MAMARONECK, N.Y. — Earlier this season, Matthew Wolff went to sleep before the final round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit holding a three-stroke lead over Bryson DeChambeau, but he played a mediocre final round to lose to DeChambeau by three.
It’s a similar situation at the 120th U.S. Open at Winged Foot, where Wolff shot a third-round 65 for a 5-under total of 205 that leaves him with a two-stroke advantage over DeChambeau heading to Sunday’s final round.
Although he’s only 21 years old and is playing in just his second major championship, Wolff is confident he has what it takes to win as he proved by winning the 3M Open a year ago in Minneapolis and by finishing fourth in the PGA Championship last month in San Francisco.
"Being in those situations as much as possible helps me a lot," said Wolff, who was the 2019 NCAA champion as a sophomore at Oklahoma State before heading to the PGA Tour last summer. "I think Detroit is really big. I had a three-shot lead. I’ll be able to keep calm tonight, watch some basketball, hang out with my caddie Nick, who’s a really good friend. The biggest thing is not really looking ahead. I was kind of antsy at the beginning of the fourth round in Detroit."
Wolff was anything but antsy at the beginning of the third round at Winged Foot. He shot a 5-under par 30 on the front nine. He later bogeyed No. 16 but got back to 5-under with a birdie at the finishing hole to post a scored that tied low round of the tournament by Justin Thomas on Thursday when Wolff opened with a 66.
"My putting was by far the best it’s felt in the last two or three months," Wolff said. "I feel like I’m hitting the ball well. My irons were really good. Even though I only hit two fairways, my driver was just barely off.. I’m excited to be where I’m at, and I look forward to tomorrow."
The final pairing should be entertaining because both players are long bombers. Wolff starts his swing with a quirky hitch, while DeChambeau, who leads the PGA Tour in driving distance, muscles up, takes deep breaths and, as he says, "unleashes the kracken."
In the third round, DeChambeau start slowly with bogeys on the first two holes, but he brought it back with birdies at the par-3 7th and back-to-back birdies at the 16th and 17th before a closing bogey left him with an even par 70 and 3-under total of 207.
The only other player under par through three rounds is 1-under Louis Oosthuizen, who had a third-round 68. Hideki Matsuyama, Xander Schauffele and Harris English are tied for fourth at even par 210, while Rory McIlroy is solo 7th after a third-round 68. Second-round leader Patrick Reed skied to a 77.
"The round today was a huge battle," DeChambeau said. "I was proud of the way I persevered. It was difficult, especially when you’re not hitting it straight in the fairway. It felt like I kept myself in it, scrambled really well. Tomorrow I’ve got to make sure my speed is better and that I’m hitting the driver in the fairway. Today was pathetic, and it needs to be better than that to win a U.S. Open."
It’s too bad no spectators are allowed due to the COVID-19 pandemic because Wolff and DeChambeau figure to put on a great show whenever they have driver in their hands.
As Wolff said of his aggressive approach, "I like to go out there and do what feels comfortable, rip dog and see how it goes from there. I don’t like to shy away from things when I’m feeling confident, and I’m probably going to do the same tomorrow."