JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) — Matthew Wolff picked up a $1 million bonus even before the lucrative FedEx Cup playoffs began, courtesy of his victory in the Aon Risk-Reward Challenge based on the average scores on designated holes each week on the PGA Tour.
He also has a better outlook on his emotional state going forward in his career.
Wolff, the runner-up in the U.S. Open last year at Winged Foot, walked away from the PGA Tour in April and didn't return until he felt he could be happier and more positive on the golf course regardless of his score.
Since his return, he has a pair of top 20s and a pair of missed cuts in his six events. He starts the PGA Tour postseason at No. 59, needing to play well at The Northern Trust to be among the 70 players who advance in the FedEx Cup.
“It's still a grind,” Wolff said Tuesday. “I’m doing a lot better. I am. I feel like I’m starting to feel like the performance doesn’t so much affect the person that I am, and I can still be friendly to fans and talk to people and smile and have fun out there and enjoy all the hard work that I’ve put in to be where I am today.”
Wolff said he was particularly struck by Rory McIlroy's comments about mental health and sports after his opening round at the Olympics. McIlroy said he stood completely behind Naomi Osaka withdrawing from the French Open in tennis and Simone Biles sitting out for all but the balance beam in the Olympics because they didn't feel right.
“I'm glad that at least the conversation has started,” McIlroy said in Japan. “It's not taboo anymore. People can talk about it just as somebody has a knee or elbow injury. If you don’t feel 100 percent right mentally, that’s an injury, too.”
Wolff referred to McIlroy's comments as “so powerful and so true.”
“Some of the feelings that I had were like getting up in the morning knowing I had to get out of bed and just like not being able to, being like I don’t want to get out of bed," he said. “I think what he said was really powerful because if you don't feel 100 percent right — no matter if it's physical or mental — it is an injury, and you should be able to rehab and take your time in order to get to a place where you need to be.”
The final major of the year on the LPGA Tour also is the last chance for Americans to qualify for the Solheim Cup on Sept. 4-6 at Inverness Club in Ohio.
Nelly Korda and Danielle Kang already have clinched two of the nine automatic spots. The top seven come from the Solheim Cup standings, with two more from the women's world ranking. U.S. captain Pat Hurst then gets three wild-card selections.
The next five players behind Korda and Kang going into the AIG Women's British Open are Ally Ewing, Austin Ernst, Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda and Megan Khang.
Behind them in the standings are Brittany Altomare, Jennifer Kupcho and Angela Stanford. Most interesting about Stanford is she already has signed on as a vice captain.
Europe takes only two players from its standings, four players from the women's world ranking and Catriona Matthew gets six captain's picks.
ENGLISH IN THE FALL
One year ago, Harris English was starting to find his form. He started the PGA Tour postseason at No. 27 in the FedEx Cup. He was No. 113 in the world ranking. The Ryder Cup was postponed, but that was far from his mind.
Now he starts the FedEx Cup playoffs at No. 4, he is No. 10 in the world and he is on the cusp of making the Ryder Cup team at No. 8 in the standings with two tournaments left.
The obvious difference is winning twice, at Kapalua and Hartford, and finishing third at Torrey Pines and fourth at Winged Foot in the last two U.S. Opens. English, however, thinks the start he had in the fall of 2019 is where it all began to turn around for him.
And that makes him wonder about what to do this year in the fall portion of the season.
“I've always enjoyed the fall. I don't feel like I'm starting behind,” he said. “Both years I made it to the Tour Championship, I had a good fall. All the great years I've had, I had a good fall.”
So what to do this year? He is assured of reaching the Tour Championship, meaning four tournaments in a span of five weeks. And that could take him to the Ryder Cup.
“It's good to have rest, but I also enjoy playing in those tournaments,” English said. “When the Tour Championship ends and the season starts again, I don't like seeing my name 100th in the FedEx Cup. I guess the Ryder Cup will play a big part of that.
“But it is two different tours,” English said, referring to top 50 players being in the majors and the best events. “The one I was on at the start of ’19 is way different than the one I am on now. But I want to keep playing. I’m not sure what I'll do.”
BACK ON THE BAG
Joe LaCava is back on the PGA Tour for the first time since he was caddying for Tiger Woods in the final round of the Masters last November.
LaCava is filling in at The Northern Trust for Matt Minister, the regular caddie for Patrick Cantlay.
The last time he worked was three weeks in June for Fred Couples, his longtime boss, on the PGA Tour Champions. His last time with Woods was at the PNC Challenge in Florida last December when Woods played with his son.
Woods is recovering from broken bones in his feet and legs from a car crash in February.
U.S. Amateur champion James Piot proved a golfer can never be too young to start going back to old putters.
His weapon of choice at Oakmont was a hand-me-down from his father.
“My dad got that from a golf shop just down the road from our house maybe 10 years ago,” Piot said. “He used it for like two weeks and was like, ‘This thing is not worth it.’ I picked it up in sixth or seventh grade and started rolling with it.”
The nickname of the club: garbage putter.
“It's not the best-looking thing,” Piot said.
Piot, like most golfers, started changing putters. He would go back to the “garbage putter” — the formal name is Ping Piper H — for a few college events at Michigan State. And then in the middle of the summer, he decided it was time for a change.
“I was too cheap to go buy a putter, so I looked in the basement,” he said. “And I putted lights out in the (U.S. Amateur) qualifier so I'm like, ‘This thing is going to stick.’”
He used it to shoot 62 in the Southern Amateur, and it worked just fine at Oakmont. He had only one three-putt over 35 holes in his 2-and-1 victory.
Rose Zhang has won the Mark H. McCormack Medal for the second straight year as the top female player in the world amateur golf ranking. ... With Ryann O’Toole winning the Women’s Scottish Open, Americans have won seven LPGA events this year, the most of any country. Thailand has four wins, followed by South Korea with three. ... Rory Sabbatini, who won the Olympic silver medal for Slovakia, is playing the Czech Masters this week. It’s his first regular European Tour start in two years. ... The last 12 majors on the LPGA Tour have been won by 12 different players.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Dustin Johnson (2020) and Vijay Singh (2008) are the only players to win the first FedEx Cup playoff event and go on to win the FedEx Cup title.
“Because whoever I was playing against made birdie and I didn't.” — Kevin Kisner, asked to explain why he had been 0-5 in playoffs until winning the Wyndham Championship.
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