HONOLULU – Woody Austin didn't make it to the PGA Tour until he was 30, and only then after a decade of playing mini-tours, working as a bank teller and even stocking shelves in a drug store. At least he gets to go out on his terms.
After more than two years of not having full status, the 49-year-old Austin appeared out of nowhere in Mississippi last summer and won the Sanderson Farms Championship. That got him back to Kapalua, which meant the world to him.
"Especially when you're about to turn 50 and have status," he said.
Austin turns 50 in three weeks, though he has no plans to play on the Champions Tour except for any major he gets in. Kapalua was just a start. Austin is most looking forward to the courses he was kept from playing when he lost his card – Bay Hill, Hilton Head, Colonial, Memorial.
"I don't plan on being one of those half guys," he said of splitting time on two tours. "If I don't get in the FedExCup (playoffs) and have six weeks off, then I'll go play some on the Champions Tour. But I want to play out here."
Austin lost his card in 2010 when he missed four cuts in his last seven events and finished at No. 129 on the money list. He got into only 18 tournaments the following year on conditional status, and only seven events in 2012 as a past champion.
His hallmark was ball-striking, and when that began to desert him, he was never very good with the putter (except for bashing it against his head, one of his more infamous moments) to atone for that. So what happened in Mississippi?
"That was the old me," he said. "I knocked the flag over. That's me. That's what I do. This game now is only a putting contest. That's all it is. Technology has brought everyone into a small bowl."
Austin said he was most disappointed that in his two years needing some help, he received only one sponsor exemption. The Greenbrier Classic found room for him – he missed the cut two weeks before winning – and Austin said he will never miss the tournament again.
He is exempt through the end of the 2014-15 season.