Wolff keeps chance at historic US Open win in perspective

New York (AFP) –


Matthew Wolff has the chance for a historic US Open victory, but the 21-year-old American copes with his nerves by keeping his golf success in perspective.

Wolff fired a five-under par 65 on Saturday to grab a two-stroke lead at Winged Foot, making him the youngest 54-hole US Open leader since 1975.

He could become first player to win his US Open debut since amateur Francis Ouimet in 1913, with Sunday marking the 107th anniversary of that historic feat.

And after his share of fourth in his major debut at last month's PGA Championship, there are few doubters that Wolff's early success is well earned.

"It's really early in my career, but I feel like I have the game to win," Wolff said. "I feel like I'm ready to win out here and win a major.

"I've already won a PGA Tour event and I knew my game was in a really good spot. I've been feeling really good, really confident."

Wolff, a winner at Minneapolis last year in his third PGA Tour start, has been thinking about the stomach cancer his agent has been battling. Suddenly his issues on the golf course don't seem so nerve wracking.

"It's just golf, even though it is the US Open," Wolff said. "My agent, John, is struggling right now with his health, and I've been thinking about him a lot out there.

"He's undergoing stomach cancer right now, and he got diagnosed like three weeks ago.

"He doesn't want anyone to feel bad for him, but it just puts things in perspective. And I'm going to go out there, try to make him proud and go have a good time... he loves watching me play golf, but it's just an awful time.

"It is important. It's the US Open. But it's just golf."

Wolff, whose swing has an unusual left leg kick from his youthful days as a baseball pitcher, made five front-nine birdies to shoot 30 at the turn.

"That's just awesome golf," four-time major winner Rory McIlroy said. "Everyone knows how talented Matt is and he played great at Harding Park in the last major. He's explosive like that. He can get on runs."

Wolff can also miss fairways. He hit only two of 14 Saturday and has managed only 12 so far in the event, the fewest by a 54-hole leader since 1983.

"Even though I missed the fairway, there were a lot of times I was in that graduated rough that's a little shorter," Wolff said.

"Even though I only hit two fairways, my driver was just barely off. My putting was by far the best it has felt in the last two or three months. I feel like I'm really hitting the ball well."

- Keeping calm is key -

That doesn't mean there won't be nerves, even without spectators, banned as a safety move due to the coronavirus pandemic that delayed the event from June.

"I'm probably going to be a little antsy. It's the US Open, and I have a lead," Wolff said. "I'm going to try to keep my nerves as calm as they can be.

"I feel very confident with every single part of my game. I'm not going to think about it too much and just go out there and do the same things I've done the last three days.

"I know if I keep calm and not let my emotions get the best of me, I should have a really good chance."