Whether it was the first cut or the rough villain, Wolff continued to give those hips one last pivot before he took to the skies and gave himself bird chances. He did enough to take control and then let so many others fall apart.
Patrick Reed, tied for the lead on the turn, couldn’t find the fairway and paid dearly with a 43 on the back nine. Reed had a three-stroke lead after two holes. He came off the 18th green with a 77 and was eight strokes behind.
Collin Morikawa won the PGA Championship last month on his first try at 23. Wolff plays his first US Open at age 21. Is he next?
“I’m probably going to be a little nervous. It’s the US Open, and I have a lead, ”Wolff said. “I’ll try to keep my nerves as calm as possible. I put myself in a very good position. I’ve done everything I could do so far, and tomorrow I’m going to go, I promise you I’ll do my best. ”
He was 5 under 205. It hasn’t been since Francis Ouimet in 1913 – also the last time the US Open was played in September – that a player has won the US Open in his debut.
DeChambeau could have easily taken the same lane as Reed, missing left and right, making his way out of the grass. But after opening with two bogeys he continued to squeeze – 15 straight holes with nothing worse than par. He rallied with two late birdies until he missed a short putt on the 18th for a 70.
He’ll be in the final group for the first time in a major, another quiet affair with no spectators on the course.
The US Open started with 21 under par. There were six for the weekend. Now there are just three left with Louis Oosthuizen effectively collecting a 68 to finish at 1 under 209.
Hideki Matsuyama (70), Xander Sc Chaudele (70) and Harris English (72) were tied at 210. Rory McIlroy, who posted his 68 some three hours before the leaders ended, also fired back.
“It doesn’t take much here… and all of a sudden you’re right on target,” said McIlroy. “No matter where I am at the end of the day, I feel like I have a really good shot. ”
It all depends on Wolff, an NCAA champion in Oklahoma State who won the PGA TOUR in his third round as a professional last summer at the 3M Open in Minnesota.
From the first rough cut on the opening hole, he hit it to the right level of the streamlined green for a 15-foot birdie. From the rough straight on No.4 he ended up with another 15-foot birdie putt. And then he really spread it.
He drove past the green onto the par-4 sixth short, ascending and descending from a bunker for birdie. He birdied 12 feet on the seventh par 3. And when he finally reached his first fairway on No 8, he missed a 6 foot birdie attempt.
His only bogey arrived on the 16th when he was in such a bad lie that he couldn’t reach the green. And he ended with a most fortuitous jump. His iron off the tee jumped into the thick rough and came back to the first cut. He tore the iron 7-10 feet for one final birdie.
“If I don’t hit the fairways tomorrow I know I can play well,” Wolff said with a smile. “Even when I was in bad shape, I had a bunch of good numbers and a bunch of good lies. ”
And he played a lot of good golf, so good that even at his age he looked like an intimidating character to catch.
“I don’t think there is any ‘chase’ here,” said ScHotele, adding that if Wolff had another good turn on Sunday it would be “impossible to catch him”.
DeChambeau gave himself hope, among five players less than five from the lead on a course where anything goes. Remember the last US Open at Winged Foot in 2006, when Geoff Ogilvy hit a stunning 6-foot par he thought was only good for second place until Phil Mickelson and Colin Montgomerie closed with double bogeys.
“I feel like I’m ready to win here and win a major,” Wolff said. “He’s a major. It’s really important and yes, it’s really early in my career. But I feel like I have the game to win. Collin won at 23. I’m 21. And I’m not saying it’s okay. But I put myself in a very good position, and obviously I feel really good with my game. ”