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It's tough growing up. It's even tougher growing up in the spotlight. Already in his young career, Matthew Wolff has experienced the highest of highs in the game of golf. But after a string of difficult performances and circumstances following some early success, Wolff may have turned a corner with a 5-under 65 on Thursday in the first round of the 2022 Wells Fargo Championship.

To understand the significance of Wolff's performance Thursday, we must rewind back to 2019. Wolff won six times at the collegiate level, which he capped off with a victory at the NCAA Championship both as an individual and as a member of the powerhouse Oklahoma State golf program. A memorable year was made even more so when, only two months removed from his crowning collegiate achievement, he won again ... this time on the PGA Tour.

An emphatic eagle on the 72nd hole at TPC Twin Cities pushed Wolff past the likes of Bryson DeChambeau and Collin Morikawa as he secured his playing privileges for years to come and bypassing all the difficulties of what comes with turning professional.

"It's hard," said Wolff about leaving college early, "because the down times that I've had, I've had to do it in front of everyone. Whereas in college, I know there's some eyeballs ... [but] it's a little easier to overcome those because you don't feel like you're fully in the spotlight."

Without grinding on mini tours or sweating through the Korn Ferry Tour playoffs, Wolff was propelled into the big leagues at age 19. The sky was the limit. And the potential of what the now-23-year-old can become has since been showcased, albeit on an irregular basis. 

While he got the best of DeChambeau at the 2019 3M Open, a retooled DeChambeau came out firing in 2020 winning twice with Wolff receiving the short end of the stick in both instances. Wolff added another runner-up performance at the Shriners Open the month following his close call at the U.S. Open, and by all accounts, he appeared likely to reenter the winner's circle in due time.

Yet once the calendar flipped to 2021, something changed not only in Wolff's game but his demeanor. It began when he withdrew from the Farmers Insurance Open in January citing a lingering right hand injury. That ailment continued to bother him as he withdrew again at the WGC-Workday Championship just one month later. March and April weren't much different as Wolff played sparingly and even got disqualified from the Masters for signing an incorrect scorecard after rounds of 76-79.

Wolff did not pop up again until the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. Two months removed from professional golf, he opened up about not wanting to get out of bed at times, worrying about messing up in front of others and simply not wanting to play golf. There were no expectations set on Wolff in the U.S. Open as a candid discussion about his mental health was victory enough. He kicked off the major with a 1-under 70 only to contend over the weekend and ultimately finish in a tie for 15th.

Fast forward to Thursday in Potomac, Maryland, and the parallels to that week on the cliffs of California are abundant.

Wolff arrived at the Well Fargo Championship in the midst of some of the worst golf of his young career. He has yet to register a top-60 finish on the PGA Tour in a stroke-play event this year, and his three missed cuts have come with his name often found at the bottom of the leaderboard.

Wolff's 65 on Thursday was impressive, but better yet, he made it look easy. This was not only his first time playing TPC Potomac in a competitive setting, it was his first time ever seeing the back-nine of the golf course. 

"I think sometimes I play courses better when I don't see them just because it frees me up," said Wolff. "When you know a course too much, you know where the trouble is and stuff and you might get a little guidey."

Free he looked, not only in his oft-discussed golf swing but where it matters most, upstairs. He was smiling, bouncing around and willing to answer even the most difficult questions. The slumped shoulders and snapped clubs from his Masters performance last month were a distant memory.

"I mean, it's been a rough patch, but I've won on the PGA Tour. I know that I can get it done, and I know that I have what it takes. I think [I just need to allow myself] to free up a little bit and not get so down on myself. I'm allowed to make mistakes," said Wolff. "I feel like, in the past, I was telling myself that I needed to be perfect, and that's just not the case. No one's perfect, especially in this game. So, I'm just trying to go out there and just have fun. That's really like literally the only thing that I care about."

Wolff added that he would be happy even if he shoots 90 on Friday as long as his attitude is in check.

Growing as a person -- not winning golf tournaments -- is Wolff's new priority. But hey, he might just go out and win a golf tournament anyway when he, and we, least expect it.