SAN DIEGO (AP)Matthew Wolff had a long layoff before arriving at Torrey Pines to play one of the stiffest tests in golf.
He showed up with no expectations. Keep playing like this and he could leave with the U.S. Open trophy.
His swing and mind free, Wolff shot a 3-under 68 in the second round at Torrey Pines on Friday to move into contention at the U.S. Open for the second straight year. He was at 4 under, tied with Louis Oosthuizen a shot behind co-leaders Russell Henley and Richard Bland.
”I know that I’ve played good golf in the past, but the low time that I had was pretty tough,” Wolff said. ”My confidence was shot. I’d say I came here with very, very – I’d say no expectations.”
Wolff has been open about the recent struggles he’s had on the course and dealing with being in the spotlight at 22, which led to him taking a two-month break from golf.
His fellow PGA Tour players have helped pull him out of the funk, stopping to really talk instead of the usual banter on the range and putting green.
One was Bubba Watson, who pulled him aside earlier this week.
”I was going to text him a few weeks ago, but I wanted to talk to him in person,” said Watson, who was two off the lead at 3 under. ”That’s what I did. I was just trying to give him my two cents. He didn’t ask for it, but I gave it to him anyway.”
Wolff appreciated it.
Hearing that someone like Watson, a two-time Masters champion and veteran PGA Tour player, had his own low points really hit home.
”The first thing he said is, `I’ve retired five times in my career,”’ Wolff said. ”I was hopeless for five months and I was really struggling, and just to hear that and know that someone of his caliber being at the top and winning two Masters, as much success as he had, everyone goes through it.”
The Bubba talk and other interactions seem to have loosened him up.
Wolff didn’t want to get out of bed the past two days so he could avoid the spotlight, but has shined when he’s been back under it.
He went on a birdie spree in the first round, posting eight, but offset it with three bogeys and two doubles to shoot 1-under 70. Wolff was more even keel in his second round, bouncing back from a bogey on No. 2 with three birdies to earn a spot in the penultimate pairing in Saturday’s third round.
”Today was much better,” he said. ”I felt like I got a little bit more feel back. I felt a little more comfortable with my swing.”
Now the former Oklahoma State player is back in a familiar position.
A year ago at Winged Foot, he played with a care-free attitude, still grinding but loving every second of it. Wolff had some miscues down the stretch that allowed Bryson DeChambeau pull away, but relished the opportunity to win the U.S. Open.
”Back at the U.S. Open, I had that fear of playing bad and kind of choking off the lead per se, but I think I was actually enjoying it,” he said. ”I was having a great time out there. I was playing well, so obviously it was easier to enjoy it.”
Wolff is playing well again. He’s starting to enjoy it again, too.
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