ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – On a windy day better suited for flying a kite than hitting a golf ball more than 150 yards, Matt Wallace could’ve really used an experienced hand on the bag.
Unfortunately, his caddie, veteran Dave McNeilly, tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday, forcing Wallace to find other options. Turns out he didn’t have to look far.
“I was like, ‘Oh, no, I’m going to be positive as well because I’ve been hanging around with (Dave) on Sunday at the golf course at the Masters. I don’t know when he would have got it,” Wallace said. “As soon as I found out that Dave tested positive, and luckily he was OK and everything, no symptoms, I messaged JP, Justin Parsons, , who I know. I said, ‘I’ll take a local this week because of the two courses.’ I thought that was a good idea. I didn’t want to step on Dave’s toes as well with another pro caddie.”
Parsons recommended one of his staff members, Jeffrey Cammon, a club fitter, who stepped in and provided local knowledge. Wallace, 30, birdied the first two holes en route to making eight birdies and shooting 6-under 64 on the Seaside Course at Sea Island Golf Club to share the lead with Camilo Villegas and one better than eight golfers. Wallace noted that Cammon was “chill,” and his first question when they met was simply: “What do you want me to do or say?”
“I was like, ‘Listen, mate, I don’t need anything. I’ll ask you a question and you answer it just with pure facts of what you think,’ ” Wallace said. “It worked well today. I said to him, ‘Is the wind more out of the left than it is like helping,’ and he’s like, ‘Yep,’ and that was it. It was really simple. Struck the ball really nicely today and rolled the ball well.”
That would be an understatement. Wallace sank 138 feet of putts and ranked third in Strokes Gained: putting on the day. Wallace, who entered the week ranked No. 53 in the world, visited Sea Island Resort’s Performance Center and the putting lab that is the U.S. base of famed putting instructor Phil Kenyon. Wallace spent about 45 minutes in the putting lab, sending data back to his coach in England and experimented with three different Callaway Toulon Design putters before settling on the Atlanta model without a sightline on the back.
“Because I haven’t been comfortable over the ball, I’ve taken a lot of time over the ball,” said Wallace, who ranks No. 175 in SGP this season. “My putting hasn’t been where it should be and it was the area I needed to work on the most. I chose the no-sightline one and able to roll the ball end over end, which is part of my game that I do really well. I haven’t been doing that, so getting back to that this week has been really nice.”
Wallace said that his fill-in caddie helped with a read on the fourth green. “I said, ‘Don’t read anymore putts because you’re 100 percent,’ ” Wallace said.
The Englishman has won tournaments on the European Tour, but he’s struggled in his transition to the PGA Tour, recording just one top-10 finish last season and failing to qualify for the FedEx Cup.
“The strength and depth is so deep,” Wallace said. “The players are amazing.”
On Friday, Wallace will tackle the Plantation Course, where he walked nine on Tuesday and played nine on Wednesday.
“Having Jeffrey there, that’s another buffer that I feel I’ve got where he’s been around there plenty and knows the misses,” Wallace said. “We spoke about that and we’ll have a good game plan tomorrow.”