Matthew Wolff didn't walk away with the trophy, but it's hard to deny the mark he left on the U.S. Open this weekend -- particularly on the rest of the field that will likely have to deal with him for decades to come.
At first look, Wolff's final-round 5-over 75 Sunday at Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, N.Y., looks like a disappointment. The 21-year-old began the day with the 54-hole lead but finished six strokes behind winner Bryson DeChambeau. In all, 31 players shot better than Wolff in the final round.
But Wolff's performance from Hole 1 through 72 was something the golf world hadn't seen in more than a half-century.
In finishing at even-par 280, Wolff joined DeChambeau as the only competitors this weekend to finish with a plus sign next to his total. The finish also made the second-year pro the youngest U.S. Open runner-up since Jack Nicklaus, 60 years ago.
"I played really tough all week. I battled hard," Wolff said after his round. "Things just didn't go my way. But first U.S. Open, second place is something to be proud of and hold your head up high for.
"I'm just excited to learn from this experience, and it's definitely not the last time that I'm going to be in this spot."
But it is also not the first time he has been in contention on Day 4 at a major, despite his relative inexperience. He now has two top 5s in his two career majors, finishing tied for fourth at the PGA Championship in August.
"That's not that bad. It's not as if he blew up like I did," Rory McIlroy said of Wolff's 75. McIlroy also shot a 75 on Sunday but thanks in large part to his 76 in Round 2, was not in contention Sunday.
"I thought that if he went out there in today's conditions and shot a couple over par, that he'd win the tournament," McIlroy added. "Look, it's a tough one. He's a good kid. He's resilient. He'll have plenty of more chances."
"My advice?" said Zach Johnson when asked about how Wolff should feel about his weekend at Winged Foot. "Leave this parking lot with the positives because, my guess, there's a slew of them. Whatever he's doing right now is not ineffective.
"He's going to slice and dice today (in his mind)," Johnson added, "and he needs to really focus in on some of the things that he did the previous three days, I think more so than today."
Reports said Wolff looked loose and was laughing just before the start of his round Sunday. It may have helped that he was paired with DeChambeau -- the two of them have finished 1-2 at two other tournaments before and DeChambeau was among those tied with Wolff for fourth at the PGA Championship.
After the Open was over, Wolff sounded more like a veteran as opposed to an Open rookie overwhelmed by the moment.
"I really didn't feel that nervous out there. Maybe at the start I did, but at the start I played pretty well. I don't think it was nerves that were holding me back. I just think it wasn't meant to be," he said.
"(DeChambeau) played really well," Wolff added. "I was just told that there's a lot of people in here saying what he's doing is pretty exceptional. To watch it firsthand, I have to agree. I feel like I played really well, and that's the difference out here between 4 over and 4 under is just those little tiny breaks that I didn't get."
--Field Level Media