After a stretch of high scores and frustrating results, Matthew Wolff produced a round Friday at LIV Golf Greenbrier more reflective of his immense talent: a 9-under 61 that ties the LIV-record low.
But after taking a two-shot lead after the first round on The Old White course, the young Smash GC star said his low score was not any kind of statement, nor a reflection of any drastic change in his approach.
“I just go out here and I give it my best every single day. It’s golf,” Wolff said. “It’s a rollercoaster, and I’m learning to accept the good and the bad as they come and roll with it. I haven’t changed anything.”
The numbers certainly were different for Wolff. In his last three LIV Golf starts, he failed to break 70 and averaged 74.6 per round. His best points finish in that stretch was 44th in Andalucía.
On Friday, all that changed. Starting on the par-3 8th, he opened with a birdie, added two pars, then produced a four-hole stretch that included three birdies and an eagle. He then ended his round with three birdies in his last four holes.
The 61 is the fourth in LIV Golf history, tying the 61s shot by Branden Grace, Cameron Smith and Harold Varner III in Tulsa. Varner shot 7-under 63 on Friday to join David Puig as Wolff’s closest pursuers. Dean Burmester and Cameron Tringale are another stroke back after shooting 64.
Wolff looked more like the player who started the season with three consecutive top-12 finishes than the one who hasn’t scored points in the last six events and dropped to 27th in the season-long points standings. Only the top 24 at the end of the regular season, as well as team captains, are guaranteed spots for next year’s LIV Golf League.
“Everyone goes through slumps, everyone goes through bad times, and I’m lucky mine only lasted a few tournaments,” Wolff said. “I started off the year really good, and I’m looking to end it really good.”
Wolff’s low round also helped Smash GC grab the team lead at 19 under, with captain Brooks Koepka and Jason Kokrak each contributing 5-under 65s. Koepka is making his first start since the birth of his son last week.
Smash, currently seventh in the season-long team points, is seeking its first win of the season. Koepka’s team leads by four shots over Torque GC, Stinger GC and RangeGoats GC.
Varner, who won LIV Golf DC, the last LIV tournament held in the United States, is as focused on his team’s success as much as his own. He desperately wants to catch the league-leading 4Aces GC, who come off a win at London and are in sixth after Friday’s first round. The RangeGoats are currently third, just two points behind second-place Torque GC.
“We need to win,” Varner said after his bogey-free round. “An integral part of winning is playing well, so I’m just trying to play well and help the team as much as possible – and 7-unders will do that.”
For Wolff, 9-under is just the kind of round that could prove to be a turning point for a season that has gone awry lately. But he cautioned Friday that there’s no guarantee.
“It’s just golf,” Wolff said. “I mean, you play bad and then you play good. Like I said, I’m accepting the fact that just because I played well today, it might not go the same tomorrow or might go just as well.
“At the end of the day, I’m doing what I can and trying to shoot the lowest score I can every day. I promise, I’m trying.”
Here are the standings and counting scores for Friday’s opening round of the team competition at LIV Golf Greenbrier. The three best scores from each team count in every round for their total team score. The team with the lowest cumulative score after three rounds wins the team title.
1. SMASH GC (-19): Matthew Wolff 61, Brooks Koepka 65, Jason Kokrak 65
T2. TORQUE GC (-15): David Puig 63, Joaquin Niemann 65, Sebastian Munoz 67
T2. STINGER GC (-15): Dean Burmester 64, Louis Oosthuizen 65, Branden Grace 66
T2. RANGEGOATS GC (-15): Harold Varner III 63, Talor Gooch 65, Bubba Watson 67
5. HYFLYERS GC (-13): Cameron Tringale 64, Phil Mickelson 66, Brendan Steele 67
6. 4ACES GC (-12): Dustin Johnson 65, Peter Uihlein 65, Pat Perez 68
7. MAJESTICKS GC (-11): Laurie Canter 65, Lee Westwood 66, Ian Poulter 68
8. CLEEKS GC (-10): Richard Bland 66, Bernd Wiesberger 66, Graeme McDowell 68
9. CRUSHERS GC (-9): Charles Howell III 65, Bryson DeChambeau 68, Paul Casey 68
10. FIREBALLS GC (-6): Carlos Ortiz 66, Sergio Garcia 69, Eugenio Chacarra 69
11. RIPPER GC (-5): Matt Jones 66, Cameron Smith 69, Marc Leishman 70
- IRON HEADS GC (+2):Scott Vincent 69, Danny Lee 71, Sihwan Kim 72