A year ago, Matthew Wolff arrived at TPC at Summerlin three weeks after earning runner-up honors at the U.S. Open behind Bryson DeChambeau. Wolff fired a third-round 61 and qualified for a three-man playoff with Martin Laird and Austin Cook. Laird won the playoff, but Wolff lifted his world ranking to a career-best No. 12.
In the year since, Wolff finished no better than T15 in any tournament. His world ranking dropped to as low as No. 49. He spent two months away from the PGA TOUR last spring, focusing on his mental health. He has since been open about this time, noting there were moments he did not even want to get out of bed in the morning.
Back at the Shriners Children’s Open this week, Wolff buried the ghosts of last season. He posted four rounds of 68 or better, finishing at 20-under, good for a runner-up finish once again, this time by himself.
Wolff opened Sunday in the final group with Schenk, one shot behind the leader, and after going 3-under on the front, he was within striking distance of Im. However, bogeys on No. 10 and No. 13 ultimately took Wolff out of contention. Birdies on Nos. 15 and 16 got him back into second place.
“If I keep on putting myself in these positions I know that eventually it’s going to be in my favor and I’m going to win,” Wolff says. “But I really like the way my game’s trending, especially from the beginning — or the end of last year. If you would have told me I would be in this position right now, I would be really happy.”
When Wolff finished as the Shriners Children’s Open runner-up in 2020, it felt like he left something on the table. This time around, it felt like he proved to people he can be the player they thought he could be. You know that guy, the one who won in his fourth event on the PGA TOUR and claimed top-5s in his first two major starts.
This new version of Matthew Wolff has those old skills, but also, a new mindset.
“Obviously, I know I had the game, I think just, maturity-wise and mentally, I’m just a much stronger and more all-around, just a more complete person,” Wolff says. “I’m able to put things in perspective more when stuff isn’t going my way, I’m able to bounce back.”
Wolff will continue to be a threat to win at the Shriners Children’s Open in the future. He now has 12 rounds in the 60s in 12 rounds at the event.
But in the year between starts at TPC at Summerlin, it appears he will be a force on the PGA TOUR once again.
3. Sam Burns cools down
Everything was going right for Sam Burns. He won last week’s Sanderson Farms Championship, earning his second career PGA TOUR title. He opened at the Shriners Children’s Open with rounds of 66 and 63. After a birdie on his 47th hole of the tournament, he reached 17-under and held a 2-shot lead.
But the wheels fell off on the back nine Saturday, as Burns missed a 6-foot birdie putt on 13 and a 9-foot birdie try on 15. Burns had just 171 yards in for his second shot on the par-5 16th, but put that shot in the water, bogeying the hole.
The struggles continued Sunday, as Burns bogeyed two holes on the front nine and committed a double-bogey on 18, dropping him to T14, out of the top 10. Burns’ final-round 72 ended a run of nine straight PGA TOUR rounds in the 60s.
Despite all this, Burns’ result moved him into sole possession of the top spot in the current FedExCup Standings. He will get an immediate chance to put the weekend behind him this coming week when he tees it back up in Las Vegas at THE CJ CUP @ SUMMIT.
4. Adam Schenk trending upward
In his first 110 starts on the PGA TOUR, Adam Schenk landed four top-10 finishes. In his last nine events, he’s added three more top 10s. In fact, all three of those tops 10s are also top-5s.
After a birdie on 18 on Saturday, Schenk held the overnight lead at TPC at Summerlin by himself. He opened with a birdie on No. 1 on Sunday, but the momentum slowed, as he went 3-over on his next nine holes. Three back-nine birdies got Schenk’s round to 1-under and a total of 19-under for the tournament, five back of Im.
Schenk’s T3 finish at the Shriners Children’s Open is his best finish ever on TOUR, edging his T4 at the John Deere Classic and 4th place at the Barracuda Championship last season.
“Everyone’s good enough to win out here, you just have to believe in yourself and not beat yourself, in a sense,” Schenk said after his 66 on Saturday. “I started to believe a lot more in the last couple months.”
Make fun of Schenk’s last name all you want. He is flushing the ball right now and is going to have more chances to win in 2021-22.