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American Golfer Gary Woodland Overcomes Fear and Returns to Competitive Golf Following Brain Surgery
American golfer Gary Woodland recently made a remarkable comeback to the golfing world after undergoing brain surgery last year. In an interview, he shared his experience of being “fear-driven every day, mostly around death” in the months leading up to his craniotomy.
Woodland had been diagnosed with a lesion on his brain and decided to go public with the news a few weeks before his surgery. However, he had already been dealing with life-altering symptoms for several months prior. It all started during a PGA Tour event in April when he suddenly woke up from sleep overcome by fear.
The golfer described feeling like it was a panic attack but couldn’t be sure at that moment. His hands were trembling uncontrollably, leaving him shaken and confused about what was happening.
Over time, Woodland’s symptoms worsened, affecting various aspects of his life including appetite loss and lack of energy. However, the most debilitating symptom turned out to be an overwhelming fear of death that haunted him daily.
“I thought everything was going to kill me,” confessed Woodland. Whether driving or flying on planes—everything felt like a potential threat.”
Frustratingly enough for someone who had worked extensively with performance coaches and psychologists since a young age, this intense fear proved impossible for him to overcome alone:
“You think you can overcome stuff—I couldn’t overcome this,” said Woodland. “Every day, it was a new way of dying, a new way of death.”
Woodland eventually sought medical help and underwent an MRI scan which ruled out Parkinson’s disease but revealed the presence of a tumor on his brain. After further tests and consultations with specialists, he learned that the jolting episodes he experienced were actually partial seizures linked to the lesion pressing against the part of his brain responsible for fear and anxiety.
The golfer acknowledged feeling relieved upon discovering that his experiences were not unique or abnormal in relation to his condition:
“You’re not going crazy,” reassured the specialist in Kansas City. “Everything you’re experiencing is common and normal for where this thing is sitting in your brain.”
Treatment included medication to control seizures, but it came at a cost. Woodland experienced side effects such as memory loss, irritability, lack of focus, and diminished energy levels:
“I reached a point where I had just one hour of energy a day,” admitted Woodland.
Golf: A Break from Adversity
Despite these challenges, golf provided some respite for Woodland amidst all the turmoil. He continued playing in PGA Tour events even while managing his symptoms with medication before ultimately undergoing surgery.
Remarkably enough during this difficult period, Woodland managed to make the cut at almost all tournaments he participated in—only missing two cuts out of ten events played since April when his symptoms first appeared.
A standout performance came at Wells Fargo Championship where he finished tied-14th—an achievement worth celebrating considering what he was simultaneously battling off-course.
A Glimmer of Hope
However, as time passed by things became more challenging for him on-field too. During PGA Championship, Woodland felt nauseous throughout his two rounds and had to reevaluate his situation. A conversation with his caddie following a tied-27th performance at the Wyndham Championship convinced him that he needed to prioritize his health:
“I wanted to keep playing—I’m as competitive as it gets,” said Woodland. “But I also want to be around for my family.”
With this realization, Woodland made the difficult decision to take a break from golf and undergo brain surgery in September 2023.
After several months of recovery, rehabilitation, and intense dedication towards getting back into shape both physically and mentally, Gary Woodland triumphantly returned to competitive action on Thursday for the Sony Open – marking an inspiring comeback story in the world of golf.