Look out, golf world — Oklahoma State phenom Matthew Wolff has the swing and the swagger
Walk around a golf tournament these days with Matthew Wolff, and you’ll hear lots of encouraging words.
“You got this, Matt!”
“Go get ‘em, Wolff!”
Such sentiments used to come only from family and friends, those who knew him, but nowadays, everyone knows the sophomore at Oklahoma State. He can’t go anywhere without being recognized. Not to the putting green. Not to the driving range.
“All the pros, they get that every week,” he said. “But to see so many people out there cheering me on … it was really cool.”
The golf world doesn't just know Wolff — it loves him.
On the day OSU begins regional play, there are many reasons to like the Cowboys’ chances of repeating as national champs. They have four players back from that title team, and they know what it takes to win in May. But more than anything, they have great players.
None has been better this season than Wolff.
That includes teammate Viktor Hovland, a junior who was the low amateur at The Masters last month and has won three times during the college season.
Wolff has won five times, breaking OSU’s single-season record. A year after being college golf's Freshman of the Year and making the putt securing OSU's national title, he has been named a finalist for the Ben Hogan Award, the Heisman of college golf.
Along the way, he has become the up-and-coming face of golf.
Even with all his collegiate success, his blast off to stardom traces to a non-college event earlier this year. Wolff received an exemption to the Waste Management Phoenix Open and took full advantage of his PGA Tour debut. He played great golf, shooting a 4-under 67 in his opening round, making the cut and finishing 50th.
But Wolffsanity launched because of the nationwide broadcast of his swing.
It’s been called funky. Unorthodox. Wacky. Never before seen. All of that is true, starting with a move triggering everything. Wolff presses his shoulders forward and bends his knees slightly. It all happens quickly, like a little pulse before he pulls back his club.
But even then, the wackiness continues. Wolff pulls the club almost straight over his head, instead of swinging it back in an arch. Then at the top of his backswing, his front foot is up on his toe and his club head is way too far over the line on which most golfers swing.
“For generations of golfers, you’ve seen a straight-back, straight-through swing,” Wolff said. “There’s been some quirkiness to some people’s swings.”
He rattled off the names. Jim Furyk. Lee Trevino. Arnold Palmer. Even Jack Nicklaus lifted his foot.
“But for the most part, it’s pretty orthodox,” Wolff said. “This is kind of the first swing that people have seen that is very, very abnormal.”
The results are abnormal, too. Wolff, who quickly shallows out his swing and makes contact in perfect position, hits the cover off the ball. During his big opening round in Phoenix, he averaged 328 yards off the tee. But he also has great accuracy. That day in Phoenix, he hit 10 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens.
The unorthodox quirks of his swing have brought criticism. Old-school coaches have offered to fix his swing. Social-media heroes hiding behind anonymity have called it a mess.
Wolff ignores it all.
“It’s been all right,” he said of his swing. “I’ve had a little bit of success with it.”
Truth is, most of the golf world loves everything about Wolff. During the Phoenix Open, Golf Digest proclaimed him the new favorite player and obsession of Golf Twitter. The Golf Channel dubbed him “one of the most fascinating and exciting prospects in golf.”
Add an aggressive style, an engaging personality and an unmistakable swagger, and Wolff sure looks like a superstar in the making.
“When I’m out there, I love having a good time,” he said. It’s pretty natural for me. I’ve always been pretty friendly and very sociable. I can talk to pretty much anyone.”
And yet, he admits having fans engage with him has taken some adjustment. He’s not used to being recognized. Or madly cheered. Or widely beloved.
Matthew Wolff might want to come to terms with it.
Like his swing, Wolffsanity is set to blast off.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.
NCAA MEN’S GOLF REGIONALS
Where: University of Louisville Golf Club, Simpsonville, Kentucky
Notable: OSU, the regional’s top seed, is going after its fourth consecutive regional crown and its fifth in six years.
Where: Palouse Ridge Golf Club, Pullman, Washington
Notable: OU, ranked seventh nationally, will be challenged for the top spot by Georgia Tech, which is ranked eighth.
*The low five teams and low individual not on those teams in each regional advance the NCAA Championship, May 24-29 at Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Arkansas.