Oklahoma State amateur Wolff impresses with 67 at Waste Management Phoenix Open
Sponsor exemption with unorthodox swing beats nerves in PGA TOUR debut
January 31, 2019
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
Matthew Wolff interview after Round 1 of Waste Management
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Jim Furyk never had a textbook swing and yet has 17 PGA TOUR wins and two sub-60 rounds.
Bryson DeChambeau, with his single-length irons and one-plane swing, is one of the hottest players in the game.
Now get ready for 19-year-old Oklahoma State sophomore Matthew Wolff, another iconoclast who in his TOUR debut settled his nerves and shot a 4-under 67 in the first round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
“It was awesome,” Wolff said after going 1 over for his first five holes before making five birdies the rest of the way. “It’s probably more than I hoped for, especially at this tournament, which is unlike any other tournament. … I was really nervous at first but settled in and played nice.”
Wolff has made a lot of noise in amateur circles of late. He won the Phil Mickelson Award as the nation’s top freshman while leading OSU to the NCAA title last season. This season, in the fall, he reeled off wins in three straight tournaments, joining Scott Verplank as the only OSU golfers to accomplish that feat.
All of this with a funky move in which Wolff does a little shimmy to trigger his swing, picks the club straight up off the ground, points his left toe, and then hits every angle seemingly just right as he comes through the hitting area with eye-popping speed.
MUST READS: Round 1, Waste Management Phoenix Open
“I’ve heard a lot of, ‘Your swing sucks,’ and all the criticisms,” Wolff said. “But everyone who knows the game of golf and has analyzed my swing have told me that where it counts, your swing is in the right spot, so I keep on blocking out everyone who criticizes me and listen to the good things.”
Many of the good things come from Wolff’s swing coach, George Gankas, who caddied for Wolff on Thursday. They’ve worked together for years at Southern California’s Westlake Golf Club, and Gankas recently predicted to golfchannel.com that Wolff would be “a huge disruptor.”
He might be right.
Most every teaching professional who has seen Wolff has questioned his move. Many have offered to fix it or change it, but not the free-thinking, much-in-demand Gankas.
“As soon as I started swinging he said he loved it,” Wolff said. “He always reminded me that I was going to be one of the best players in the world, so to me I still have that mindset.”
Wolff used to easily clear Westlake’s driving range fence, 310 yards from the tee, which was cool except that on the other side is the 101 Freeway. (He was put on a steady diet of restricted-flight balls.) In the first round at TPC Scottsdale, he averaged 328.1 yards on the two measured holes, which was fifth in the field in driving distance. He hit 10/14 fairways, and 16 greens in regulation.
He even warmed to the crazies on 16.
“For me, I’m kind of a chill, like-to-have-people-around-me type of guy,” he said. “As soon as I got on 16, they started howling. It was kind of cool; it made me smile, made me calm down a little. Even if they boo you, I mean, they’re still fans, they’re still out here enjoying you.”
There were no boos. He hit the green, and made a two-putt par. His TOUR career had begun.