Matthew Wolff was five days shy of celebrating his first birthday when Tom Lehman shot a final-round 69 at the 2000 Masters and finished alone in sixth place.
Saturday morning in the third round of the 3M Open in Blaine, the two golfers 40 years apart in age walked side-by-side for 18 holes at TPC Twin Cities and shared stories, laughs and crowd-pleasing golf shots.
“It was an honor,” the 20-year-old Wolff said, signing for a 9-under 62 that put him at 15 under total and in a tie for the lead with 22-year-old Collin Morikawa and second-round leader Bryson DeChambeau. “I’ve been watching him ever since I could walk. To be able to play alongside with him, especially pretty much in his hometown, or his home state, was awesome.”
Wolff is the recent NCAA champion out of Oklahoma State who hits it a ton off the tee, without a doubt one of the tour’s up-and-coming stars.
Saturday, he shot 29 on the front nine to Lehman’s 33 but lost the on-course popularity contest by a mile.
When Lehman — “from Alexandria, Minnesota!” — was announced by the starter on the first tee the bloated gallery roared in approval.
Earlier in the tournament Lehman was announced as playing out of Scottsdale, Ariz.
“We whiffed on that one,” Lehman laughed.
For the next four hours most everything was drilled dead-solid perfect.
Lehman, who shot 3-under 68 and is six shots back at 9 under for the tournament, got the upper hand on the prodigy first. He stuck his approach shot on No. 1 to 8 feet and on No. 2 to 13 feet for a pair of birdies.
“After that it was kind of the Matthew Wolff Show,” Lehman said. “Kind of got sucked into watching him play and, boy, what a round he played. He hit so many amazing iron shots. He nearly jarred it three or four times.”
Wolff, with a powerful yet herky-jerky swing off the tee, routinely outdrove the smooth-swingin’ Lehman all morning — by some 75 yards on No. 6. One hole later, though, the Champions Tour regular showed what so many have learned: The “putt for dough” saying has some truth to it, after all.
Wolff put his tee shot in a greenside bunker on the par-4 seventh. Lehman was straight off the tee but in the fairway 44 feet from the cup. One stroke later with the putter, Lehman had an eagle while Wolff made a beauty up-and-down for birdie.
The two shared wry smiles and made the walk across the road to the eighth tee hamming it up.
“It’s fun to see how gifted they are,” Lehman said of the young flock of players flooding the tour.
At one point during the front nine a woman in the gallery took note of Lehman’s fresh-faced caddie working with him around the green.
“I think that’s his grandson on the bag,” she whispered
Actually, it’s 16-year-old Sean working for Dad at the 3M Open. At times, Sean chatted up the player four years his senior rather than the one who raised him.
“Sean and those guys had more in common that I did,” Lehman said. “But we had a good time together.”
Said Wolff: “A round that I’m going to remember for the rest of my life.”