PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland – Matthew Wolff might be the real deal in golf, and thankfully we should have plenty of time to see what comes of him.
Wolff, with his signature loopy swing, has taken the golfing world by storm with a victory recently at the PGA Tour’s inaugural 3M Open. The 20-year-old Californian by way of Oklahoma State is a golf celebrity, with his star only starting to rise.
Collin Morikawa features a more conventional swing, but his results have been impressive, too. Morikawa, 22, also a Californian, by way of Cal-Berkeley, seems to have a big future on the PGA Tour. He tied for fourth Sunday at the John Deere Classic, one week after finishing second to Wolff at the 3M.
If you need any more evidence of Wolff’s no-fear attitude, recall two Sundays ago when Wolff faced a 26-foot eagle putt for the victory at the 3M Open but needed only a two-putt birdie to ensure a playoff with Bryson DeChambeau. When the ball found the bottom of the cup, the playoff was moot, and Wolff declared his position on top of the golfing world for at least one week when Morikawa missed a similar putt for eagle to force a playoff.
Wolff and Morikawa represent the future of golf, just as Jordan Spieth did when he burst onto the PGA Tour in 2013. But it takes only a couple of bad starts before the questions start and emotional scars begin to develop.
Neither Wolff nor Morikawa qualified to be at Royal Portrush this week for the 148th British Open. Neither will Norway’s Viktor Hovland, the reigning U.S. Amateur champion who turned pro this summer, forgoing his exemption into the Open. They likely will have many other opportunities to play, but why wait?
It would be unfair to suggest that the R&A has not tried every year to create as many opportunities as possible to allow the greatest number of elite players to qualify for golf’s oldest championship, but those changes still need to be reviewed with an eye toward improvement.
If Hovland earned his place by winning the U.S. Amateur, why should he lose it when he turned pro?
Shouldn’t winning on the PGA Tour be enough for a spot in the British Open, as it is for most Tour winners for the Masters? At the very least, an event with a minimum strength of field should warrant a winner’s exemption into the British Open.
Picking the top three from the top 10 of various tournaments via the Open Qualifying Series has charm, but does it create the strongest field?
On Sunday when the “champion golfer of the year” is crowned and he walks around the 18th green with the Claret Jug in hand, the fact that Hovland, Morikawa and Wolff were not here will make no difference, but the event would have been better if they had been.