Lynch: For Matt Wolff, mental health and not score defines success at US Open

Matthew Wolff on his recent absence: "The biggest thing right now that I'm trying to do is enjoy myself again."

Lynch: For Matt Wolff, mental health and not score defines success at US Open

SAN DIEGO — In many respects, Matthew Wolff’s opening round at the U.S. Open mirrored his brief but turbulent career.

He began strong—3-under par through four holes and in the lead—just as he did on the PGA Tour by winning in only his third start. Then came the rough sledding, a bogey-double bogey-bogey run that rocked him, much as the last eight months has with WDs, a DQ at the Masters, no shows at the Players and PGA Championship and a two-month break mid-season.

One can only hope that Wolff’s closing effort—four birdies that settled him on the positive side of the ledger with a one-under par 70—suggests his future trajectory.

“A lot of good, a lot of bad,” he said afterward, a verdict equally applicable to his year as to his day. “I fell back a little bit and things weren’t always going good, but I’m still enjoying myself and having fun and being happy and in my opinion right now that’s kind of what I’m working on and the most important thing for me regardless of how it goes out there.”

Wolff’s comments after his round were more compelling, and more important, than any of the events logged on the scorecard here at Torrey Pines on Thursday. A popular and likable young man opened a vein on the pressure that drove him to step away from the PGA Tour, the crushing weight of expectations placed on young shoulders, the disorienting effect of always trying to please someone else.

He explained his recent absence with unsparing honesty.

“I didn’t want to walk away. … Then when I finally started to get to a bad enough spot, honestly I was like, you know what, I need some time,” he said. “The biggest thing right now that I’m trying to do is enjoy myself again and just take care of myself really. I mean, I love these fans and I want to play well for them, but right now I’m just really trying to be happy and I, like I said, I live a great life and I want to enjoy it.”

Wolff has many attributes to which shallow cynics might point to as evidence that he has little to complain about. There’s the $5.7 million in career earnings at age 22, the PGA Tour victory, the movie star good looks, the sublime talent. There’s always an antipodal side though.

Twenty-two is awfully young to have every working day judged a success or failure based on a number on a card, awfully young to realize there’s nowhere to hide and no way to bluff, awfully young to adjust to having others be paid to judge you, awfully young to grasp that a good day today only increases the expectations for tomorrow. Life on the PGA Tour is a lonely existence, even for popular and upbeat guys. Relationships are tougher to maintain and quicker to break. And when a man’s focus is on that ‘total’ box on the scorecard, his life can become more about that sum than its parts.

Naomi Osaka is a year older than Wolff. Last month she walked away from a shot at her fifth Grand Slam title, withdrawing from the French Open citing mental health worries. She will also skip Wimbledon later this month. Her example on prioritizing mental health, on seeking out her own equilibrium, did not go unnoticed by Wolff.

“I live an amazing life. So many millions and millions and millions of people would trade me in a heartbeat,” he said. “I needed to just kind of get back and be like, ‘Dude, you live an unbelievable life. You don’t always have to play good.’ I know I want to, I want to always play good, I want to always please the fans, but I just kind of realized that I just need to enjoy myself and be happy.”

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Perspective is a hard-won thing at 22 years old. Wolff gives the impression of a young man determined to steady his ship, who understands that what others expect of him need not necessarily determine what he expects of himself, and that he does not have to do it alone, in silence.

Thursdays at major championships are often focused on feel-good stories, usually journeymen unfamiliar with the glamorous end of a leaderboard enjoying a moment. There’s a transience to those tales though, as if we implicitly know that what we applaud after the first round won’t be there after the final round. Wolff’s 70 was the kind of rollercoaster ride (just five pars) that doesn’t lend itself to success at a U.S. Open, but he arrived here with no expectations. In fact, he deliberately chose the toughest championship of all for his return.

“I figure if I shoot 78 there’s going to be a lot of people that do it as well, so it won’t stand out quite as much,” he said with a wry laugh.

His round of 70 was encouraging, but Wolff knows that success this week is measured by something more indelible than pencil scratches on a scorecard.

“I have been working really hard about just staying in the level head space and focusing on the shot ahead of you and not the shot behind you. I’m probably going to be struggling with that and learning how to handle bad shots for the rest of my career,” he said. “But I’m young and I’m learning and I’m just trying to enjoy it.”

Source : Golf Week More   

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Watch: Bryson DeChambeau photobombs Brooksie at U.S. Open: 'I saw an opportunity and I just had fun with it.'

Bryson DeChambeau just couldn't help himself.

Watch: Bryson DeChambeau photobombs Brooksie at U.S. Open: 'I saw an opportunity and I just had fun with it.'

SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau just couldn’t help himself.

He noticed that Golf Channel’s Todd Lewis was conducting a post-round interview on Thursday with Brooks Koepka and jumped into the frame, spreading his arms wide to grab the attention of viewers. In short, it was a perfect photo bomb.

“I saw an opportunity and I just had fun with it,” DeChambeau said.

The reigning U.S. Open champion has a bit of a goofball in him and so his actions were par for the course. Golf fans shouldn’t read anything more into it. Things, however, escalated quickly in the growing feud between Koepka and DeChambeau last month when a similar video of Lewis interviewing Koepka went viral and nearly broke the Internet.

In that video, DeChambeau can be seen walking in the shot behind Koepka mid-interview and Koepka sighs, rolls his eyes, loses his train of concentration, and drops a few choice words directed at DeChambeau.

“People are thinking I was doing something. I wasn’t doing anything at the PGA Championship,” DeChambeau said on Thursday.

It sparked a back-and-forth war of words on social media that drew headlines and also calls for the USGA to pair these two together. That didn’t happen.

It also had some, including former U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson, wondering if their feud was staged to improve their standings in the PGA Tour’s new Player Impact Program, which will pay out $40 million to the 10 most popular players “who are judged to drive fan and sponsor engagement.”

“I don’t know if they texted each other on the side and possibly went in agreement, let’s play this thing up for player impact program,” Simpson said. “That was kind of one of my thoughts.”

Koepka shot 2-under 69 in the opening round while DeChambeau struggled and signed for 2-over 73.

“I hit it really bad,” DeChambeau said. “I just didn’t feel confident with the swing and left it in some really bad spots. I made too many bogeys, unfortunately, and wasn’t hitting it well. I worked really hard to get my golf swing to a place where I felt comfortable yesterday, and this afternoon I just didn’t feel comfortable.”

DeChambeau hit balls on the range, which had no lighting, after his round in darkness. Maybe it will spark a better performance on Friday and improve his chances for a weekend showdown between the ropes with Koepka. That’s the pairing all golf fans are waiting to see.

Source : Golf Week More   

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