It's the Wolff of Winged Foot as Matthew leads US Open

Californian on course to become youngest major winner since Tiger Woods in 1997

Saturday, 19th September 2020, 11:46 pm
Updated Saturday, 19th September 2020, 11:51 pm
Leader Matthew Wolff reacts on the 18th green during the third round of the 120th US Open at Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, New York. Picture; Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Leader Matthew Wolff reacts on the 18th green during the third round of the 120th US Open at Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, New York. Picture; Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

First Collin Morikawa then Sophia Popov and Mirim Lee. Now Matthew Wolff is bidding to become another first-time major winner since golf came out of its Covid-19 lockdown.

The 21-year-old, who probably has the most unorthodox swing in the game since the days of Eamonn Darcy, leads by two shots heading into the final round in the 120th US Open at Winged Foot.

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He raced to the turn in 30, five-under-par, in the penultimate circuit and went on to card a brilliant 65 for a five-under-par total at the Mamaroneck course, which sits around 45 minutes from Manhattan.

The splendid day's work left Wolff out in front from fellow American Bryson DeChambeau (70), with 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen (68) third on one-under.

After matching 70s, Hideki Matsuyama and Xander Schauffele are both on level-par along with Harris English (72), with 2011 winner Rory McIlroy (68) sitting on his own in seventh on one-over after dragging himself back into the title hunt following a disappointing 76 on Friday.

Wolff is bidding to become the youngest men's major winner since Tiger Woods in the 1997 Masters and the first to land this title at the first attempt since Francis Ouimet in 1913.

If he can hold his nerve, the Californian will also join Morikawa, Popov and Lee in having something special to savour this year after their wins in the US PGA Championship, AIG Women's Open and ANA Inspiration respectively over the past couple of months.

"It was a grind out there," said Wolff, who is playing in just his second major, having also been in contention before finishing in a tie for fourth behind Morikawa in the US PGA on the US west coast last month, of hitting just two out of 14 fairways.

"I felt I was hitting it really good, but I had a bunch of good lies in the rough and a bunch of good numbers. Today was a good day. I felt really good about every part of my game and will go out tomorrow hoping for the same."

Wolff, who started the day four behind Reed, birdied the first, fourth, sixth, seventh and ninth as he made his move in the rescheduled USGA event. That thrust moved him into the outright lead before former Masters champion Reed also moved to five-under with a birdie at the ninth.

In easier conditions than the early starters had encountered in a troublesome wind, Reed came up well short with his tee shot at the par-3 tenth, under-cooked his chip as well and dropped a shot.

He then ran up a double-bogey 6 at the next to leave Wolff three shots clear as Schauffele, having made his move with a run of four straight 3s to end the front nine, also hit a rocky patch.

Wolff had managed to get away with most fairways until he dropped his first shot of the day at the par-4 16th but repaired that damage in style by hitting his approach to 10 feet after making the most of a break as his tee shot jumped out of the rough.

DeChambeau, who is also bidding to land his major breakthrough, started bogey-bogey and had become ragged around the edges before trimming Wolff's lead to one with a birdies at the 16th and 17th before finishing with a bogey.

Oosthuizen, who tied for second behind Jordan Spieth at Bandon Dunes in 2015, is lurking ominously after carding a 68 that included three birdies on the tough back nine.

"Any under-par round at a US Open you'll take," said the South African, who has finished runner-up in every major but has never won a tournament in the US.

"I think we got very lucky today. Waking up this morning, watching a bit of golf, you could see it was really cold, windy, and it definitely died down for us.

After starting out seven shots behind Reed, McIlroy re-ignited his title bid with a 68 to move to one-over. “It was really good,” said the four-time major winner of an effort that included three birdies in six holes around the turn.

"The key for me was playing the first few holes well after seeing from some of the early starters that they were playing really tough. I executed my gameplan really well and, when I was in trouble, I relied on my short game. I feel I am right in it.”

Reed limped home in 43 for a 77 to go from sharing the lead at the turn to being eight shots off the pace.

World No 1 Dustin Johnson (72) sits nine back while second-ranked Jon Rahm has 12 shots to make up on Wolff after a disappointing 76.

Scottish No 1 Bob MacIntyre carded the same score to sit joint-50th on 12-over after making the cut on his debut in the event.

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