Matthew Wolff had a chance at making history Sunday. Instead, he was left with a lesson for his bright future.
The 21-year-old was the 54-hole leader by two shots at Winged Foot but let his first major championship slip away after shooting a 5-over-par 75 and finishing six shots behind the victorious Bryson DeChambeau. Wolff, just over a year removed from turning pro, settled for second place at even par.
“Shooting even par for four rounds at Winged Foot is pretty exceptional,” Wolff said. “I played really tough all week. I battled hard. Things just didn’t go my way. But [for my] first U.S. Open, second place is something to be proud of and hold your head up high for.
“I’m just excited to learn from this experience, and it’s definitely not the last time that I’m going to be in this spot.”
Wolff had vaulted himself into contention Saturday when he shot a 5-under 65 — tied for the lowest round of the championship. It put him 18 holes away from becoming the youngest U.S. Open champion since Bobby Jones in 1923.
Sixteen months ago, Wolff was winning an NCAA Championship at Oklahoma State. Now, he was playing in his first-ever U.S. Open and only his second-ever major. But he insisted it wasn’t the nerves that did him in on Sunday.
“I really didn’t feel that nervous out there. Maybe at the start I did, but at the start I played pretty well,” Wolff said, pointing to some “bad breaks” that left him with some tough lies. “I just think it wasn’t meant to be.”
Wolff started his final round with a pair of pars but bogeyed the third hole and then the fifth, at which point DeChambeau captured the lead for good. Wolff recorded an eagle on the ninth to keep pace with DeChambeau, but added two bogeys and a double bogey on the back nine.
In his first major last month at the PGA Championship, Wolff had delivered a strong Sunday showing with a 5-under to charge up the leaderboard and finish tied for fourth. He could have used that kind of finish this Sunday, but he knows his time will come.
“I think the biggest thing I’m going to take from it is just I have to stay really patient because there’s a lot of times out there that I kind of hung my head, and that could have been the difference between two, three shots,” he said. “Then at the end of the week, like I said, if I’m two, three shots closer to Bryson coming down the stretch, it’s just a different story.
“It’s the longest week of golf that I’ve ever played, and something that I’m going to know for the future, and next time I play, I’ll just know that it’s going to be a really long week and a marathon, and I just have to keep my head high.”