Woods struggles, Wolff rebounds at Sherwood
October 22, 2020
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Tiger Woods rolls in 87-footer for birdie at ZOZO
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Matthew Wolff vowed he wouldn’t be too nervous nor would he be trying to impress Tiger Woods in their first competitive PGA TOUR round together. In the end, he did both.
Playing with his idol and fellow Southern Californian Woods, the 21-year-old Wolff shook off a rough start in the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP @ SHERWOOD before shooting a respectable 3-under 69. He was matched by another young California kid in the group as 26-year-old Xander Schauffele also showed great poise to rebound from a late triple bogey.
But the veteran 82-time TOUR winner they grew up wanting to be like – well, he had a day to forget.
Woods cobbled together a 4-over 76 in his first hit out since missing the cut at the U.S. Open, leaving the defending champion T75 in a 77-man field. The 44-year-old had a dismal day from the tee box, ranked last in the field in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee (-2.770). He hit just seven of 13 fairways.
His usual solid approach game was also missing with Woods ranked 75th in Strokes Gained: Approach the Green (-3.129) as he hit just 10 of 18 greens in regulation. An eight-foot birdie putt on the par-5 2nd hole was one of only three putts Woods made outside of five feet throughout the entire round.
If Woods is to replicate his win from Japan a year ago, he will need to make up a deficit that already stands at 12 shots after Sebastian Munoz opened with a 64 to lead by one over Justin Thomas and Tyrrell Hatton. He has three rounds to do it given there is no cut, but it looks a tough road to navigate even though he’s won at Sherwood five times in the past.
For Wolff, it was a rollercoaster to remember. Having grown up nearby the young star has played Sherwood on numerous occasions, but never in competition this serious, and never with Woods.
This was the legend he matched by winning the NCAA National Championship and a PGA TOUR event in the same year. They – along with Ben Crenshaw – are the only three to ever manage the feat. So Wolff was wary of falling into the trap of trying to impress the player he once used to watch from the galleries at Sherwood hoping for an autograph or even just a wave.Childhood photos of Matthew Wolff playing golf. (Courtesy of Wolff Family)
“You do want to impress him and you do want to play well in front of him, but at the end of the day, that's not what I came here to do. I came here to win a golf tournament,” Wolff said prior to the round.
“I feel like even though I'm just at the start of my career and I have a lot to prove to everyone, I've also accomplished a lot in the short time that I've been out here. It would be nice to go out and have Tiger talk about how good you are and stuff… his opinion is definitely a higher value than others…, but at the end of the day, if you don't have confidence in yourself and you're just trying to impress him… I just feel that that's not a really good way to go about it.
“I think you need to go out there and try to win a golf tournament no matter who you're playing with. At the end of the day he's one of the greatest of all time, but there's people who have beaten him.”
Winning the tournament was a long way from possible when he sat two over through his first five holes and made the turn with a 1-over 37. But he stormed back into contention with an eagle, birdie, birdie run on holes 1-3. A few more chances slipped by but Wolff most certainly has a chance to contend after finishing runner up in two of his last three starts.
Just days after being pipped at THE CJ CUP @ SHADOW CREEK by Jason Kokrak, Schauffele was flying at 5-under though 11 holes. But he dropped four shots in his next two holes to freefall down the leaderboard. But two birdies in his final three holes ensured he will also start Friday with a chance.