Matthew Wolff claims thrilling victory in third pro start at 3M Open

Matthew Wolff, 20, claimed his first PGA TOUR title in an epic finish that saw him hold off Bryson DeChambeau and Collin Morikawa on the 72nd hole of the 3M Open.

HARTFORD, Conn. – Travelers Championship officials and fans had more than a passing interest Sunday in the final round of the inaugural 3M Open in Blaine, Minn.

Three of the four twentysomethings ranked atop the world amateur rankings who received sponsors’ exemptions into the Travelers Championship last month challenged for their first PGA Tour victory at TPC Twin Cities.

Leading the way were longtime California rivals as amateurs, third-ranked Collin Morikawa and No. 4 Matthew Wolff, who battled to the end with Bryson DeChambeau before one of the most dramatic finishes in PGA Tour history.

DeChambeau, playing in the penultimate group, hit a 204-yard, 6-iron second shot on the par-5 18th hole from the intermediate rough over a lake to 6 feet and made the putt for eagle, a 5-under-par 31 on the back nine, a closing 66 and the lead at 20-under 264. DeChambeau, 25, eighth in the Official World Golf Rankings, was seeking his second PGA Tour victory this season and sixth overall in his first start since he tied for eighth in the Travelers Championship.

But moments after DeChambeau’s histrionics, there was more “Minnesota Magic” when Wolff, No. 1,659 in the world rankings, hit a 229-yard, 7-iron shot over the lake to the back fringe and holed a 26-foot putt for another eagle and a final-round 65 for 263.

Then there was nearly a trifecta of scintillating finishes, but Morikawa, playing in the final group with Wolff, narrowly missed a 22-foot eagle putt, settling for a tap-in birdie, 66 and a tie for second with DeChambeau. When Morikawa’s putt rolled three feet past the cup, he winced as Wolff hugged his caddie and celebrated his $1,152,000 first prize and PGA Tour card only six weeks after winning the NCAA individual championship while at Oklahoma State. Wolff and Morikawa, whose 18-foot birdie putt at No. 17 horseshoed the cup, again played on sponsors’ exemptions, and Morikawa’s near miss at the 18th made it 23 consecutive PGA Tour events without a playoff.

“I’m really not an emotional guy, but tears came to my eyes,” Wolff said after his fourth PGA Tour start, third as a pro. “I knew I could do this. As soon as I got to Oklahoma State, I felt that I could win out here, and this week I really believed in myself.”

DeChambeau believed he was headed to a playoff.

“I had no idea he would make that putt,” DeChambeau said. “It’s so competitive now. Anyone can win on any week. It’s absolutely impressive.”

Despite the day-long tension, Morikawa, 22, talked constantly with his longtime friend and adversary as they trekked around TPC Twin Cities and flashed Wolff a warm smile as they embraced on the 18th green.

Some new names have been showing up in the top-10 in recent PGA Tour events.

“The way we were playing, it was going to go in. One of us was going to drop one in,” Morikawa said. “I hit a really good putt (on 18). I thought it was good from the start, and once it got about halfway, I knew it was a little low. What can you do?”

The improbable victory made Wolff the first non-PGA Tour member to win this season, the first sponsors’ invitee to prevail since Billy Hurley in the 2016 Quicken Loans National and enabled him to join Hall of Famers Tiger Woods and Ben Crenshaw as the only players to win the NCAA individual title and a PGA Tour event in the same year. Wolff is now fully exempt through 2021 and eligible for the FedExCup playoffs and the 2020 Masters, PGA Championship, Players Championship and Tournament of Champions.

After opening the tournament with 69, 67 and a week-tying low 62, Wolff shared the third-round lead with Morikawa and DeChambeau. He shot the 62 while playing with native son Tom Lehman off the PGA Tour Champions who is 40 years older than Wolff and led the redesign of the course about 20 miles north of Minneapolis that hosted the over-50 circuit from 2001-18 in the process of lengthening and strengthening it for the bigger hitters on golf’s main stage.

Lehman said Wolff’s unusual swing – he picks up his left foot on the takeaway and uses the ground for power – reminded him of another long hitter.

