In the past three weeks, Nate Lashley, Matthew Wolff and, most recently, Dylan Frittelli have won their maiden PGA Tour victories and locked up spots in the British Open. Heartwarming stuff, except that sentence isn’t completely true. While Lashley and Frittelli will tee it up this week at Royal Portrush, Wolff will be keeping his talents—and that funky swing—at home. Wait, what?!
That’s right, Wolff’s win at the 3M Open did not qualify him for the Open Championship. And yes, it’s a bit strange that the two guys who won the week before and after did—along with Doc Redman, who finished runner-up to Lashley at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. But there is a reason for this, even if it seems a bit arbitrary.
The Open Qualifying Series is a collection of 16 events across seven professional golf tours in which spots are available for the Open. The events are established before each season starts and while two PGA Tour events were added for this year (Rocket Mortage and Arnold Palmer Invitational), the 3M Open was not. The John Deere Classic remained on the schedule as the PGA Tour’s last chance to earn a spot, and Frittelli took advantage with his two-shot victory over Russell Henley on Sunday.
So this had nothing to do with Wolff’s status and everything to do with his timing (And that of Collin Morikawa, another impressive rookie who finished runner-up to Wolff in Minnesota and is not in the Open). Had the 20-year-old won against a much weaker field over the weekend at TPC Deere Run, he’d be headed to Northern Ireland on that private charter. Or, he could have made his pro debut a couple weeks earlier and won the RBC Canadian Open, the only other PGA Tour event in the Open Qualifying Series. Or, he could have just finished T-8 in Canada like Graeme McDowell did to punch his ticket to Portrush.
Or he could … you get the point. There were a lot of ways to qualify for this week’s Open Championship—including the four(!) spots that were up for grabs in January at the Singapore Open—but winning the 3M Open wasn’t one of them even though it gets him into next year’s Masters.
Although it doesn’t seem fair, rules are rules and viewers expecting to see the guy who won with that dramatic 72nd-hole eagle at TPC Twin Cities playing at Portrush will be disappointed. The Matthew Wolff Era may be here, but the Matthew Wolff Era in majors won’t start until 2020.