Matthew Wolff and Collin Morikawa hope to make most of first Masters experience
In terms of major championships, Matthew Wolff likes the way this year is trending.
First-time major winner in Collin Morikawa at the PGA Championship.
First-time major winner in Bryson DeChambeau at the U.S. Open.
The Masters, the third and final major of the year, awaits.
“The younger players now are definitely making a statement and saying that, you know, there’s a new generation coming in,” said Wolff, 21, who has yet to win a major but has come tantalizingly close. He finished tied for fourth at the PGA Championship, won by Morikawa, and second to DeChambeau at the U.S. Open.
Bryson DeChambeau is the talk of the tournament with his near 48-inch driver, bulked-up body and intense routine. He’s not only aiming for his second major championship this year but to change the game itself.
Along the way, Wolff made golf history, becoming the first rookie to shoot his first five rounds in majors under par. This week marked his first time at Augusta National.
“I think it’s more of a dream come true than playing in any other tournament,” said Wolff of Agoura Hills. “It’s the one tournament that as a kid, you always know exactly when it is, you watch every single shot that you can, and it’s kind of the mecca of golf. To be here in my first Masters is unbelievable, and it’s a place that I’ve not only dreamed of playing but playing in the Masters.”
It’s also the first time at Augusta for Morikawa, who broke through in August with a major victory at Harding Park in San Francisco.
Morikawa, 23, who grew up in La Cañada Flintridge, said he considered coming out to Augusta early for some practice rounds before this week but opted not to because he has played so well recently on unfamiliar courses. He acknowledged that players with Masters experience — the extreme examples being defending champion Tiger Woods and three-time winner Phil Mickelson — might have a slight edge.
“Experience never hurts,” he said. “Shoot, I wish I had played here 15, 20 times, however many times they have played it. I wish I had that knowledge, but I don’t. That’s going to grow over the years I keep coming back and I keep playing, but for now I have to feel like I can still compete with these guys. It’s not like I’m behind the eight ball already and I have a disadvantage. On Thursday, we all start at even par. That’s what you do every week.”
Morikawa played his first practice round with 2013 U.S. Open winner Justin Rose and tried to straddle the line between soaking in his surroundings and zeroing in on the task at hand.
“Rosey brought me over on 11 and he was talking about the first time he walked over ... the crest, walking down and you see 11 and 12,” he said. “I got a good sense and I got a good smile out of it.
It looks like sand from a tropical beach, but the material gleaming from the bunkers at Augusta National actually comes from the mountains of North Carolina.
“But I’m so focused in on playing good golf out here and trying to figure out this course, because I think if I get intertwined in trying to be a spectator, I’m going to miss some shots and I’m going to miss some areas where I need to really prep and focus in.”
As for Wolff, he’s never played in the Masters — yet he’s played in it virtually every day of his golf life.
“I feel like every single time I practiced, if I was practicing with my friends and we were putting, it would always be like that,” he said. “We would have a putting contest and we would have that one putt coming down to the end, it was like, ‘Oh, this is to win the Masters. If you make it, you win.’ I feel like every kid kind of did that growing up.”
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