Like every major the storylines are a plenty this week as we parasail into La Jolla, California and Torrey Pines for the 121st U.S. Open. The last time our nation’s golf championship was played here, Tiger Woods made a highlight reel a mile long with a broken leg and 91 holes of incredible golf and sheer torture. Sadly, Tiger won’t be here this week as he continues to, once again, heal and rehab his leg injuries…this time from a car accident back in February. But Tiger’s buddy Phil has us filled with hopeful excitement as he tries to finally win the career grand slam, on Father’s Day, on a golf course he grew up on and has 3 professional wins on. Dare I say that’s a pumpkin carriage short of a Cinderella Story? Another So Cal favorite is Xander Schauffele, who seems more than ready to win his first major.
Often a common theme within the game is just as quickly as it can feel like you’re on top of the golf world and nothing can go wrong, it goes downhill faster than anything. Golf Gods giveth, Golf Gods taketh away. Having missed the PGA last month, Matthew Wolff is only in the field this week because he finished runner-up last year. It was at Winged Foot just last September that he was in the final pairing with Bryson DeChambeau with a chance to win his first major. He was then on everyone’s list to win one sooner, not later. Three weeks later he tied for 2nd in Las Vegas, but the downward spiral began soon after.
As a 2-time All American and NCAA Individual Champion at Oklahoma St, Wolff and his unorthodox golf swing were taking center stage. He turned pro and won the 2019 3M Open as a non-PGA Tour member. He was ranked as high as 12th in the Official World Golf Rankings and he finished 2020 at 15th. He is now 32nd, which doesn’t seem all that bad on paper. But it hasn’t been good. Wolff’s last trip to Torrey, back in January for the Farmers Insurance, he shot an opening-round 78 and WD’d citing a hand injury. Afterwards he stated that he aggravated a previous injury but he was seen angrily slamming his club on the ground throughout the round.
Wolff known as one of the game’s longest hitters has become one of the wildest, and that may in fact be due to injury. He has hit it all over the planet ranking 205th on tour in driving accuracy. In March he was asked if the huge expectations placed on him by the fans and media were beginning to take their toll. He responded saying that the expectations he puts on himself are just as large. “There’s a lot of pressure put on by myself and on everyone out here to play well for your friends and family,” he said. “For some, that may help them focus. But it jumbled up my head. I have to learn to enjoy the game again.”
It’s not the biggest fall from grace there’s ever been and we all know golf has its shares of ebbs and flows. Wolff has gone 10 starts without a top-25 finish, so it’s not even that epic of a slump. But it feels worse because of how peculiar the last 10 months have been. He signed for the wrong scorecard at The Masters resulting in a DQ, and he WD’d from the WorkDay Championship after a first round 83. This arose the question, is he just going to quit and go home every time he plays bad or loses his cool? Then to make things even more odd, he withdrew from last month’s PGA Championship citing no reason at all. Things are askew in the Wolff den if you’re missing majors and not stating why. I guess he doesn’t owe us a reason, and we all know how lost and lonely this game can make you feel at times. I hope he finds peace and joy in his game and rights the ship this week at Torrey. Golf is brutal when it’s bad, but it’s so damn great when it’s good.
Enjoy the game and each other,
Seth Zipay – Head Golf Professional