LAS VEGAS — One of the biggest moves in LIV Golf’s offseason was Matthew Wolff moving from Smash GC to the RangeGoats in a trade that included the hottest player in the league, Talor Gooch.
For Wolff, it was a move he desperately wanted as his relationship with Smash captain Brooks Koepka had deteriorated to the point that conversation of any kind was difficult.
At the same time Gooch was a great addition to Smash, but a Wolff-for-Gooch deal seemed difficult when you looked at the success of Gooch with three wins in 2023 and the league’s individual title. But in the end it got done and RangeGoats captain Bubba Watson added Wolff as well as Peter Uihlein to his team.
“From a golf standpoint, I’m rolling the dice thinking that this is the right pieces together,” Watson said. “But now from a personal standpoint, I’m putting (Wolff) on my team because I get to influence him.”
With the RangeGoats on the top of the team leaderboard at 15-under and one shot clear of the Crushers GC after the first round of LIV Golf Las Vegas, Watson is seeing instant dividends. Watson, Wolff and Thomas Pieters all fired 5-under 65s and Uihlein shot 66. Co-leaders Harold Varner III and Paul Casey shot 63.
“Having support has been more than I could ask for,” Wolff said after his round. “Really just being around a good group of guys that care about you, want you to play well, and more than anything, just are out there regardless of what you shoot, good or bad, you’re going back, eating dinners, hanging out and not talking about golf really.”
Wolff’s game was never in question, but his game suffered as his relationship with Koepka became tense. Last July at LIV Golf London, Koepka said “I’ve basically given up on him—a lot of talent, but I mean the talent’s wasted.”
After three top 10s to start the season, Wolff only recorded one top 10 in the last 10 events, with most of his finishes 34th or worse.
Thursday at Las Vegas Country Club resembled Wolff’s old self.
“I just really gave myself a lot of looks and made sure to minimize mistakes,” the 24-year-old said after one of his best rounds in LIV. “I thought honestly people were going to tear this place up. I thought we might see another 61, 60. The scores were a touch higher than I thought. It’s a little harder to make putts than I envisioned.”
One of the benefits that has helped Wolff is having a friend on the team in Peter Uihlein.
The two former Oklahoma State players have a good relationship and Uihlein’s support is seemingly what Wolff needs.
“When you’re playing for yourself, you’re obviously playing as hard as you can, wanting to hit shots, but when you see your team playing well and you’re playing well and you feel like you can maybe take a little bit of that momentum and help the team more than yourself, I think it kind of gives you a little extra motivation,” Wolff said. “At least that’s what I feel.”
Seeing Watson and Wolff standing on the stage after their rounds, it was clear that both were happy to be teammates.
Now they need to put two more rounds together for the RangeGoats to get the top position for the first time since last April in Singapore, site of its only LIV team win.
“I think Matt was at dinner when I told him the trade happened,” Watson said. “He texted me and said, ‘what’s going on?’ I called him right away, and first thing I told him, I said, ‘dude, I don’t care anything about your golf. I don’t care. I’m not going to teach you anything about golf. You’ve already learned it all. That’s up to you. All I care about is you as a person.’”