On familiar turf, Wolff hopes to go one better at US Open

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One off the lead at the US Open on Friday, Matthew Wolff is looking to better last year's runner-up finish. Photo: Wallpapercave.com

For Matthew Wolff, playing the US Open is like “there’s not one shot you breathe and relax”. Two days of intense golf at Torrey Pines have left the 22-year-old drained but the memories of finishing runner-up in the last edition keep him going. Excerpts from an interview:

Matt Wolff, 3-under 68. Two consistent days of golf; sum it up heading into the weekend.

Matthew: I don’t know if I’d say the first day was consistent. It was very up and down, but, yeah, I ended up posting a decent score, and today was much better. I felt like I got a little bit more feel back. I felt a little more comfortable with my swing. Like I said, there was a lot of good yesterday, but quite a bit of bad as well. Today, I minimized the mistakes and feel good going into the weekend.

You’ve been in this position before in a U.S. Open. Talk about the mental focus it will take going into the weekend.

Matthew: The way I describe the U.S. Open to everyone is there’s not one shot that you can finally like breathe and relax and feel like, oh, it’s all right if I miss this a little bit because every single shot, every single putt, it takes all your attention. After stepping off the course the last two days, I’ve been pretty drained, but I’ve been really trying hard to focus and keep my composure. More importantly, just be happy.

I think you spent some time up there with Todd talking about some of the issues you dealt with before you got here. Bubba Watson was in here earlier talking about the fact that he had approached you to talk about some of these issues. Could you, A, talk about what — I’m not sure if you went to any kind of medical professionals and were diagnosed with any issue or not. Secondly, how comfortable were you when Bubba came up to you and talked to you about issues he’s had and tried to help you.

Matthew: No, I didn’t see any medical professional, and even if I did, I don’t know if I’d say it. Yeah, it’s different. I feel like most people, when I first got on Tour and had that early success, people were coming up to me just to kind of joke around and say what’s up. Now plenty of guys out here have been, if you ever need to talk, I’m here for you because, even though you may not know it, almost every single guy out here — Bubba — I don’t know if he wants me to say this. The first thing he said is, I’ve retired five times in my career. When he said that, I was just like — I was hopeless for five months, and I was really struggling, and just to hear that and know that someone of his caliber being at the top and winning two Masters, as much success as he had, everyone goes through it.

It’s really awesome to see all the guys out here kind of just not trying to take me under their wing, but just to be there for me. If I ever needed to reach out or talk to any one of them, they were more than happy to talk to me. It means the world.

In golf, a lot of guys don’t talk about it. They won’t talk about any injuries. They won’t talk about anything that would think they’d give somebody else a leg up on them in some way, shape, or form when you’re on the golf course. Is this — because we don’t know. You’re a young guy. We don’t know. Is it more something you’ve kind of put pressure on yourself, or is it you feel there’s this pressure from the outside coming in?

Matthew: I would say more the outside coming in, but I mean, obviously, I put immense pressure on myself. No matter how many bad shots I hit, if I hit one good, all the fans are going to be like, oh, that was so good, but to me I only see the bad. I think it’s just – to answer your question, I think it’s everything combined. I think it’s both the pressure of all the fans. Not that they’re trying to put the pressure, but you want to perform for them. You want to go out there and play well and put on a show for them. You also have expectations for yourself and to play well. It’s just hard to manage. It really is. I’m learning every day, and I promise you I’m going to play bad and have a bad stretch probably somewhere, or multiple times before the end of my career. This is definitely going to, I think, probably make me a more well-rounded and just more complete and happy person because I’ve already went through it. Probably next time I’ll be able to handle it a little better.

Matt, obviously you’re working on things the last couple months, but what kind of work did you and George do to make this type of performance possible?

Matthew: More mental than anything. I think that we worked hard on our swing. I went to California for probably a week or something like that. We worked on my swing and getting back to where I kind of — the positions I was in in college and stuff, a little longer and more across. But at the end of the day, I’d say every single night – every single morning, every single night, because I stayed with him when I went there. We just had two-, three, four-hour conversations just about my thoughts and my feelings, like on the golf course, not like my relationship or everything like that.

Given the time that you have taken off and that this is the most mentally challenging tournament, how surprised are you where you are right now?

Matthew: Very. Yeah, very surprised. I know that I’ve played good golf in the past, but the low time that I had was pretty tough. My confidence was shot. I’d say I came here with very, very — I’d say no expectations. I’d say my expectations coming here were to enjoy it and be happy, and I didn’t even know if I was going to be able to do that. Thankfully, I am, as well as playing well.

It’s a great position I’m in. I’m contending at the U.S. Open, and I’m very happy right now and enjoying it, but I know there’s going to be times that I’m not enjoying it as much or not playing as well. For those times, that’s what I’m trying to work for and work towards and kind of prepare before it happens.

What’s interesting is, if you win this week, how does that change you, do you think?

Matthew: I don’t think it changes me at all. I can’t express it enough that my scores up there, even though I’m happy right now, 4-under par, one off the lead or whatever, I really could care less about that right now. I’m really just out here trying to have a good time and enjoy myself.

Text courtesy: USGA

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