Wyndham Clark did not hurry to compose a tweet that would shock and wow his followers on the previous Tuesday, when the golfing world was in the midst of an uproar. Concerning the unexpected agreement with the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia, he did not get irate during a discussion with the commissioner of the PGA Tour. Aside from playing golf, he did not engage in moralising, critiquing, or really doing much of anything else.
On that Tuesday, he decided to play at the Los Angeles Country Club, which would subsequently play home to the first major tournament in its history, the United States Open, nine days later. Clark’s caddy was a member of the club. He was also a buddy who had turned into a mentor and knew some of the secrets of a North Course that only a few of the game’s greatest stars had ever seen. These secrets included how a putt may break here, how the pace would fluctuate there, and how solid the fairways might get. Only a few of the game’s biggest players had ever seen this course.
The payout came on Sunday evening when Clark, who is 29 years old, defeated Rory McIlroy in the U.S. Open by one shot to enter the illustrious brotherhood of major championship winners.
Prior to Sunday, Clark’s highest result in a major was a tie for 75th place at a P.G.A. Championship. He improved on that finish on Sunday. His two prior attempts at the Open were considerably worse, and each of them ended with him missing the cut.
This tour season, he has, emerged as a dangerous adversary and showing that he, despite his major record, may soon be a force on the game’s grandest stages. He has done this by emerging as a hazardous foe. He came in Los Angeles having won the Wells Fargo Championship and having gained four previous top-10 results since the beginning of February. His irons had been changed by a few degrees, and his swing had been studied and finessed not by a battalion of counsellors but merely by Clark and his caddy. He also had won the Wells Fargo Championship.
That Wells Fargo triumph, which took place in May at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, North Carolina, had come against a daunting list of competitors whose last names were synonymous with golfing greatness even before Clark completed college. These competitors included McIlroy and Spieth, Scott and Day.
Clark’s confidence was boosted when he won the tournament at Quail Hollow, which has hosted and will host future P.G.A. Championships. He reasoned that since he had defeated significant champions on a course that was worthy of a major event.
By the time Clark sat on Sunday afternoon on the first tee box with Rickie Fowler, the other half of the Open’s last pairing and a prince of golf’s close-but-not-quite club, he had been keeping to his mother’s credo all week. Rickie Fowler was the other half of the final pairing and a prince of golf’s close-but-not-quite club. After shooting a 64 on Thursday, which was a higher score than many of the major winners in the field of 156, he backed it up with scores of 67 and 69 respectively.
Both Fowler and Clark entered the final round with a score of 10 under par, which was sufficient for a share of the lead in the competition. McIlroy, a four-time major winner who has not won one in the last nine years, was down by one stroke as the sun rose on Sunday. The golfer with the highest ranking in the world, Scottie Scheffler, was three strokes behind Clark and Fowler.
It took Clark just four strokes to take the lead in the competition. Ever since he began his Open with a putt of almost 33 feet for eagle, the first hole, which has a wide fairway and a vista towards the Beverly Hilton, had been one of his preferred locations for the whole of the competition. He began his Open with a birdie on the hole. Even though he was unable to repeat the feat on Sunday, his birdie was enough to give him exclusive control of first position. This came after a birdie by McIlroy had given him a short opportunity to grab a share of the lead.
When Clark made a bogey on the second hole for the second time this week, his brief reign atop the leaderboard came to an abrupt end. In addition, Fowler dropped with a bogey, which marked the beginning of a flameout for a guy who had scored a 62 on Thursday, which was a single-round record for an Open.
Clark moved to 11 under par after making a birdie on the fourth hole of the course, which was the first of five par-3 challenges on the course along Wilshire Boulevard. Both McIlroy and Fowler were at 9 under par at that point. Scheffler’s score had not moved in any way, and he had been consistent without being particularly remarkable.
The sixth hole, a difficult par four that included a blind tee shot and challenging terrain, had been giving players anxiety for days. On Thursday, Clark had made a birdie there, and then on Friday and Saturday he had tied for par each day.
On the last hole, where Clark had either made par or birdie in each of the preceding three rounds, McIlroy finished with a par, bringing his total for the round to nine under par. The galleries were aware that if Clark could maintain that history, he would become a big champion. Clark himself came to the realisation about a month ago that he was almost completely prepared to become a major champion.