Chip Shots: Rookie with a funky swing captures PGA tournament

Who’s Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolff?




I have a lot of loose ends to catch up on before we head to Ireland for the “Grand Daddy” of golf majors, The Open Championship. The Open has been played for 147 years, but this one is going to be different . . . a lot different.

The last Open to be played outside of Scotland and England was 68 years ago at this year’s venue, Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland. The Open is known for always having tickets available, but the excitement level is so high that it has been a sellout for months. Unbelievable and almost unprecedented.

On a personal note, I have been looking forward to my return to Ireland since 2009. Why ’09 you ask? Well, that year when appearing as a guest on an Irish radio network in advance of the U.S. Open being held at Bethpage Black, I was asked to pick the winner.

I boldly tabbed Lucas Glover who was a real long shot at 250 to 1 to win that U.S. Open Championship. Apparently, enough Irish listeners took my advice and made a bundle. But one who wasn’t too happy was Ireland’s largest bookmaker, Paddy Power, who blamed my prediction for causing a $1 million-plus loss at the betting shops. After Glover won that U.S. Open Championship, it was mentioned several times that whenever I returned to Ireland that I will never have to pay for a drink. Sounds like a good time to me.

Speaking of excitement, the return of the PGA Tour to the state of Minnesota and the 3M Open was a huge success.

So, the question now is, who’s afraid of the big bad wolf? A song by the same title was written in 1933 by Frank Churchill. In case you don’t remember, it was a song about three little pigs who were confident their houses could stand up to the big bad wolf.

On the PGA Tour, it’s been generally accepted that there is a big learning curve in transitioning from college golf to professional golf. Well, this past weekend, it was Matt Wolff who huffed and puffed and blew the door down on his way into the PGA Tour winner’s circle.

Earlier this year, Wolff won the NCAA individual championship and in doing so, became only the third golfer in history to win both the NCAA and a PGA Tour event in the same year. I am sure you heard of the other two: Ben Crenshaw and Tiger Woods. Wolff’s the second youngest winner in the past 80 years to win on the PGA TOUR at 20 years old. The youngest is Jordan Spieth.

Hats off to the Oklahoma State golf coaches for not trying to change Wolff’s very unusual swing. If I were asked to describe it, I would suggest you try to visualize an octopus in a phone booth attempting to hit a golf ball . . . and hit it a long way. He is definitely one to watch and I predict that he’ll be around for a long time.

Another interesting Wolff sighting — a couple of weeks ago when Wolff made his pro debut in the Travelers in Hartford, he had J.P. Fitzgerald on the bag. You might remember that J.P. caddied very successfully for Rory McIlroy for a long time. Wolff had never met J.P. prior to that week in Hartford, but after Wolff finished 80th the blind date was over.

Steve Lohmeyer, a former Kent State golfer who started as an assistant pro then turned looper, got the call from Wolff, and, lo and behold, now has his 10-percent share of that $1,152,000 winner’s check in his bank account. I think it’s safe to say that Lohmeyer made the right move in taking over Wolff’s bag.

So let me answer the question who’s afraid of the big bad Wolff? I’d say everyone playing on the PGA Tour.

Wolff’s swing may look funky but his ability to close the deal is not.