“Welcome to the Tour, youngsters. Four to tie, three to win.”
Matthew Wolff and Collin Morikawa (AGC photo/Todd Drexler, SE Sports Media)
Wolff couldn’t hear that bit of commentary from analyst Nick Faldo on Sunday afternoon at the 3M Open, of course, but it’s also not like he needed the direction.
Wolff, approaching the par-5 18th at TPC Twin Cities just one shot off the lead, launched his second shot onto the left side of the green and jarred his eagle putt to win his first PGA Tour title.
“I just proved to myself that I can be out here,” Wolff said after finishing one shot ahead of Bryson Dechambeau.
DeChambeau had eagled the 18th in the next-to-last group, forcing Wolff to do the same. It set up a fitting end to a week in which young talent seemed to be a theme. Wolff played beside Collin Morikawa, a 22-year-old fresh Cal graduate, in the final pairing. Morikawa birdied the final hole to tie DeChambeau for second at 20 under.
Wolff has been playing professionally for less than a month. His first three starts have included a T-80 (Travelers Championship), missed cut (Rocket Mortgage Classic) and now a win. Wolff has also received a sponsor exemption into next week’s John Deere Classic.
Wolff was also playing on a sponsor exemption this week. By winning the 3M Open, he has secured PGA Tour membership through the 2020-21 season.
A winning 21-under total in Blane, Minn., included several noteworthy numbers. His third-round 62, which set up the victory, included a front-nine 29 that ended in five consecutive birdies (he made a sixth at No. 10). He played Sunday’s final nine in 5 under.
Wolff’s swing is perhaps less head-turning now than it was five months ago at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where he played as an amateur on a sponsor exemption, because his story is out there.
In case you need a recap, highlights from his time in amateur golf include:
2017 U.S. Junior runner-up
2018 Phil Mickelson Award winner as top college freshman in the nation
2019 NCAA individual champion
2019 NCAA single-season scoring record (68.7)
2019 Jack Nicklaus Award
2019 Fred Haskins Award
He clearly feels comfortable on this stage, and if there were any questions about whether the reigning NCAA individual champion should have returned to Oklahoma State for his junior season or forged ahead with his career, well, Sunday provided an answer.
In fact, the only thing that really seemed out of place about Wolff’s charge to victory was the color palette. We’ve gotten so used to Wolff in Cowboy orange and black that his baby blue and white final-round ensemble seemed a little too subtle.
It was the only subtle thing about Wolff’s whole week.
As for Morikawa, a tie for second also sets him up nicely in his budding career. Morikawa already impressed with a tie for 14th at the RBC Canadian Open, his professional debut. He made the cut at the U.S. Open the following week and at the Travelers Championship the week after that. In fact, Morikawa hasn’t finished outside the top 36 since turning professional.
It's as Faldo said: Welcome to the Tour, youngsters.
• • •
Other newbie pro performances worth noting:
• Wolff and Morikawa were the unquestionable frontmen at the 3M Open this weekend, but Viktor Hovland's performance is also worth pointing out. Even though he didn’t play in the final group – or really contend for the title – Hovland moved 14 spots up the leaderboard on Sunday with a final-round 65. It left him tied for 13th for the second consecutive week (he also logged a 13th-place finish at last week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic).
• On the LPGA, Yealimi Noh Monday qualified into the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic, opened with rounds of 63-65 and was one off the lead by Saturday morning. Noh, a 17-year-old who turned professional earlier this year without any status, was playing her third LPGA event but her first as a professional.
There is no rule for non-members on the LPGA that allows players to earn a start in the next week’s event with a top-10 finish. The Marathon LPGA Classic, however, has granted Noh a sponsor exemption to play the event next week.
For her T-6 finish, by the way, Noh pocketed $63,170.
• Patty Tavatanakit is another player barely into professional life after deciding to forego her final two years at UCLA. Her fourth pro start seemed relatively pedestrian until the final round, when she became the third LPGA player in history to make three eagles in a nine-hole stretch. She put the world on 59 watch, but ultimately ended up with an 11-under 61.
Tavatanakit, who played the LPGA Q-Series last fall, has status on the Symetra Tour.