BROOKLINE. Mass. — On the 18th hole of The Country Club, a practice group that included Adam Scott and Thomas Pieters—neither of whom will be confused with short hitters—halted its procession to the green. Brandon Matthews still had to hit, and as per usual, he was sufficiently removed from the pack.
If there are small annoyances that come with being the longest player in golf, this might be one of them. Matthews almost always has to wait for his turn at the far edge of whatever fairways he plays, but golf rewards patience in more ways than one. After making the quarterfinal of the U.S. Amateur at The Country Club in 2013, Matthews took a circuitous route to his first major championship. He lost his Korn Ferry status once, was relegated to the PGA Tour Latinoamerica, and competed through a series of injuries that took an equal toll on his psyche. In his final 18 starts on the Korn Ferry in 2019, Matthews made just one cut.
“There’s always doubt that creeps in,” Matthews, 27, said. “I think 2019 was a tough year for me mentally, physically—nothing was going well. But that was also the greatest year for me because that year taught me how to handle the most adversity I faced. Coming back from that made me who I am today.”
It was 2019 when the Scranton, Pa., native also confronted the defining episode of his career, when he missed a short putt in a playoff for the 2019 Argentine Open after a fan shrieked in the gallery. Matthews lost the playoff, but was lauded for the grace he showed after learning the young man had Down syndrome. That year, Matthews also began his work with instructor Dale Gray, who sought to harness Matthews’ incredible power and develop a swing he could trust.
“He had such a two-way miss,” Gray said. He was hitting high blocks to the right, and also snap hooks to the left. It was a lot.”
In the intervening years, Matthews’ game has developed enough where he returned to the Korn Ferry Tour, and last week, crossed two significant thresholds in a span of a few days. After locking down a berth in the U.S. Open field in Final Qualifying in suburban New York, Matthews secured a PGA Tour card for 2022-23 with a final-round 67 in the BMW Charity Pro-Am.
So he returns to Brookline with job security, comfort with the course where he made a mark as an 18-year-old, and a new sense of how to pick his spots. With clubhead speeds of up to 135 mph, Matthews is likely to hit only four or five drivers at The Country Club, which means he might not have to wait as long for his approach shots.
“I’ve had some success here, but nine years has changed a lot,” Matthews said. “My maturity has gone up, but the way I approach the game, my mentality, everything is different. Every time I step onto this course, I can see the lines. I feel incredibly comfortable and incredibly confident. I can see the shots I want to hit.”
More than any technical element, Gray says a telling sign for Matthews is just in the small moments of a practice round, when he can see the player is more invested than usual.
“I can see when he’s committing and focusing on shots in practice rounds,” said Gray, who contends Matthews has the potential to be a top-10 player. “He has that this week. I think it’s going to be a fun week for him.”