Matthew Wolff came to Las Vegas this week as one of the favorites to win the CJ Cup. That hope disappeared in the matter of nine holes Thursday.
Heading into this week’s CJ Cup in Las Vegas, there were not many, if any, golfers in the world hotter than Matthew Wolff. As I wrote about earlier this week, Wolff has made two starts on the PGA Tour so far this season, and has finished as runner-up both times.
The first time was when he faced a red-hot Bryson DeChambeau at Winged Foot in the U.S. Open. There, Wolff came in second after being paired with DeChambeau in the final round.
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Last week at the Shriners Hosptials for Children Open, Wolff was one of three players tied for the lead at the end of regulation. He came up just short this time when Martin Laird birdied the second playoff hole to claim the victory.
So this looked to be the week that Wolff took the next step. He seemed to be ready to earn his second victory on the PGA Tour at the ripe old age of 21.
But golf can be a funny game. And the funny game had something entirely different in mind for Wolff on Thursday.
His round started quietly, but not in a bad way. Wolff started his round on the back nine and he parred his first three holes of the day.
On the par-3 13th hole, Wolff pulled his tee shot left into the rough. He hit a decent pitch shot, to about eight feet, but missed the putt, suffering his first bogey of the day.
The rest of his first nine was also quite benign. Wolff would par the final five holes of his first nine, shooting a 1-over par 37.
But when Wolff made the turn, things went in a much different direction.
On the first hole, his 10th of the day, Wolff pulled his tee shot into the water. After a drop, he hit his approach to 35 feet, missed the putt then made a four-footer for bogey.
Wolff would par the 11th hole before another bad tee shot, this one on the 12th, cost him again. He tee shot went into the left rough and he was unable to reach the green in two. His third shot got him on the green, but he couldn’t get up and down and suffered another bogey, dropping to 3-over par.
The round went further off the rails on the fourth hole. Wolff hit his tee shot into a fairway bunker. His second shot went into the water. After a drop, his fourth shot went into a greenside bunker. His pitch from the bunker left him nearly 60 feet for a bogey. He missed that putt and took a double bogey, falling to 5-over on his round.
Wolff would bogey the sixth, eighth and ninth holes to close with a 7-over par 43 on his second nine. That left him with an 8-over par 80 in his first round. It also left him in dead last, one shot behind someone named Jeongwoo Ham.
For Wolff, it was a most unexpected result. He can only go up from here.