LA QUINTA, Calif. — Gary Woodland played basketball for a season at Division II Washburn, and the 6-foot guard still describes a 30-point loss to his beloved Kansas Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse as the biggest thrill of his life.
If he keeps hitting his shots at the Bob Hope Classic, Woodland might have an even bigger achievement in his backup athletic career.
Woodland shot 8-under 64 Friday to join Jhonattan Vegas in the lead at 18-under 198 after three rounds in the 90-hole tournament on four Palm Springs-area courses.
Woodland made five straight birdies on the front nine at the Nicklaus Private course, with only a missed 10-foot putt keeping him from stringing together seven in a row. He added three birdies on the back nine to claim his first lead after any round in 28 PGA Tour events while putting up the best 54-hole score of his career.
Not bad for a guy who didn't get serious about golf until putting his hoop dreams to rest.
"I learned how to play the game over the last year and a half," Woodland said. "I've got great people around me, great people mentoring me, and I'm starting to get there. I'm not anywhere close to where I want to be, but I'm on that road right now."
After a year at Washburn, the Kansas native transferred to KU in 2003 to get serious about golf.
"There's a lot of guys out here that know how to play this game," said Woodland, 26. "I could probably beat them on the basketball court, but out here, for a year and a half, I was getting my butt kicked. … You're never going to win all the time, so I learned how to play through adversity."
Meanwhile, Vegas maintained his steady play in his fifth PGA Tour event with 67 — the first bogey-free round of his career — on the Silver Rock course.
"Everybody has been waiting for this for a long time," said Vegas, the first Venezuelan to earn a PGA Tour card.
Greg Chalmers (65) was a stroke back at 17 under.
Champions: Russ Cochran had two eagles and six birdies in a career-best 10-under 62 to take the first-round lead at the season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship in Kaupulehu-Kona, Hawaii. Cochran held a two-stroke edge over Tom Watson and Ben Crenshaw.
European: Martin Kaymer shot 7-under 65 for a three-stroke lead at 12-under 132 after two rounds of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship in the United Arab Emirates. Charl Schwartzel (71) was in second, and U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell is another shot behind. Padraig Harrington was disqualified after signing for the wrong score in the first round (more, 1C).