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How Wyndham Clark Won The 2023 US Open

By: | Mon 10 Jun 2024

Wyndham Clark, who had missed the cut in his only two previous US Open starts and finished no better than a share of 75th in six major-championship starts, claimed a one-stroke victory at Los Angeles Country Club 12 months ago, denying Rory McIlroy a golden chance to end his major drought.

Clark overcame two late bogeys on the 15th and 16th with a brilliant par save on the 71st hole, then two-putted from 60 feet on the 72nd hole to hold off McIlroy. Clark’s even-par 70 gave him a four-day total of 10-under 270.

“You know, this is now my second win on the PGA Tour, and the first one [at the previous month's Wells Fargo Championship] was surreal and this one is surreal,” said Clark. “It hasn’t quite hit me yet. Walking up 18 was pretty emotional, and then finishing. It’s been a whirlwind the last five, six weeks. Just so blessed and humbled to be here.”

Rickie Fowler, a five-time PGA Tour winner who had led the championship the first three days and shared the 54-hole lead with Clark, struggled from the outset in his bid for a first major and posted a disappointing 5-over 75 to share fifth with Tommy Fleetwood and Min Woo Lee at 5-under 275.

World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler shot a 70 to finish in solo third, three behind the winner.

When Clark made it official with his tap-in par on 18, he was immediately hugged by older sister, Kristin, and younger brother, Brendan. One person missing from the celebration was his late mother, Lise Thevenet, whom the family lost to breast cancer in 2013 at age 55.

“All I really wish is that my Mom could be here, and I could just hug her, and we could celebrate together - but I know she's proud of me," said Clark, shared his victory later with his father, Randall, a former collegiate and professional tennis player.

When his mother lost her battle with cancer, Clark considered walking away from the game. But he went on to win the Pacific-12 Conference title in Boulder, Colorado, near his hometown, and was named Golfweek’s player of the year. Clark told reporters that his mother’s advice to him before every tournament was to "play big."

He followed that advice in Los Angeles, especially on the weekend when he found himself in the final pairing with Fowler each of the last two days. While Sunday’s round wasn’t perfect, his up-and-downs on the eighth, ninth, 11th and 17th eventually won him the championship. A bogey on the par-five eighth when he barely moved the ball on his third shot in thick greenside rough was reminiscent of his bogey save late Saturday on the 17th hole.

Most observers were expecting McIlroy, Fowler or Scheffler to hoist the trophy but all three came up short on the 7,359-yard George C. Thomas Jr course.

McIlroy, who claimed the last of his four majors at the PGA Championship in 2014, birdied the opening par five but didn’t make another birdie the rest of the day despite a number of golden opportunities. He three-putted the par-five eighth for a par and bogeyed the par-five 14th when his 117-yard approach shot came up short of the green.

This was his second major disappointment in less than 12 months; he came up just short to Cameron Smith in the 150th Open Championship at St Andrews. At Los Angeles, McIlroy hit 59 of 72 greens in regulation, which ties for the most by any player who did not go on to win the US Open.

"The last real two chances I’ve had at majors I feel like have been pretty similar performances," said McIlroy. "Not doing a lot wrong, but I didn’t make a birdie since the first hole today. Just trying to be a little more, I guess, efficient with my opportunities and my looks."

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