California cool, Matthew Wolff takes detour to US Open lead

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Matthew Wolff hits off the 18th fairway during the third round of the US Open Golf Championship, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, in Mamaroneck, N.Y. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

MAMARONECK, N.Y. – Matthew Wolff is playing his first U.S. Open and carving his own path.

That starts with shots he gouges out of the rough. It ends with him making six birdies, the last one a towering 7-iron from the first cut of rough that landed over the steep slope on the 18th green at Winged Foot and settled 10 feet right of the pin to match the best score — a 5-under 65 — at Winged Foot in a major.

He hit only two fairways Saturday on a course — and a major — with a blueprint for avoiding the rough. The only number that mattered to the 21-year-old Californian was a two-shot lead going into the final round.

“There's a lot of holes out there that maybe people would try to hit it in the fairway or maybe take the safe play because it is a U.S. Open, and they know that pars are a good score," Wolff said. “But I don't really like to think of it that way. I like to go out there and do what I feel comfortable with, rip dog and see how it goes from there.”

It's going so well that Wolff is one round away from becoming the youngest U.S. Open champion since Bobby Jones in 1923.

Maybe he's too young to realize U.S. Open champions are supposed to play from the short grass Or maybe Wolff is so dynamic and talented that it doesn't matter.

Either way, he held a two-shot lead over Bryson DeChambeau, another guy with a recipe all his own, who only hit three fairways managed to hang in there long enough to scratch out a 70 to keep his hopes very much alive.

“The round today was a huge battle," said DeChambeau, who was still on the range in darkness Saturday night. “I was proud of the way I persevered out there today. It was difficult. Especially when you’re not hitting it straight in the fairway. For me it felt like I kept myself in it, scrambled really well.”