Amateur Matthew Wolff no stranger to pressure, or success

USA TODAY Network

Amateur Matthew Wolff no stranger to pressure, or success

Amateur

Amateur Matthew Wolff no stranger to pressure, or success

By

by Nate Fain, USA TODAY Network

As Matthew Wolff stood over his ball at the 18th tee on Saturday of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, his right knee buckled and his hips twitched.

For those who hadn’t yet seen the 19-year-old amateur in action before, the sudden movement might have looked like a sign of nerves, a young kid panicking over a tight tee shot in front of golf’s loudest audience.

But that’s just a trigger Wolff uses to start his swing, a swing he has made all his own over the years.

Wolff then uncorked his driver, well outside of the swing plane. As he turned his body and started his downswing, his club, almost miraculously, fell perfectly back on plane and he unloaded a 366-yard bomb down the middle of the fairway.

Even if the Phoenix Open is Wolff’s first PGA Tour start, the Oklahoma State sophomore is no stranger to pressure. Last summer, he made the putt that won his Cowboys the NCAA Championship, the 11th in program history.

Thus, pressure doesn’t scare the Wolff. So the giant and at times hostile crowd in the Valley of the Sun is hardly something that would frighten him. In fact, he specifically picked the Phoenix Open for his debut.

“My coach got me a spot in the tournament in Mexico and the tournament in Torrey Pines,” Wolff said. “But I wanted to play here because I’ve heard and seen so many good things about this place.”

He made the right choice. Wolff started the tournament strong. He was 5-under-par through the first two days and made the cut.

He shot a combined 2-over-par on Saturday and Sunday and ended at 3 under and in a tie for 50th.

Matthew Wolff on No. 11 in the second round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open (USA TODAY Network)

“It was awesome,” he said. “The experience was unreal. I left some strokes out there in all four rounds, but that’s part of being amateur. Hopefully, I’ll learn from that so that I don’t make those mistakes when I turn pro.”

Nine years ago, it was Rickie Fowler who was the confident, Oklahoma State orange-clad youngster who flashed greatness at the Phoenix Open with an unconventional swing and unlimited swagger.

The parallels between Fowler and Wolff are obvious, starting with both going to Oklahoma State. The older tour pro shared some wisdom with the young amateur during a practice round Tuesday.

“He told me to try and change as little about my swing as possible,” Wolff said. “Keep your own style and routine.”

Fellow big hitter J.B. Holmes played with Wolff on Saturday. Holmes joined the PGA Tour in 2006 and finished in the top 10 in his first event. About a month later, he won his first tournament. Holmes turned pro at 23.

Holmes said Wolff has a bright future on the PGA Tour, but there are things he must learn.

“He’ll have to learn how to take half swings,” Holmes said. “It looked like he was swinging full at everything, but that could just be because we’re in Arizona. It’s hard to tell from just one round.”

Wolff’s plan is to qualify for the U.S. Open as an amateur. If he does, he’ll turn pro immediately after the tournament and forgo his final two years of college eligibility. Gwk

Latest

More Digital Edition
Home