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Woodward makes up ground at West Virginia Open

VIENNA, W.Va. -- Woody Woodward can find his way around a golf course, and proved it on Thursday at the 80th West Virginia Open, outdriving those in his group, putting precisely and wasting no time in doing so.

Woodward shot a 5-under 67 at the Parkersburg Country Club, still trailing six-time Open champion David Bradshaw by three strokes but making up ground on the 6,895-yard, par 72 layout.

"I actually struck the ball better yesterday than I did today," said Woodward, who played in just one other Open (2011 at The Pines). "Today I really grinded. Every opportunity I got out there today I took advantage of. I hit a bad drive on 4, but got lucky enough to have a swing at it and made birdie. It kind of carries you through the round when you do stuff like that."

Woodward isn't quite as well known as his brother, Jay Woodward. Jay spent much of his childhood playing in West Virginia before joining the Penn State University golf team. Jay will graduate after two more classes and is pondering a professional career, either playing or teaching.

Woody, meanwhile, spent all but one year of his high school days in Hilton Head Prep (S.C.), a team he helped to the 2011 South Carolina Class AAA team championship.

He had to navigate some rough waters to earn a scholarship to Wake Forest University, where he will begin this fall.

As an eighth-grader, the younger Woodward did some damage to his left arm while swinging a golf club. The initial prognosis was inaccurate, leading to the affable redhead requiring extensive surgery.

He had screws put in his shoulder and lost a year and a half, but rebounded in time to find a college home.

"I had my two shoulder surgeries early enough I was able to bounce back and get to the point where I could start getting recruited," the Bridgeport native said. "I got hold of (Wake Forest coach) Jerry Haas and I fell in love with the school and the whole atmosphere."

Jerry Haas is the nephew of 1968 Masters champion Bob Goalby and the uncle of Bill Haas, who lost in a playoff in the 2011 Greenbrier Classic to Scott Stallings.

Woodward didn't opt to follow in his brother's footsteps at Penn State and his mother and father played tennis at East Tennessee State. Woody prefers warmer weather to that in Happy Valley.

Much of his improvement is credited to Jay, but not the speedy side of his game. The older Woodward is more "analytical," while Woody steps up and hits the ball. Jay Woodward had a season-best T4 in March at the Colleton River Collegiate and was an All-Big Ten Academic All-American.

"He's a little more analytical," said Woody, who finished Hilton Head Prep with a 4.7 grade point average. "I'm a little more look and shoot. My dad likes to say, if golf stuff doesn't work out I definitely could be the salesman and he'll be keeping the books.

"When I play a practice round, I get all my sites, I get all my numbers and that's what I go on," Woody said. "I know what I'm hitting off every tee. I step up, take a few practice swings, make sure I have my targets and I just don't take too much time over the ball."

Otherwise, his older brother has helped Woody sharpen his game, but mostly in ball striking and around the greens - Jay's specialty.

"He's helped me pretty much in all aspects," Woody said. "In the large part, he's one of the better iron players out there. The last six or eight months we pretty much changed my whole setup, changed my whole swing.

"The other thing is chipping. If you go watch him, he's probably the best chipper out there. I'm trying to get it close and he's looking to make it. I'm getting to the point where I don't care where I am, I'm just looking to make it."

He's making it and is challenging for the top of the 80th Open leaderboard.

Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at richstevens@dailymail.com or 304-348-4837.


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