Matthew Wolff’s golf swing is herky. It’s jerky. It’s something that could make Jim Furyk wonder what the heck’s going on with this 20-year-old potential Next Big Thing on the PGA Tour.
But Wolff who has that odd, twitchy, fast swing — with its dip, turn and hyperactive left foot — also shot 2-under 69 in Thursday’s first round of the 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities.
“I’ve had people try to change it, say, ‘I can help you with that swing,’ ” said Wolff, playing in just his fourth PGA Tour event and hoping to improve upon the career-best tie for 50th he had as an amateur at the Waste Management Open in February. “That would be in the back of my head. But now that I’ve proven I was the best player in college golf … why fix it if it’s not broken?”
Amen, says Hollis Cavner. The 3M Open executive director granted a sponsor’s exemption to the Oklahoma State Cowboy with the 2019 NCAA title belt, an ear-blasting driver and a PGA Tour dream that pushed him to turn pro last month after his sophomore season.
Wolff’s opening round began with a 325-yard rocket that laughed high above the fairway bunker on the corner of the dogleg right. The ball nestled 68 yards from the pin.
“He has power you just can’t teach,” said his agent, Graham Shopley.
From a swing no one would teach.
Asked about the history of the swing, Wolff’s mom, Shari, says, “Which part? The loop at the top, the left foot or the trigger?”
The trigger is stranger, but let’s start with the loop and then the left foot.
“I take the club just upright and then across the line and then drop it in the slot,” Wolff said. “There are little things I work on with my coach, George Gankas, but overall it’s a swing that brought me a lot of success.”
Actually, Wolff grew up thinking his swing wasn’t any different from the cookie-cutter ones being crafted at the private clubs his mom couldn’t afford as an office manager and bookkeeper. All he knew was he kept winning tournaments.
Now, that left foot. While most righthanded pros have a calm left foot that stays flat, Wolff’s rises during his swing and drives back down into the ground with such force that …
“I leave two divots,” Wolff said. “One with my club and one with my left foot.”
Now, the trigger.
“He broke his collarbone when he was 15,” Shari said. “He was hitting everything right because his shoulders were out of sync. The dip and turn started out as a drill.”
Wolff would dip his body and rotate his back shoulder, hip and head toward the target. It helped his follow-through.
“Then he just started incorporating it into his swing as a trigger to get his swing started,” Shari said. “He said to his coach, ‘George, can I do this?’ And George said, ‘Of course, you can.’ ”
This all takes place in a blink before the ball gets blasted.
As a child, Wolff was a multisport athlete. He pitched in the 12-and-under national championship game at Cooperstown. But not long after that, he committed full-time to golf.
He grew up in Agoura Hills, Calif. He joined the Westlake High School golf team, where he met Gankas, the teaching pro at Westlake Golf Club.
“George,” he says, “is the only person I trust with my swing.”
Wolff hit driver nine times at the par-71 TPC Twin Cities. He averaged 318 yards. He also hit a 3-wood 330 yards off the tee at the par-5 12th.
He had eagle putts on all three par-5s. To better understand his length advantage, let him explain what happened after a 340-yard drive on the 593-yard sixth hole:
“I had 258 to the hole, 230 to the front. … My 2-iron flies about 255 and my 4-iron flies about 230. I was like, ‘I can try and step on a 4-iron.’ I absolutely murdered it. Landed at 257.”
Over water. He two-putted from 15 feet for one of his six birdies.
But Wolf also had four bogeys. At the par-5 12th, he three-putted for par from 42 feet.
He finished with a birdie, hitting 5-iron from 241 into the par-5 18th and two-putting from 31 feet.
“My power has always been an advantage,” Wolff said. “More putts are going to drop. Once that happens, things are going to take off.”
Mark Craig is a reporter for the Star Tribune. Twitter: @markcraigNFL E-mail: mcraig@startribune.