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Wolff tees off in quest of historic US Open debut win

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New York (AFP)

Leader Matthew Wolff teed off in Sunday's final round of the 120th US Open trying to become the youngest major champion since Tiger Woods won the 1997 Masters.

The 21-year-old American fired a five-under par 65 Saturday at Winged Foot to stand on five-under 205 after 54 holes with Bryson DeChambeau two strokes adrift.

Wolff, the youngest 54-hole US Open leader since 1971, could become the first golfer to win the event in his debut since 20-year-old amateur Francis Ouimet managed the feat exactly 107 years ago.

In his major debut last month, Wolff shared fourth at the PGA Championship in San Francisco.

"I feel like I'm ready to win out here and win a major," Wolff said.

Wolff would be the second-youngest modern era major winner, two months older than 21-year-old Woods when he captured his first major at Augusta National.

Wolff has missed 30 of 42 fairways over his first three rounds but found success blasting out of Winged Foot's dense rough and tricky bunkers.

"I feel like my game sets up for hard golf courses," Wolff said. "I have speed coming out of the rough when it's deep. My putting feels like the best it has ever been.

"I feel like I have all the tools and the right mindset."

While the 2019 US college champion has dreamed of winning the US Open since he began golfing, his thoughts are also with agent John Moscatello, who is battling stomach cancer.

"I'm putting things in perspective," Wolff said. "It is important. It's the US Open. But it's just golf."

Together with 23-year-old PGA Championship winner Collin Morikawa, Wolff could make this the first year with two major winners 23 or under since 1932, when Gene Sarazen and Bobby Jones did it.

Early final-round finishers warned of a course averaging better than five-over par and questioned how long Wolff could keep missing fairways and stay in front.

"There's a lot of luck involved out there," said Ireland's Shane Lowry, the reigning British Open champion..

"You can't get good lies in the rough. It'll be interesting to see if he keeps getting that luck... but I'd still prefer to be the guy who's hitting fairways and greens."

Australia's Jason Day, the 2015 PGA Championship winner, added: "The greens are quick and they've got some bounce to them. The wind is kind of switching around a little bit... so it's really difficult to judge what the ball is going to do in the air. You've got to stay committed."

DeChambeau, known for his scientific approach to golf, bulked-up his physique during the coronavirus pandemic that postponed the US Open from June and led to a spectator ban at the Mamaroneck, New York, layout.

Now DeChambeau leads the PGA in driving distance and threatens to overpower the course with distance and a strong putting performance.

South African Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open winner, was third on 209, four shots adrift but one stroke ahead of Japan's Hideki Matsuyama and Americans Harris English and Xander Schauffele.

Another group back were multiple major winners Rory McIlroy, the world number four, and Zach Johnson, who will try to match the record last-day victory comeback of seven strokes achieved by Arnold Palmer in 1960.

McIlroy began with a double bogey while Johnson took an opening bogey.

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