PEBBLE BEACH, CA. -- Ten months ago, Gary Woodland set the 36-hole scoring record at the PGA Championship when he posted a 10-under-par-130 to take the lead into the weekend at Bellerive Country Club.
Friday at Pebble Beach, Woodland set another 36-hole record.
The 35-year-old began the day at 3-under-par, but he quickly got off to a quick start on Pebble Beach's back nine. After a key par save to open his round on No. 10, Woodland got to red figures at the Par-3 12th by lacing a 6-iron to six feet to set up his first birdie of the day. Woodland made another birdie at No. 16 to make the turn at 2-under for the day.
Then, he turned it on.
After drilling a seven-foot putt for birdie at No. 1, Woodland carded three pars before sending an 8 iron to 15 feet on the Par-3 fifth, He poured in the putt to move to 4-under on the day and tie Justin Rose for the lead at 7-under. He birdied his very next hole to take the outright lead. Then, after draining another 15-foot putt to save par on No. 8, Woodland rode in a 50-foot birdie putt on No. 9 to close his round with a bang.
He finished the day at 6-under-par, 9-under for the championship, which is the lowest U.S. Open 36-hole score at Pebble Beach. One better than Tiger Woods' mark of 8-under set during his iconic 2000 U.S. Open win.
Prior to the 2018 PGA Championship, Woodland had never carded a top 10 in a major championship. He finished sixth at Bellerive and followed that up with an eighth-place finish at this year's PGA Championship.
As Woodland prepares to sleep on the 36-hole lead, he can look back on his experience at Bellerive, where he shot a third-round 71 to fall out of the lead, to know how to handle the magnitude of the stage.
"I mean playing in that big of a position you learn you have to stay within yourself," Woodland said about heading into the weekend with the lead. "You know, you can't get caught up in what's going on around you. Obviously, there's a lot more noise going on. Obviously, playing with Tiger on Sunday (at the 2018 PGA) I'd never seen anything like that atmosphere. I've played in a basketball arena with 16,000 people right on top of you when I played against KU. It was nothing like that.
"But you get used to it. You stay within yourself. You slow down. You know, playing with Tiger, it's not the people outside it's the people inside the ropes. There's so much moving and excitement. You learn to slow your breathing, I mean adrenaline is a huge deal. You know, all of a sudden you start hitting the golf ball a little bit farther. You learn to stay within yourself and what you have to do to calm yourself down. And stick to your game plan."
Woodland will have to withstand a charge from a star-studded leaderboard if he plans to come home with his first major title.
Rose sits two shots back, while major winners Louis Oosthuizen, Rory Mcilroy and Brooks Kopeka all are within five shots. Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott and Jon Rahm headline a group of players six shots back at 3-under-par.
The USGA no doubt will try to toughen Pebble overnight, so Woodland should face a course with a lot more teeth Saturday and a leaderboard of major champions set on tracking him down. Best of luck, Gary.