held just a one-shot lead over Koepka.
It would be a message from another special person that would get Woodland home.
Back in January at the Waste Management Open, a video of Woodland and Special Olympian Amy Bockerstette playing the famed 16th hole went viral.
Back in February, Gary Woodland played the 16th hole at the Waste Management Phoenix Open with Amy Bockerstette.— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) June 16, 2019
Amy stole the show.pic.twitter.com/Db4iUNKZfU
Gary and Amy have remained in touch and have become good friends. She tweeted words of encouragement to him Saturday night and their relationship has become a special one for Woodland.
"The only thing you can control, and I said this yesterday, the only thing I can control today is my attitude," Woodland said when asked what he's learned from Amy. "My caddie told me today when I got done that it was the best he's ever seen my attitude all week. I just try to control that because that's really all you can control. You know, Amy's attitude is phenomenal. That's something I want to teach my kids that positive energy is contagious. Life's not always going to be bells and whistles, there's going to be some bad things that happen in your life. There's going to be a lot of ups and downs but the one thing you can control is your attitude and if you do that, in the end, good things will happen.
"Amy told me a million times when we were on that hole, 'I got this. I got this.' I told myself that a million times today. I got this."
Still leading by one shot when he stepped on the 14th tee, Woodland hammered a drive down the left side of the fairway. Instead of electing to play it safe on the Par 5, Woodland took out his 3-wood and hit his second shot to the back left of the green, giving him an easy two-putt for birdie and a two-stroke lead.
While Rose faded down the stretch, Koepka would not. Leading by two shots with two to play and with Koepka playing the Par-5 18th, Woodland lost his tee shot on the Par-3 17th to the right. His tee shot landed at the edge of the green, some 90 feet from the hole, giving Woodland only one option to get up-and-down for what would be a championship-winning par.
Woodland took out his 64-degree wedge, and clipped the back of the ball just perfectly. The ball landed in the middle of the green, bounced twice and rolled to within three feet of the pin.
He laid back off the tee on 18, soaking in the walk to his coronation as a major champion. His third shot on the Par-5 18th landed 30 feet from the hole. Two putts were all that was left to major championship glory, but Woodland, as he did all week, found the bottom of the cup with one final stroke of his putter, punctuating an impressive performance at one of golf's hallowed lands.
Two years ago, Gary and his wife Gabby were expecting twins but lost one of the children during pregnancy. Their son, Jaxson, was born prematurely but is healthy and will celebrate his second birthday next week. They are expecting twin girls in August.
On Father's Day, Gary Woodland became a U.S. Open champion. He thought of his wife and son back home. Of his unborn daugthers. He gave his own father, the man who never let him win growing up, a huge bear hug after he secured a lifelong dream that he hopes one day his son will see.
"Like I said, I wouldn't be here without my dad," Woodland said. "And I probably didn't realize how special it all was until I became a father. And obviously we had our struggles, and it's been documented, the losses that we've suffered. We lost a couple last year, as well. And it was tough. We thought we were done, and the identical twin girls were a surprise.
"Being a father now puts life in perspective. My whole life it's all been about trying to win. And now I'm trying to make a better life for my son than I've had. It's been a process. But today is so special from that standpoint that being a father and hopefully some day he can even see this and realize that anything is possible."
Then, Woodland thought of Amy and her family. As he walked to the media center he FaceTimed her to celebrate his win. Her words of encouragement still hanging over his victory.
"You got this."