DAYTONA BEACH – This week, Cheyenne Woods returns to where it all began just one year ago.
Last December, Woods finished tied for 11th in the final stage of the LPGA Qualifying Tournament at LPGA International, earning membership on Tour for 2015. The 12 months that followed were a journey for the rookie and a time of change for Woods, who says she discovered a lot about herself over the last year.
“I learned that I’m capable of definitely competing out here and I think that makes a huge difference,” Woods told LPGA.com. “A lot of people think ‘Oh, it’s the LPGA,’ you know, but it’s golf and we’ve been playing golf our whole life. It’s a different course, a different competition but at the end of the day you still have to make the shot and hit the putt, so I think I gained confidence through this season even though I didn’t play as well as I would have liked. It definitely reassured me that’s where I need to be and that’s where I belong.”
Having made just eight of 17 cuts in her rookie season, Woods finished the year No.125 on the Tour’s official money list, placing her in Category 17 on the priority list for 2016. Woods returns to Q School this week in hopes of playing her way into Category 12, an improved position that will earn her berth into more events next season.
“It sucks to be back, but I do have good memories from last year and knowing I’ve played these courses a lot and I’ve performed well on them feels good.”
Her first season wasn’t without it’s highs, which included a season best T-24 at the JTBC Founders Cup in her hometown of Phoenix and a career best 63 in the opening round of the Manulife LPGA Classic.
“I did have some good moments. I think the 63 was fun, you know seeing myself at the top of a leaderboard at an LPGA event. But yeah, I think that was the highlight, the 63. Breaking my record and breaking the course record and having the lead was pretty cool.”
Woods’ game has trended upward in recent weeks, with a T-32 at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia followed by a near win in India, where she made double bogey at the last to finish T-2 at the Hero Women’s Indian Open, a Ladies European Tour event.
“I felt like I played pretty decent in Malaysia too, and then to carry that over to India and played even better, it feels really good,” Woods said. “Especially having this big gap in between Alabama and Q School it feels nice to have some good performances coming into this week.”
Tuesday afternoon, Woods spent more than 30 minutes grinding over six footers on the practice putting green at LPGA International with caddie Reynolds Robinson, who stood alongside her, pointing an alignment rod at her left wrist as she drained putt after putt. She’d had just wrapped up some work on the Hills Course, which served her rounds of 79-71 at last year’s Tournament, saved by rounds of 68-67 on the Jones Course, which Woods says can be more forgiving.
“I think the Hills course might be a little tighter, a little bit more of a placement course. If you’re not hitting the ball well you’re going to be scrambling a lot, whereas Jones you can get away with a few more shots.”
Woods will go off the first tee of the Jones Course Wednesday morning at 9:06 a.m. alongside Carlie Yadloczky and Pannarat Thanapolboonyaras.
“My game feels like it’s in good shape, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”