DETROIT – Matthew Wolff has been working on his mindset, trying to have a good time regardless of results to help him perform closer to his potential.
An ice cream truck outside the Detroit Golf Club seemed to help.
Wolff had a roller-coaster round that went well enough Saturday to give him a three-shot lead in the Rocket Mortgage Classic. He shot his second straight 8-under 64 to move into position for his second PGA Tour victory.
“I have to give credit to the ice cream truck that was circling the property," said Wolff, who was 19-under 197 after three rounds. “I’m not joking, actually."
Wolff made a 35-foot putt on the 138-yard No. 5 for birdie, his second of nine birdies.
“I heard the ice cream truck and I’m like, `I have a good feeling about this,'" Wolff recalled. “Just had that little like ice cream truck song in my head. I think that helped me just not think about the speed or the line or anything, just keep my head free."
Armour and Bryson DeChambeau were tied for second after 67s.
DeChambeau had a testy exchange with a TV cameraman after a bogey on the sixth hole.
“He was literally watching me the whole entire way up after getting out of the bunker, walking up next to the green,” DeChambeau said. “And I just was like, ‘Sir, what is the need to watch me that long?’ I understand it’s his job to video me, but at the same point, I think we need to start protecting our players out here compared to showing a potential vulnerability and hurting someone’s image. I just don’t think that’s necessarily the right thing to do.”
DeChambeau birdied four of the last six holes and pumped his right fist after making a 12-foot birdie putt at 18.
Wolff made a 14-foot eagle putt at the 559-yard, par-5 14th to pull into a tie with Armour at 17 under, and added birdies on the par-3 15th and par-5 17th. He finished with the eagle, nine birdies, five pars and three bogeys.
If the 21-year-old Wolff can hold on Sunday, it will be his first victory since the 3M Open last year in Minnesota.
“Just going to go out there, have fun and hopefully I hear the ice cream truck a little bit," he said.
Last year, he made a 26-foot putt from the fringe for eagle on the final hole for a one-stroke win at the 3M Open in his third tournament as a professional. Wolff joined Tiger Woods and Ben Crenshaw as winners of a PGA Tour event and the individual NCAA title in the same year.
The former Oklahoma State star, though, has struggled enough this season that he was 108th in the world going into the week. He missed the cut at the previous two tournaments and was 54th at the PGA Tour's first event after its restart.
Armour played well and was in a great mood on the front nine while making five birdies to reach 16 under, giving him a one-shot lead.
He chatted and laughed with some fans, watching the tournament from beyond a chain-link fence, near the seventh tee.
The former Ohio State player has his school's logo adorned on the bag, and that caught the attention of some spectators perched on a platform a few minutes later.
“Go get ‘em Buckeye," one fan shouted from the backyard of a home.
Otherwise, it was often so quiet sans fans that the jingle from an ice cream truck in the neighborhood and a single-engine plane overhead broke through the eerie silence.
Golf is the second major sport in the U.S., behind motor sports, to resume a schedule shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Armour opened the back nine with five straight pars before making a birdie at No. 15, helping him keep the lead a little longer before Wolff surged past him.
Armour slipped further behind with a double bogey at No. 17 before bouncing back with a birdie on 18.
“It felt like the front nine was in cruise control, I had looks all the time," he said. “Then the back nine, it got a little squirrelly."
Troy Merritt (67), Mark Hubbard (69), Seamus Power (69) and Chris Kirk (70) were five shots back. Webb Simpson (71) had a bogey on the final hole, falling six strokes behind.
In the PGA Tour’s first three events after the COVID-19 pandemic stunted the season, the top five players in the world ranking participated in each tournament. None of the top five players is at the Detroit Golf Club, where Simpson (No. 6) and DeChambeau (No. 10) are the highest ranked in the field.
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