U.S. Open leader torches ‘ridiculous’ tee times, blames bogeys on darkness

wyndham clark looks on

The final pairing of the U.S. Open finished in limited visibility Saturday night. Wyndham Clark was not happy about their late tee time.

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LOS ANGELES — Golf fans across the East Coast woke up in a fury Saturday morning. But they checked their sports apps and found surprising numbers next to the names of leaders Rickie Fowler and Wyndham Clark. The tee time of the final pairing at this West Coast U.S. Open was 3:40 local time, or 6:40 out east. That’s late, no matter where you are. The broadcast would be running past bedtimes in many parts of the country. 

We know why it happened. A West Coast Open is a primetime TV Open. Everyone can be home to watch the action finish. So long as the action actually… finishes.

The final few putts of the third round were hit in rather dark conditions thanks to a layer of clouds that moved in and blanketed much of the area. It was just before 8 p.m. local time when Fowler tapped in on 18 and increasingly hard to see. You can take our word for it, here on-site, or you can listen to Wyndham Clark, who sounded off about the situation late in his post-round press conference. 

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“It’s a little ridiculous that we teed off that late,” Clark said. “I would say right around hole 15 or 16 it started getting to where you couldn’t see that well. I mean, I don’t personally understand why we teed off — we played twilight golf. 

“At the end, it was — the last two holes I 100 percent think my bogey on 17 was because I couldn’t see, and I think Rickie’s bogey on 18 was because he couldn’t see.” 

We’ll leave alone the fact that Fowler plays in sunglasses and acknowledge that yes, it was dark. So dark, Clark said, that he felt he or Fowler could have called in officials to pause the round overnight. Clark admitted that would have looked poorly on both sides — theirs and the USGA’s — but that was the reality he felt. Fowler lipped out a 5-footer on the 18th, dropping him into a tie with Clark at 10 under. 

The field of 65 began the final round at 9:33 a.m. local Saturday morning, playing in twosomes, which is mostly what Clark wanted changed. He didn’t think they needed to wait so long in the morning before getting started. Maybe 90 minutes or even two hours would have pushed their finish into plenty of daylight, even if that would have messed with the preferred primetime finish, he thought.

“I’m not trying to make an excuse, but it definitely was a challenge,” he said. “[Holes] 17 and 18, my putt on 17, I literally couldn’t see it, and we just played off of feel and how Rickie’s putt came in. And then my putt on 18, same thing. John was like, Well, it’s kind of around here. Make sure you hit it soft because we need to — we don’t want to blow this by. We need a tap-in coming in.

“So it’s kind of tough and it’s crazy to think that we’re doing that on the last two holes of a major when we could have teed off two hours earlier. Hopefully tomorrow we don’t have that issue.”

Clark made that final putt, a birdie on the last, to maintain his spot in the final pairing for Sunday’s final round, which will begin a lot earlier than it did Saturday. Clark and Fowler will tee off a full 70 minutes earlier Sunday, at 2:30 p.m. local time, or 5:30 on the East Coast. And while this may sound like an ask-and-you-shall-receive scenario, just know that it’s not. The tee times for Sundays are almost always 30 minutes to an hour ahead of Saturday rounds because of the threat of a playoff.

The long-winded answer to this dilemma came only at the tail end of what was a particularly optimistic and good-natured press conference. Clearly, Clark was comfortable with his performance, but annoyed that something like television windows could impact the competition.

“Yeah, I mean, it’s TV, but it’s — what is it, midnight on the East Coast? Personally I don’t quite understand it. I know we’re West Coast and whatnot and I know [TV] probably have the say, but I would like to think that they would step in and be like, ‘Hey, we want to make sure it’s in the light and we have time.’

“Definitely Rickie and I had a little bit of a disadvantage on those last two holes playing in the dark.”

Sean Zak

Golf.com Editor

Zak is a writer at GOLF Magazine and just finished a book about the summer he spent in St. Andrews.

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