Matthew Wolff has emerged from a self-imposed break from competitive golf because he was more than a little broken. His scorecard from the first round of the U.S. Open looks painfully like his year to date – all over the place.
Wolff shot 1-under 70 on Thursday at Torrey Pines, nine months after his major championship debut, which turned into a remarkable performance at the September U.S. Open at Winged Foot. He finished second behind Bryson DeChambeau and was paired with the eventual champion in the final round, thrusting the 22-year-old into the realm of greater expectations.
Wolff has been missing from the PGA Tour since the Zurich Classic at the end of April, when he dragged his partner, Collin Morikawa, to a missed cut, including an alternate-shot 77 in the second round.
Wolff said he aggravated a wrist injury in January when he withdrew from the Farmers Insurance Open after a first-round 78. He withdrew from the WGC-Workday Championship after shooting 83 in the first round of the no-cut event. He was disqualified from the Masters after the first round for signing an incorrect scorecard when he shot 76. And he withdrew without explanation prior to the beginning of last month’s PGA Championship.
"It was really hard," Wolff said after his round. "I love the fans, I love being out here and I want to play golf for everyone and I just, I think I just put too much pressure on myself. And it was a hard decision because I'm so new on the (PGA) Tour and it's my first or second year and I didn't want to walk away, I didn't think it was, you know -- I don't even think I could, to be honest, and then when I finally started to get to a bad enough spot, honestly I was like, you know what, I need some time.
"And I just, I think the biggest thing right now that I'm trying to do is enjoy myself again and just take care of myself really. I mean, I love these fans and I want to play well for them, but right now I'm just really trying to be happy and I, like I said, I live a great life and I want to enjoy it."
When Wolff signed his scorecard for this U.S. Open first round, he was three shots back of leader Russell Henley. Wolff was alternately scorching the South Course and tripping over himself with an incredible eight birdies, three bogeys, two double-bogeys and only four pars.
He led the Open early with three birdies in his first four holes, gave it all back by the turn, made four birdies in his first five holes of his second nine, shared the lead again and dropped two more shots after a double-bogey at the par-4 7th.
Wolff was back in the arena, wrapped in the atmosphere and the uncommon pressure of major championship golf, with more ups and downs that anyone ought to experience. And there’s three days more.