Oklahoma State’s Matthew Wolff returns from injury, wins 1st college title

Bruce Waterfield/OSU Athletics

Oklahoma State’s Matthew Wolff returns from injury, wins 1st college title

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Oklahoma State’s Matthew Wolff returns from injury, wins 1st college title

After sinking the NCAA title-clinching putt for Oklahoma State last spring and collecting the Phil Mickelson Award as the nation’s top freshman, Matthew Wolff was poised for a big summer – one that the long-hitting Southern California talent hoped would be capped with a U.S. Amateur victory at Pebble Beach.

Those high hopes were dashed in July at Olympic Club, where seven holes into his second round of the Pacific Coast Amateur, Wolff hit a drive and immediately felt pain in his left wrist.

“Thirty seconds later, I could barely move it,” Wolff said.

Forced to withdraw, Wolff also missed the next week’s Western Amateur. And while his teammate Viktor Hovland was hoisting the Havemeyer Trophy last month on the Monterey Peninsula, Wolff was back in Stillwater, Okla., continuing to recover from a wrist strain.

Wolff’s doctor cleared Wolff on Aug. 9, four days before the U.S. Amateur. But after nearly three weeks of rest, Wolff wasn’t going to enter a tournament that he didn’t feel like he could win.

“I wasn’t confident with my game or my health,” Wolff said. “We all thought it’d be best to make sure that I didn’t strain it again and that I was good for this year coming up. I think that was a smart decision.”

Added Oklahoma State coach Alan Bratton: “He managed it well. Obviously, it paid off.”

Wolff ended up a champion at Pebble Beach after all, capturing the individual title at the Carmel Cup on Sunday. The sophomore from Agoura Hills, Calif., shot 17 under to win by a shot over Oklahoma’s Garett Reband and lead the Cowboys, who were without Hovland because of the World Amateur Team Championship in Ireland, to a third-place finish, 11 shots behind rival Oklahoma.

In what was a shootout on a benign Pebble layout, Wolff brought plenty of firepower. After an opening 7-under 65 on Friday, Wolff followed with a second-round 66 and capped off his winning performance with a closing 68. He made just two bogeys, one of which came Friday after Wolff blew his drive out of bounds on the par-5 18th hole.

“If there was any rust there, I think it’s gone,” Bratton said.

The victory was Wolff’s first in college after he amassed four runner-up finishes among eight total top-10s as a freshman. It was also his first win since his sophomore year of high school, as Wolff placed second in two marquee junior events in his final two years of high school, the 2015 AJGA Polo Golf Junior Classic and 2016 U.S. Junior Amateur.

“It was really nice to finally get the job done,” Wolff said. “It’s been a while since I individually won a tournament.”

Coming up short so frequently can often discourage young players. In Wolff’s case, it only built up his confidence, because he knew he was eclipsed by good players. In his four second-place showings last season, Wolff lost to Texas’ Doug Ghim, USC’s Justin Suh, Cal’s Collin Morikawa and Hovland. (The latter three are ranked in the top 5 of the World Amateur Golf Ranking, and Ghim was a top-5 amateur before he turned pro this summer.)

“I’ve always felt confident because I kept on knocking on the door,” Wolff said. “I didn’t win last season not because I didn’t play well enough but because I kept running into people who were just a touch better than me.

“I think this year is going to be a little different.”

That injured wrist that kept Wolff from having the type of summer he envisioned? It could help Wolff lift plenty of hardware this season. Gwk

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