(Reuters) – U.S. Open winner Gary Woodland is enjoying life as a newly-crowned major champion but has quickly realized that the biggest adjustment since his breakthrough victory may just be finding out how to say no.
Woodland, who will return to action for the first time since his U.S. Open triumph when he tees it up at this week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit, has understandably experienced a sudden increase in requests.
“You try to be a nice guy,” Woodland told reporters on Wednesday at Detroit Golf Club. “But sometimes you’ve got to say ‘no’, and that’s easier said than done for me sometimes.”
For Woodland, such demands on his time are uncharted territory and few could have expected that to change going into the year’s third major where the 35-year-old American was not on anyone’s radar.
But Woodland, in his 31st career major, used a red-hot putter to carve up the Pebble Beach layout and finish three shots clear of runner-up Brooks Koepka, who was seeking a third consecutive U.S. Open title.
Even at Detroit Golf Club, where the field is headlined by world number two Dustin Johnson and fan favorite Rickie Fowler, Woodland found himself in the spotlight.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever had the autograph requests that I’ve had,” said world number 12 Woodland. “It’s hard to say no, especially when somebody’s out there and they’re asking.
“It would have been hard for me to hear no when I was a kid, so you try to make time and prepare for that, I guess. I don’t know if I blocked in the amount of time to do that yesterday.”
But Woodland, a four-times winner on the PGA Tour, will do his best to block out as much of the noise as possible given he remains as hungry as ever for more success.
With the July 18-21 British Open, the lucrative FedExCup playoffs and a chance to qualify for the U.S. team that will defend the Presidents Cup in December in Melbourne, Australia, Woodland has plenty to aim for this year.
“There’s still a lot at stake,” Woodland said. “Being a major champion is awesome, but I’m still trying to win more, still trying to get better.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond)