U.S. Open: Matthew Wolff Leads Entering Final Round at Winged Foot


MAMARONECK, N.Y. — In May, with most world sports activities competitions suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, the veteran golfers Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler competed in a made-for-TV charity match. Almost as a lark, or maybe to lure a youthful viewers, Matthew Wolff, a 21-year-old PGA Tour newcomer, was invited to play, too.

At the time, Wolff was recognized principally for his peculiar preshot twitch, his quirky swing and his lengthy drives, and he clearly appeared nervous in the beginning as he sprayed pictures across the course. But his presence was charming, like an overanxious child brother who nonetheless places everybody relaxed. At one level, in mock derision, McIlroy, 31, referred to Wolff as “youngster.”

After Saturday’s third spherical of the 2020 United States Open, through which Wolff shot a five-under-par 65 to take a two-stroke lead heading into the championship’s last day, McIlroy selected totally different phrases when describing his buddy.

“That’s just awesome golf,” McIlroy mentioned of Wolff’s dynamic play on Saturday afternoon. “I mean, everyone knows how talented Matt is.”

With his spherical in blustery situations on the daunting Winged Foot Golf Club, which moved him to 5 below for the match, Wolff rose up the leaderboard on a day when lots of the recreation’s prime gamers struggled with unpredictable winds, deep tough and quick greens. Wolff shall be paired on Sunday with one other long-hitting character of this golf season, Bryson DeChambeau, who shot a 70 and completed Saturday at three below par.

It figures to be an attractive matchup and a show of new-era energy, though a mixture of seasoned and youthful gamers is just not far behind. The former British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen is alone in third at one below par, and Xander Schauffele, Harris English and Hideki Matsuyama are at even par, a shot forward of McIlroy.

Although, as Schauffele mentioned of Wolff, “If he plays the same way he did today, it’s going to be almost impossible to catch him.”

If Wolff is victorious, it is going to be the primary time a participant has gained the U.S. Open in his debut on the occasion since Francis Ouimet did so in 1913.

Wolff, who shot a 30 on Winged Foot’s entrance 9, didn’t drive the ball that precisely, hitting solely two of 14 fairways. But his misses had been typically not that far into the course’s thick tough, and his size off the tee helped make up for his miscues. He was exact together with his iron play, hitting 13 greens in regulation, and putted with the poise of a veteran who had performed in 20 majors as an alternative of trying like a younger professional who had taken half in solely two (Wolff’s first main look was eventually month’s P.G.A. Championship, through which he tied for fourth).

Wolff, who has now shot within the 60s in six of the seven rounds he has performed in majors, mentioned he believed that the tougher situations typical at these occasions introduced out the most effective in him.

Credit…Justin Lane/EPA, through Shutterstock

“I’ve always excelled on hard courses,” he mentioned. “I have the swing speed to get the ball out of deep rough, and I have the right mind-set when things aren’t going so well.”

He added: “It’s golf — I know things aren’t going to go right out there. You have to stay calm.”

A check on Saturday got here on the 16th gap, the place Wolff slashed his tee shot into the bushes to the left of the golf green. He had a small opening to the inexperienced however eschewed the dangerous shot and chipped safely as an alternative. That led to Wolff’s solely bogey of the third spherical, however he rebounded with a par on the 17th gap and a birdie on the ultimate inexperienced.

“I wasn’t upset or anything; I just knew I had to minimize the damage,” Wolff mentioned of the 16th gap. “You have to keep thinking and make the smart play.”

Patrick Reed, the second-round chief, and DeChambeau, who started Saturday’s spherical one shot off the lead, teed off 45 minutes after Wolff. DeChambeau instantly discovered bother, bogeying on the primary inexperienced due to three putts. His tee shot on the second gap then discovered the tough to the left of the golf green, which led to a different bogey. But DeChambeau settled right into a long term of constant scoring after that.

Credit…John Minchillo/Associated Press

Reed, so constant within the first two rounds, additionally had a tough begin on Saturday, with two birdies and two bogeys in his first 5 holes. After three routine pars, he gained some momentum with a birdie on the reachable par-5 ninth gap and appeared to be regaining his type. But a poor tee shot on the treacherous par-3 10th gap, and an equally insufficient chip, led to a different bogey. Reed flubbed one other chip on the 11th gap, one of many simpler holes on the course, and ended up making double bogey there. At that second, Reed, who had been on the prime of the leaderboard for many of the afternoon, dropped three strokes behind Wolff.

It obtained worse. Reed added three extra bogeys within the subsequent 4 holes, after which — after a stabilizing par at No. 16 — closed with two extra. His seven-over 77 left him in a tie for 11th place, however eight pictures off the lead.

As the golfers within the featured teams jockeyed for the lead, Matsuyama was charging from behind with six birdies in his opening 14 holes. But like so many different gamers, Matsuyama’s scorecard was a mixture of good and unhealthy, together with bogeys on the second, third and seventh holes. He rallied, however a bogey at No. 15 and a double on the 17th marred an in any other case promising spherical. Matsuyama nonetheless shot a 70, which left him at even par for the match.

Playing one of many extra error-free rounds of the day was McIlroy, who shot a 68 with three birdies and just one bogey.