Matthew Wolff has played just once in the past two months.
He needed more time off.
“Break was short, but nice,” Wolff said ahead of his first start of 2021 in this week’s American Express at PGA West in La Quinta, California. “Wish I could have had a little more time off. It was a pretty hectic end of last year with the times right now. COVID is getting pretty crazy and you kind of had to like squeeze as many tournaments in as you could ending last year. I feel like the break wasn’t quite long enough. I feel like I’m still a little tired and stuff.”
Along with the COVID-19 global pandemic forcing players’ hands, Wolff’s youthful exuberance played a role in his decision to play nine consecutive weeks once the PGA Tour returned in June after a 13-week hiatus. In all, the 21-year-old – who won the 2019 3M Open in just his third start as a pro – played 16 weeks in a five-month stretch last year that left him exhausted.
But wiser. The stellar graduate of the Class of 2019 along with Viktor Hovland and reigning PGA Championship victor Collin Morikawa said he still has a lot to learn about playing inside the ropes and dealing with his livelihood away from the golf course. The latter portion of last year was an important tutorial.
“That kind of killed me right from the start,” Wolff said of playing nine consecutive tournaments. “I had a really good stretch of golf, and I played really well, and it was a good learning experience, for sure, just to see how much I could handle or how tired I was and I think I learned a lot from that stretch of just knowing what my body can take and how many events in a row I can play.
“I’m not sure exactly what my schedule’s going to look like this year, but I know that I’m definitely going to try to allow myself a little more off-time in between stretches just to let my body and my mind relax.”
While Wolff said there were weeks where he “couldn’t find the map,” with his game last year, there were more than enough good weeks to make up for it. The youngster with an eye-popping, quick-trigger, unorthodox swing that produces explosive clubhead speed and power finished runner-up to Bryson DeChambeau in the Rocket Mortgage Classic and the U.S. Open, finished in a tie for fourth in the PGA Championship (his first major as a pro) and lost in a playoff in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
In just 33 official starts as a pro, he’s risen to No. 15 in the official world golf ranking and is 12th in the USA’s Ryder Cup standings.
“I feel like the most important thing that I tried to do is focus on the positives more than the negatives and sometimes that might be hard,” Wolff said. “It was a pretty crazy year last year and I’m glad I got some rest and I’m going to be able to work on my game a little bit and I’m ready for this next year.
“I’m trying to balance (my time off) and that’s just part of the learning curve. I feel like I’m still really new out here. And it’s definitely taking a little time to learn and adjust to the new life that I live.”
And for Wolff, taking time off isn’t the easiest thing to do.
“Every single Tour event out here is so strong and so good that you feel like you can’t miss one because every single one that you’re missing is more opportunity for other people to jump you in (the FedEx Cup standings) and everything like that,” Wolff said. “In golf if you feel like you take a week off when you don’t have a tournament, you’re going to be really rusty coming back and so many people are going to be in stride and playing and have all that confidence from good play.
“For me (my time off) is just having people around me that I really enjoy being around, my friends, just anyone who can kind of take your mind off of golf and take your mind off of, like, the stressful life that I live when I’m out on the road.
“It is pretty difficult and I think the TV only kind of shows the good parts of everyone’s careers and it’s definitely not what everyone thinks. But the good times are great and we’re compensated really well and I’m definitely living my dream of playing out here, so I’m not trying to make it sound like I’m miserable, because I’m not, but it is a really hard balance of trying to enjoy family time and be with your friends and relax over the golf course, but still stay focused and sharp in those times when you’re trying to relax.”
While a bit tired, Wolff’s excited to get going, even if he might be a tad rusty.
“I know that this is a long year and I started off last year pretty good. I haven’t played too much lately, but I definitely know there’s going to be more than enough time to shake off that rust, and I’m a pretty competitive person and I know that I’m not going to be satisfied with not playing my best or not having the most confidence in my game,” he said. “So I’m definitely going to work hard and it might not be this week, it might not be next week, but I know eventually I’m going to have a good stretch of golf.”
original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2021/01/19/pga-tour-american-express-matthew-wolff-first-start/