DETROIT — When you watch Matthew Wolff strike a golf ball — a spinning, whirling blend of bravado and distance — it’s easy to forget he’s never been able to legally stop at a bar without social distancing.
Wolff’s 21st birthday came well after the coronavirus set in — April 14, to be exact — and yet he already has a PGA Tour win under his belt and has become such a golf phenom he was part of the TaylorMade Driving Relief event with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson.
But then there are moments when you remember his age. The Oklahoma State product joked after Friday’s 64 that he didn’t watch much of his playing partner Vijay Singh while growing up because “he was a little before my time.”
And on Saturday after another scorching round of 64, Wolff suggested that frozen treats might have keyed his play.
“I heard an ice cream truck circling the property and seemed like every time I heard that, I had made birdie or made a putt, so I’ve got to give a lot of credit to that,” Wolff said. “Like I think on — what is it — 5, the par 3, I made
the longest putt of the day. It was like a 35 or something like that footer and I heard the ice cream truck and I’m like, I have a good feeling about this.
“I just had that little like ice cream truck song in my head and I think that helped me just not think about the speed or the line or anything, just keep my head free, which I’ve been giving a lot of credit to this week.”
Whatever the reason, Wolff took the Detroit Golf Club by storm again, even with three bogeys. He posted six birdies on the front, then added three more and an eagle on the back to establish a three-stroke lead heading into Sunday’s final round. Ryan Armour and Bryson DeChambeau are tied for second at 16-under while four players, including Chris Kirk, are tied for third at 14-under.
Wolff’s putter certainly has helped him get out to a sizable edge, he’s second in strokes gained putting, and when that’s working low scores will follow.
“I felt like the putter was really good today. I wasn’t really thinking about much over the putt, lining it up, feeling confident in the line and stroking it really nice,” he said.
There’s plenty at play for Wolff on Sunday, aside from being able to afford a lot more ice cream.
With a victory, Wolff would become the youngest two-time PGA Tour winner since someone named Tiger Woods, who did it at the age of 20 years, 9 months, 20 days. He’s looking for his first top-10 finish since his win last year at the 3M Open in Minnesota. He’d also maintain a perfect record with 54-hole leads, since he converted the only other one he’s ever had.
And as for this whole lead thing, Wolff said it’s something he feels comfortable playing with.
“A lot of people would say you don’t want to give up that lead, but in my mind, as many strokes advantage as you have over the field is better. I don’t ever look at something about — I don’t look at the downside of things. That’s one thing I think I’d change, but I look at having a three-stroke lead, going out there I think I’ll be playing with Ryan Armour,” Wolff said. “I really enjoy playing with him, he’s a super good guy. It’s a golf course that
sets up really well, I’m hitting really well, putting good, doing everything well. Just going to go out there, have fun, and hopefully I hear the ice cream truck a little bit.”
So, since ice cream seems to be the theme, does Wolff have a favorite flavor?
“I’m just more like vanilla guy, but I don’t know, there’s a couple popsicles on those ice cream trucks that are pretty dang good,” he said. “I’m not really sure. I’ll be thinking about that tomorrow, though.”