US Open Golf 2020: Matthew Wolff Surges into Lead as Patrick Reed Implodes Late

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistSeptember 19, 2020

Matthew Wolff is congratulated as he walks off the course after finishing the third round of the US Open Golf Championship, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, in Mamaroneck, N.Y. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Charles Krupa/Associated Press

Matthew Wolff is 18 holes away from establishing himself as the next big name in American golf.

The Tour rookie carded a five-under 65, surging into the lead to carry a two-stroke advantage over Bryson DeChambeau going into the final round of the 2020 U.S. Open. Louis Oosthuizen sits alone in third place at one under, with Hideki Matsuyama, Harris English and Xander Schauffele rounding out the Top Five.

Wolff now holds two of the three lowest U.S. Open rounds in Winged Foot history, including his first-round 66. 

On a day Winged Foot got the best of nearly every golfer in the field, Wolff had his own share of miscues. He hit just two of 14 fairways, one of the worst marks of the day, a mark that puts him in the expected score territory of around 77.

The fact that Wolff signed a scorecard 12 strokes better only highlights the brilliance of the rest of his game.

Wolff's play out of the rough was second to none, as he hit two-thirds of his greens in regulation and gained more than three strokes with his approach. His 26 putts were tied for fourth among all golfers Saturday, putting himself in commanding position for his first major championship.

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

Round 2 leader Patrick Reed collapsed after playing the first 45 holes of the tournament steadier than anyone else in the field. Reed bogeyed the par-three 10th, doubled at No. 11 and never recovered the rest of his back nine as he carded a 43 on his way to a seven-over 77. He now sits eight strokes behind and will need some Winged Foot magic to grab his second major.

DeChambeau overtook Reed's steady mantle after a rollercoaster Round 2, opening with back-to-back bogeys before settling himself into a par-fest he turned around late in the round. He parred 12 of his next 13 holes after the rough start, the lone exception being a birdie at No. 7, before sensational birdies at Nos. 16 and 17—two of the toughest holes Winged Foot has to offer. A bogey on No. 18 forced DeChambeau to finish at 70 on the round, but he's still the only golfer in the field to shoot every round at par or better. 

The reconfiguration of DeChambeau's game, pure dominance through power, has polarized fans but has proven an excellent strategy on a course where no one can find the fairway. DeChambeau's birdie on No. 17 came after he muscled a 155-yard laser out of the deep cut to within seven feet of the hole. 

Barring a leaderboard collapse, Sunday should come down to a battle between two of golf's most promising young Americans.

Wolff has looked like a seasoned pro in major competition this year, finishing in a tie for fourth at last month's PGA before locking himself into a 54-hole lead in the biggest test of his golfing career. If Wolff wins, the combined age of the year's two major winners (the other being Collin Morikawa) will be 44—the same age as Tiger Woods right now. 

Wolff and Morikawa make the 27-year-old DeChambeau look like a grizzled veteran by comparison. 

In the event both Wolff and DeChambeau collapse, Rory McIlroy could be poised to strike. McIlroy's two-under 68 tied for the third-best round Saturday, allowing him to recover from a frustrating 76 in Round 2 to sit six strokes out of the lead.