LAS VEGAS – Matthew Wolff was on the frustrated side as he made the turn in the third round of the Shiners Hospitals for Children Open at TPC Summerlin.
He was making good swings and hitting good putts but nothing was really happening. Sure, he shot 2 under on the front but on this desert course where wind has been almost non-existent, Wolff knew he was falling behind the leading pack.
Then he hit a wedge on 10 to 9 feet and just like that, Wolff began to devour TPC Summerlin and light up the scoreboard.
He made the birdie putt on 10, holed out with a 62-degree lob wedge from 118 yards for eagle on 11, knocked in an eagle putt from 18 feet on 13 and drove the green on the 301-yard 15th and made a 15-footer for eagle.
Far from done, he left his eagle putt on 16 on the lip and tapped in for birdie. That wrapped up an 8-hole stretch where Wolff was 9 under.
After he left birdie putts on the edge on the final two holes, Wolff walked off the scorched course with a scorecard that read a career-low, 10-under-par 61 that included an 8-under 28 on the back nine.
When Wolff, 21, finished his round, he led by two at 18 under after starting the day six shots out of the lead.
“You have so many birdie opportunities if you hit the ball in the fairway. It’s not long. The pins were in pretty favorable spots. I just told myself to give myself as many looks as I can and the putts would fall,” said Wolff, who is seeking his second PGA Tour title. “The wedge shot on 10 really was the turning point. That really felt like it was a little different swing, but different in a good way. I flagged it on 10 and then 11 I holed out. And from then on I felt like I didn’t hit it outside 15 feet pretty much the rest of the way.
“So I was really happy with how my game is trending and the things I’ve been working on and put myself in a good spot.”
Wolff also almost joined Scott McCarron and Willie Wood as the only players to make four eagles in a round since 1983. McCarron did that in the 1995 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, Wood in 1990 in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
“It was incredible,” said playing partner Matthew NeSmith, who shot 64. “He got off to a little bit of a slow start. Couldn’t seem to get really anything going through eight holes. Then he birdied 9, birdied 10, made it on 11, and it was off like gangbusters. He just played really, really phenomenal.”
Especially on the back nine.
“I felt like my swing was rotating a little better,” on the back nine, said Wolff, who chipped in from 70 feet on the third and made a 6-footer for birdie on the ninth before exploding on the back nine. “That was kind of the thing that I needed to start hitting my shots a little more on line and just feel a lot more comfortable over each shot. You never expect to hole-out, but when it happens, kind of just puts you in a really good mindset.
“Those three eagles it kind of just propelled me to the top.”
His showing here in Las Vegas is proof there was no hangover from the U.S. Open three weeks ago, where he was paired in the final group with Bryson DeChambeau. Wolff couldn’t keep up with DeChambeau and finished second, six shots behind.
“Maybe like 10 minutes after I finished up was a little brutal, but I felt like that was honestly more of a learning experience and gave me more confidence,” Wolff said. “There were a lot of putts I had out there today coming down the stretch, and even to make the cut (Friday), where everything just seemed a little simpler because of the stage I was on at the U.S. Open. Nothing gets bigger than that.
“I feel definitely a lot more calm when I’m playing these sort of events because I know that it’s not quite a major.”
But you can do major things just like Wolff did.