“Different swings, different styles but the same type, the same kind of jaw-dropping way of playing as John Daly when he first started,” Lehman said. “He could hit with the club so far beyond parallel, and combine that with a really beautiful putting stroke, you say, boy, this guy is sensational.

“Matthew Wolff is the same kind of player, tremendous speed. He has a swing that’s unique, but the uniqueness I think is such an advantage to him because of the fact that he swings in a way where he keeps the face square for so long through impact, almost no face rotation, so you don’t see wild shots from him.”

Wolff showed championship form in the final round, hitting 10 of 14 fairways and 17 of 18 greens in regulation. He finished with the eagle, five birdies and a lone bogey at No. 9, where he three-putted from 67 feet. In his previous three PGA Tour starts, Wolff finished 50th in the Phoenix Open as an amateur, shot 2-over 212 for 54 holes to miss the second cut in the Travelers Championship and missed the 36-hole cut in the Rocket Mortgage Classic.

Wolff won the NCAA Championship individual title in May for his sixth victory of the season, setting a school record at Oklahoma State. He was named winner of the Jack Nicklaus National Player of the Year Award, received the Haskins Award as the most outstanding collegiate golfer in the United States and was a first-team All-American for both of his seasons at Oklahoma State. A 20-year-old from Agoura Hills, California, Wolff won four straight full-field college tournaments as a sophomore and finished the season with a 68.59 stroke average.

Just prior to the Travelers Championship, Wolff joined perhaps the most high-powered tour staff in golf, signing a multi-year deal with TaylorMade, which counts Woods, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Jason Day among its tour staff. Johnson is ranked No. 2 in the world, Woods is No. 5 and Rahm is 11th after he rallied to win the Irish Open on Sunday. The long-hitting, unique-swinging Wolff’s deal called for him to play TaylorMade’s metal woods, irons, wedges, putter and, eventually, golf ball. Financial terms of his deal were not disclosed.

Morikawa was a four-time All-American at the University of California, including a first-team selection in each of his final three seasons. Morikawa was named Pac-12 Player of the Year as a senior, when he won the individual conference tournament title, one of his two victories. He tied for sixth individually with an even-par total in the NCAA Championship, the only tournament in 12 stroke-play starts where he didn’t finish under par.

In his first three pro starts, Morikawa tied for 14th in the RBC Canadian Open, tied for 35th in the U.S. Open and tied for 36th in the Travelers Championship. His $563,200 winnings Sunday increased his four-tournament total to $677,914, making him eligible for Special Temporary Membership.

Wolff and Norwegian Viktor Hovland, No. 1 in the amateur ranks and winner of the Ben Hogan Award in his junior year at Oklahoma State, made their pro debuts at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, where Chez Reavie won his second PGA Tour title, first in 11 years. Holvand, 21, who was low amateur in the Masters and U.S. Open and has made three cuts in as many pro starts, birdied six of the last 13 holes Sunday for 65-269 and a tie for 13th, his second-best PGA Tour finish.

Justin Suh, the other sponsors’ exemption in the Travelers Championship, closed with 69 for 277 and in a seven-way for 58th that included native son Tom Lehman (73) off the PGA Tour Champions and Zack Sucher (70), who tied for second in the Travelers Championship. Suh was ranked No. 2 among amateurs before turning pro after helping the University of California to the NCAA Championship in May.

Worked as sports writer for The Hartford Courant for 38 years before retiring in 2008. His major beats at the paper were golf, the Hartford Whalers, University of Connecticut men’s and women’s basketball, Yale football, United States and World Figure Skating Championships and ski columnist. He has covered every PGA Tour stop in Connecticut since 1971, along with 30 Masters, 25 U.S. Opens, four PGA Championships, 12 Deutsche Bank Championships, 15 Westchester (N.Y.) Classics and four Ryder Cups. He has won several Golf Writers Association of America writing awards, including a first place for a feature on John Daly, and was elected to the Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame in 2009. He also worked for the Connecticut Whale hockey team for two years when they were renamed by former Hartford Whalers managing general partner Howard Baldwin, who had become the marketing director of the Hartford Wolf Pack, the top affiliate of the New York Rangers.

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