EXICO’S PLAYA DEL CARMEN , Matthew Wolff was on the verge of taking a huge lead in the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba until a pair of late bogeys forced him to settle for a 3-under 68 and a two-shot lead over Scottie Scheffler.
After opening with a 10-birdie round of 61, Wolff had little trouble making birdies the next day. For the second day in a row, he birdied all of the par 5s at El Camaleon, the latest one being a superb pitch to 6 feet at No. 13 that put him at 15 under.
But on the difficult par-4 16th, which played into a little wind, he discovered a greenside bunker and couldn’t get up-and-down with a 35-yard sand approach. On the 18th hole, his 3-wood went left into a bunker, and he missed a 12-foot par putt.
He’s now at 13-under 129, still in first place and looking in charge of his game. The 16th and 18th holes are two of the course’s three most difficult.
“It was a tough finish,” Wolff remarked, “but I was extremely delighted with how I played today.” “To be honest, it felt like it was a bit of a challenge this afternoon…. It’s not always easy to come out and keep making birdies after a round like I had yesterday, and I’m delighted I showed to myself that I could do it. I’m looking forward to the week since I’ve put myself in a great position.”
Scheffler, who has played well in majors and the Ryder Cup but has yet to win on the PGA Tour, was on the verge of missing the cut until he made five straight birdies, the last of which was a 35-foot putt on the par-3 eighth.
He finished with a par for a 64, putting him two strokes behind the leader.
Scheffler stated, “I feel like I’m doing a good job of getting the ball in position and giving myself a lot of looks.” “The first couple of days, I feel like I burned a lot of edges. I think I’ll start scoring a little better if those putts start dropping a little more.”
Carlos Ortiz of Mexico and Viktor Hovland of Norway, the defending winner, both scored 65 and were three shots back. After making the turn, Hovland overcame an unusual break on No. 1 when his approach took a wild bounce and sailed out-of-bounds, resulting in double bogey.
Hovland stated, “I pushed it a little bit and actually landed four steps right of the pin, hits a sprinkler head, and goes in the trees over the green.” “That’s a horrible break, but it’s not like I cut it open-faced or something. I knew I was performing well, so all I had to do was reset.”
That’s exactly what he did the rest of the way, making five birdies.
It doesn’t take much to get out of position, and the top players all stressed the importance of maintaining possession of the ball.
Brooks Koepka followed suit until the last possible time. He battled back to reach inside the cut line, only to hit the mangroves on the left side of the 16th. He was given a penalty drop, and his next shot came up just short of causing more problems. He made a triple bogey, followed by a 71, and he didn’t make the cut. Since July, Koepka hasn’t finished in the top 20.
Rickie Fowler made his blunders early in the game. He made a bogey and a double bogey on the front nine, then missed a birdie opportunity on the par-5 13th. He was just beyond the cut line until he made it on the number with a birdie on the 17th for a 72.
At 4-under 138, the cut was made.
At 9-under 135, ten players were tied for fifth place, including Justin Thomas. Bill Haas, who is using a one-time exemption for career money to keep a full card this year, may be the biggest surprise in that bunch.
Haas, who won the FedEx Cup in 2011 and was a member of two Presidents Cup teams, hasn’t won in almost six years and is ranked 744th in the world. He started with a 65 and followed it up with a bogey-free round of 67 to keep himself in contention.
“I’ve been trying to find out what’s going to be constant and what’s going to help me get over that hump for what seems like three years now,” Haas said. “Right now, I’m thinking about a swing that seems to be functioning well. And I’d like it to endure longer than two days. I’d like it to keep going in this direction, and I’m hoping for a pleasant few months.”