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POTOMAC, Md. — Four players are tied for the early lead at the 2022 Wells Fargo Championship, and one of them hadn’t seen the back nine until Thursday’s first round.
That’s why Matthew Wolff’s name is on his bag, folks.
The 23-year-old is one of a handful of players tied atop the leaderboard at 5 under from the morning wave after a 65 that was aided by four birdies on his back nine at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm, this year’s substitute course while Quail Hollow Club, the normal Wells Fargo host, prepares for the Presidents Cup in September.
“Yeah, I’m thrilled. I played my home course like four days ago and I lost every golf ball I had in my bag, so I really didn’t come here expecting to play well,” Wolff said of his round. “Like I said, I was just trying to work on my attitude and have a good time. I think sometimes I play courses better when I don’t see them just because it frees me up. When you know a course too much, you know where the trouble is and stuff and you might get a little guidey.”
After a bogey on the par-5 second hole, Wolff kept his card clean the rest of the way, making consecutive birdies on Nos. 4-5 to make the turn at 1 under. From there he added birdies on No. 11 and then three in a row on Nos. 13-15 to join local favorite Denny McCarthy, Aaron Rai and Callum Tarren in the lead.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) May 5, 2022
After winning the 2019 3M Open just months into his professional career, Wolff has been on a roller coaster of a ride on the PGA Tour with peaks and valleys aplenty. Lately he’s been working on his mental approach and defining his own success instead of basing it off the success of others, like his fellow Class of 2019 rookies Viktor Hovland and Collin Morikawa.
“I feel like I call myself a people pleaser because I kind of just like to please everyone,” said Wolff. “I’ve kind of learned that you can’t really make everyone happy. If you have a good attitude, most people don’t even care how you play, they just kind of like to see that you’re having a good time, and especially the people most important to me. That’s kind of all I’ve been working on.”
In a real moment of self analyzation, Wolff even admitted to his poor attitude not only impacting himself, but his playing partners and others around him.
“Just looking back on it, I think it’s happened a couple times and I wish I could go back and reverse it and I feel terrible,” said Wolff, noting how its hard to play with someone who brings negative energy. “If I let it affect myself, that’s one thing, but if I let it affect someone else, then that’s unacceptable.”
In his first few years on Tour after leaving college early, Wolff has grown and matured by learning his lessons the hard way.
“I wish I would have stayed in college a little more just to be in college,” Wolff said with a laugh. “It’s hard because the down times that I’ve had, I’ve had to do it in front of everyone whereas in college, I know there’s some eyeballs but if you have down times in college or mini tours or Korn Ferry Tours, which is where I’d probably be right now if I hadn’t turned pro, it’s a little easier to overcome those because you don’t feel like you’re fully in the spotlight.
“I don’t regret what I’ve done. I think everything played out the way it was supposed to and I know I’m going to be better and happier from it because of everything that I went through, but at the end of the day, I’m just trying to be better for my peers and my playing competitors and myself as well.”
But don’t get it twisted. The former star at Oklahoma State won’t let his Thursday success change his expectations for the week going forward.
“I can go out and shoot 90 tomorrow and as long as I have a good attitude, I can put a check mark on this week and say that I’ve grown as a person and as a player and that’s just all I really care about right now,” explained Wolff. “If I get in a spot where I’m in contention or if I’m by the lead, I’m sure I’m going to feel nerves, but those are the nerves that I like to feel. I don’t like to feel the nerves of other people or trying to please people. If you put that on yourself or you’re in that situation, that’s what we’re all out here for and that’s what we all love, but at the end of the day I’m not here — to be honest, it’s funny, but I’m not here to win a golf tournament, I’m here to have a good time.”