As reported Tuesday, Gary Woodland, the incredibly talented basketball-player-turned-golfer, has left Hambric Sports Management to join Mark Steinberg’s small but prestigious group of golfers, including Tiger Woods and Matt Kuchar, at Excel Sports Management. The company also represents an esteemed crop of athletes, like Derek Jeter, Ryan Howard, Blake Griffin and Paul Pierce.
Woodland and Kuchar joined forces and proved to be quite the indomitable team as they won the World Cup last November. That same week Woodland started to consider the management change, according to the AP:
The two of them got to talking, he approached me after the World Cup and I was obviously interested,” Steinberg said.
Woodland is regarded a rising star, an athletic player who only started competing nationally when he transferred to Kansas as a sophomore after giving college basketball a try. He won the Transitions Championship last spring and made the cut in all four majors.
Steinberg said the plan is not to add players by the dozen.
“IMG was such a factory. We represented so many great players,” he said. “We want to take a little bit more dialed-down approach to a smaller knit community of people we want to represent.”
Oh, low blow!
The switch has led to a member of Woodland’s team firing him, according to THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL’s Kevin Haskins. Woodland’s now ex-agent Blake Smith is the son of swing coach Randy Smith, who had worked with the 2011 Transitions Championship winner for the past six years.
“I’m excited to start off the new year and the chance to work with Mark Steinberg and the people at Excel Sports — to surround myself with some great athletes, especially two of the best guys in this game with Tiger (Woods) and Kooch (Matt Kuchar),” Woodland told me before playing the back nine at Kapalua’s Plantation course on Wednesday morning. “It’s a pretty good opportunity for me. It was a decision I felt I needed to make — to start over and start something new.”
He’s now also in the market for a swing coach and wishes it hadn’t turned out that way. (He had to expect Randy to dump him after he dumped his son, right? I respect Randy for making the decision — family first!)
“I love Randy to death,” said Woodland. “Randy’s been a big influence in my life and I definitely wouldn’t be where I am without him. So that’s unfortunate, but I wish him nothing but the best.”
(Someone’s had a lot of media training in the past year…He’s not just a dumb jock! Just messing around. He’s a good dude, but certainly has mastered dodging questions with non-answers.)
When I asked whether he already had a new coach, he kept his cards close to his chest, choosing his words carefully.
“We have some guys in mind, but I have two weeks off after (the Hyundai Tournament of Champions), so I’m going to play this week and then hopefully make a decision the next couple of weeks,” he said. “We’ll definitely find someone that can help keep moving me in the right direction.”
Is it someone from the Orlando area (where Woodland lives)?
“Yeah, we’ll see,” said Woodland, with a wry smile. “We have a couple of names.”
My best guess? Just speculating but I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up with Sean Foley. Or perhaps Gary Gilchrist or someone from the David Leadbetter Academy.