Wolff finds sweet separation at Rocket Mortgage Classic
Credits ice cream truck for three-shot lead as he chases second PGA TOUR win
July 04, 2020
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
Matthew Wolff takes 54-hole lead at Rocket Mortgage
DETROIT – Matthew Wolff made things too complicated after his maiden PGA TOUR victory at the 3M Open last year. He put every facet of his game under a microscope – and got worse.
No more wins, not even any top-10 finishes, just aggravation.
Changing course, Wolff resolved to keep it simple. He’s obviously sticking to that, because by his own admission he shot a second straight 64 at Detroit Golf Club not because he’d optimized his spin rate or anticipated the nitrogen levels of the grass. No, no. Not even close.
“I heard an ice cream truck circling the property,” said Wolff, 21, who will carry a three-shot lead over Ryan Armour (67) and Bryson DeChambeau (67) into the final round. “Seemed like every time I heard that, I made birdie or made a putt, so I've got to give a lot of credit to that.”
If that seems like a wacky explanation, then maybe it’s because Wolff, he of the wacky swing trigger, had a decidedly wacky round: five pars, nine birdies, an eagle, and three bogeys.
Add it all up and he’ll be aiming for win No. 2 almost exactly one year to the day after his first. Ice cream? The only guy who’s made more of the Fourth of July weekend is Joey Chestnut.
“Felt like the putter was really good today,” Wolff said. “Wasn't really thinking about much over the putt, lining it up, feeling confident in the line and stroking it really nice.”
Not thinking about much other than ice cream, that is. (He’s a vanilla guy.) He didn’t even let a missed five-footer at the second hole get to him. He made over 117 feet of putts – second for the week in Strokes Gained: Putting – including a 13 1/2 footer for eagle at the par-5 14th.
Now comes the hard part: Keeping his carefree outlook even with the trophy on the line Sunday.
It might have been an intriguing study in contrasts had Wolff been paired with DeChambeau on Sunday. Each crushes the ball, each is a classic iconoclast, but they are mondo different between the ears. One guy, DeChambeau, squirts his golf balls with mist to study how they react in the rain. The other guy, Wolff, lets his thoughts drift with the seductive trills of the Mr. Softee truck.
Anyway, it’s a mood point because Wolff will play the final round with Armour, whom he calls “a super good guy.” More than twice Wolff’s age, Armour has the same number of career PGA TOUR wins, one, but he may not go away quietly. After missing a three-foot putt to double-bogey the 17th hole, Armour drained a 21 1/2 foot birdie on 18 to get back to 16 under.
Ryan Armour sinks 21-footer for closing birdie at Rocket Mortgage
“You can see a picture in your eye of what shot you want to hit based on the framing of the trees,” Armour said of the Donald Ross-designed Detroit Golf Club, which he said fits his eye and reminds him of his junior golf days in Akron, Ohio. “I think that’s really pretty.”
DeChambeau, by the way, was relegated to a share of second place by Wolff’s eagle putt on the 72nd hole at the 3M. No telling whether history will repeat itself at the Rocket Mortgage, but rest assured the Mad Scientist won’t be thinking about ice cream trucks and trees.
“Just going out there and being aggressive, being aggressive where need be,” DeChambeau said of his plan for the final round. That shouldn’t be a problem. He nearly drove the green at the par-4 first and 13th holes, birdied both, and leads the field in driving distance (347.3) by a wide margin.
Still, he hasn’t quite put it all together.
Five more players – Troy Merritt (67), Mark Hubbard (69), Seamus Power (69), Chris Kirk (70) and Wesley Bryan (65) – are at 14 under, five off the lead and with an outside chance.
There will be fireworks. There will be ice cream. There will be golf.
“I've really got to give it to a lot of mindset,” Wolff said of his success. “I feel like there was a lot of times in the past where I had good rounds and I let my head get in the way – I need to close this out or I need to do something, I want to try to make more birdies coming in.
“Instead I would go the other way,” he continued, “whereas I'm taking it shot by shot, hole by hole and whatever happens, happens.”