Wolff, Morikawa in spot for first career PGA win at 3M Open

Sports

Matthew Wolff hits his ball out of the rough along the side of the 18th hole during the third round of the 3M Open golf tournament in Blaine, Minn., Saturday, July 6, 2019. (Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune via AP)

BLAINE, Minn. (AP) — Matthew Wolff and Collin Morikawa grew up about 30 minutes apart in California and golfed against each other in high school.

That was only a few years ago.

Sunday’s competition could result in a much bigger reward.

The first-month professionals are in prime positions for one to get his first career win at a first-time event.

Wolff shot a 9-under 62 Saturday to share the lead with Morikawa and Bryson DeChambeau at 15 under after three rounds of the inaugural 3M Open.

Morikawa shot a 7-under 64 at the TPC Twin Cities; DeChambeau a 1-under 70.

Seeking his first tour win in 31 tour starts, Wyndham Clark shot a 64 and was tied with Adam Hadwin (69) one shot back.

Wolff, 20, who won the NCAA individual title on Memorial Day, is playing in his third event since turning professional, Morikawa, 22, his fourth. They’re the final pairing Sunday.

“It’s on a lot bigger stage, but our games played very well throughout the spring,” said Morikawa, named the Pac-12 Men’s Golfer of the Year in May. “We’re going to have to control our nerves, remember who we are, what brought us out here.”

“These guys are really good, and I know I’m really good, so it’s going to be fun,” Wolff said.

A bomber off the tee, Wolff is averaging 306.5 yards through three rounds with his herky-jerky swing. A change in philosophy is allowing that length to be more of an asset.

“The last couple weeks I think I’ve been a little too strategic. I got together this week with my team and I said, ‘You know what, I’m just going to rip driver and just send it.’ That’s kind of what I’ve been doing, and it’s been working out,” he said.

Wolff, who made his professional debut two weeks ago by finishing 80th at the Travelers Championship and missed the cut at last week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic, added stellar approach shots to help him record six straight birdies on Nos. 5-10. None of the putts were longer than 8 feet. Birdies at No. 13 and 15 made a round of 59 seem possible.

However, Wolff missed a 4-foot birdie putt on No. 16 and a tee shot into a bunker led to bogey on the par-3 17th. He scrambled for birdie on No. 18 after an errant tee shot.

“When I birdied 10 to get to 7-under, I was kind of thinking 59, but I kind of knew I had to stay in the moment,” Wolff said. “And my caddie, Steve Lohmeyer, he’s been really good about that. We talk about, you know, free agency and pretty much anything in between shots to kind of take my mind off of it, which really helped.”

Calling his round “pretty much stress-free,” Morikawa birdied five of his first seven holes, but only three the rest of the way.

“Just hit my lines, hit a lot of good shots and played to my strengths. Ball-striking has been my strength ever since I’ve been a little kid,” he said.

Playing in ideal weather conditions — temperatures in the low-80s, increasing clouds and no wind — 65 of the 85 players shot under par on the par-71 layout.

DeChambeau barely did.

After his sixth career win and first since the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in November, he opened the day with a two-shot lead but birdied only the first and last holes to go with one bogey and 15 pars.

“I just didn’t make a couple putts that were necessary to give myself that three-, four-shot lead like I should have today,” he said.

Sixteen players are within four shots of the lead, including Hideki Matsuyama, Charles Howell III and Troy Merritt, who graduated from nearby Spring Lake Park High School. Each shot a 66 and are two shots behind.

“You always want to come out here right away and have success, but that’s really hard to do,” said Merritt, 33. “These kids are doing well and that’s good for the game.”

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