Much respect

Tour pro suffers brutal walk-and-talk, and wins kudos for his reaction

February 24, 2024

Matt Wallace hits his drive on the 12th tee.

Hector Vivas

There are plenty of professional athletes who could take a lesson from how Matt Wallace handled what turned out to be a brutal walk-and-talk TV appearance with NBC commentators on Saturday in the third round of the Mexico Open at Vidanta.

Wallace, a burly 33-year-old Englishman who has a combined five wins on the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, obliged the network with what has become a regular feature on most weekend broadcasts. Arguably, the walk-and-talks have been hit-and-miss, with some offering fun or sharp insights and others falling completely flat. Part of it depends on the openness and demeanor of the player, and in Wallace, NBC got gold, thanks to his magnanimous handling of the situation before and after a rough shot.

The setup was that Wallace began the day tied for the lead, but with Jake Knapp mounting a big charge with a 63, Wallace found himself eight shots back standing on the 14th tee. After his drive, Wallace walked and said he's about playing for wins and not top-five finishes; that he competes better with some controlled anger—“I’m not Retief Goosen out here”—and that he and his caddie developed a system this week in which they trick themselves into thinking they’re farther behind than they are.

All good stuff, and then Wallace, from the first cut off the fairway, tried to launch a 3-wood onto the green at the par 5, but his ball came up short and right in the water. “We didn’t expect it to come out that spinny and that cutty,” Wallace would explain when he put the earbuds back in.

Of course, that was the rub. That he actually did choose to speak after the bad shot. As later pointed out by Hicks, Wallace was given the opportunity to bow out of more chat, but didn't.

His good karma didn’t kick in, though, because a fly flew into Wallace’s eye as he talked. “It’s all going for me on this hole,” the golfer said with a slight chuckle.

Then Hicks, with a sheepish semi-apology, piled further on by asking Wallace about a bet he had lost earlier in the day to his caddie, Jamie Lane, whose Fulham football team in the English Premier League upset Wallace’s Manchester United. Wallace did an Instagram post showing him handing cash to Lane. “Yeah, he made me feel great,” Wallace said.

In his frustration, Wallace was brutally honest in his self-reflection.

“This is part of it. I need to deal with this,” he said. “I need to get stronger; I need to play better golf and accept this. Get this up and down and we go again. I can’t do anything more than what I’m trying to do right now. It’s not going my way.”

Wallace couldn’t get up and down after his penalty drop and finished the hole with a bogey 6. He finished Round 3 with an even-par 72 and lost nine shots on the day to 54-hole leader Jake Knapp (63), who at 19 under leads Wallace by eight.

What Wallace did do was earn a ton of respect from anybody who was watching.