“I was in a pretty bad head space,” he said.
But on Thursday, Wolff smiled easily even though his round was topsy-turvy. He was tied for the lead at one point at three-under par but slumped to one under a few holes later. Overall, Wolff had eight birdies, three bogeys and two double bogeys.
“A lot of good and a lot of bad,” Wolff answered with a snicker when asked to describe his play. “But that’s OK. That’s golf and I’m having fun with it. That’s what I have to focus on.
“Many millions of people would trade with me in a heartbeat. And I needed to just kind of get back and be like, ‘Dude, you live an unbelievable life, like you don’t always have to play good.’ I wanted to be too perfect. I wanted to always please the fans — maybe too much sometimes.”
Wolff’s 70 on Thursday had him three strokes off the championship lead, although several players could not finish their first rounds because of darkness. Russell Henley shot 67 and was tied for the lead with Louis Oosthuizen, who still has two holes to play in his first round. Francesco Molinari and Rafa Cabrera-Bello trailed Henley by one stroke.
Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm and Xander Schauffele, three of the pretournament favorites, were one stroke behind them at with two-under 69, though Rahm still has one hole remaining in his first round. Hideki Matsuyama, Hayden Buckle and Sebastian Munoz were also at two-under par but Munoz had several holes to finish.
Phil Mickelson struggled throughout his round with five bogeys and shot 75. The reigning U.S. Open champion, Bryson DeChambeau, had six bogeys and four birdies and shot 73. Viktor Hovland, a contemporary of Wolff’s whose impressive play this year has had made him a major championship contender, shot 74. Justin Thomas, who won this year’s Players Championship, opened with a two-over par 73.
Wolff, however, was not watching the scoreboard, even though he was the third-round leader at the 2020 U.S. Open and the eventual runner-up to DeChambeau.