Who is Wyndham Clark? Let’s talk about the rules scenario that saved his U.S. Open

Wyndham Clark

Who is Wyndham Clark, one of your U.S. Open leaders? Let’s talk about the rules scenario at LACC that saved his tournament.

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LOS ANGELES — What would the old Wyndham Clark have done?

The current Wyndham Clark and I are walking back alone to the Los Angeles Country Club clubhouse when I ask him the question. Actually, I kinda already knew. John Ellis, his caddie and one of his former college coaches told me a few minutes earlier, but I wanted to hear straight from the mouth of the U.S. Open third-round leader: Would the old Wyndham have attempted the hero shot?

“Yeah, I probably would have tried.”

We both laugh. Clark’s an honest dude. He continues. 

“My mind gets moving fast and I just think ahead,” he said. “And I think just learning that a bogey is OK on the PGA Tour and I can always birdie the next hole is huge. So definitely I feel I’ve matured as a player.”

As this national championship enters its final day, you’ll have questions, too. About who Clark is. About whether he can hang with the all-star team he’ll be battling on Sunday. He’s tied with fan fav Rickie Fowler. One back is World No. 3 Rory McIlroy. Three back is World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler. Lurking are studs Dustin Johnson and Xander Schauffele. And maybe Clark folds. Or the moment swallows him whole. 

So let’s talk Saturday and the 17th hole and the moment when it actually could have. 

Clark was a stroke back, though he had been in the lead for some of the day. His tee shot found the fairway. His second shot found the abyss. From 194 out, his ball darted right. “Sit, sit, sit, sit, sit,” he shouted. It didn’t. It settled into the garbage of the red-penalty-marked barranca.   

And from there, you take your penalty and you take your drop and you hopefully take a bogey and you get the hell out of there.  

But the cameras are rolling. And the mind’s racing. Clark had even hit a few down there (!) during the practice rounds. Maybe you can hit one Saturday! The Hail Mary play! You’re bulletproof, baby!  

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Afterward, outside of the clubhouse, Ellis laughed when I brought it up. 

“Maybe in the past he would have tried it,” he said. “I would have done my darndest to not let him try it, but they ultimately call the last shots, and yeah, he did a pretty great job and we were in a great spot to get it up and down and make the putt.”

Was that the calmest Clark’s ever been, Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard asked.  

“Yeah, he jumped down there pretty fast,” Ellis said. “We knew it was a hazard so — I don’t know where it hit, but it had to have hit pretty far right. But we kind of practiced down there a little bit just in case because there’s not that many good spots down there. Yeah, we took our medicine. … After playing so good, you hate to make 6 there.”

He didn’t. After a brief huddle with a rules official, he dropped, chipped to 6 feet and made his bogey 5. He was two back. Then he was none back. On 18, Clark pumped one down the fairway, lasered an iron to 6 feet, club-twirled, birdied, fist-pumped — and Fowler three-putted and bogeyed, and the two are tied with just 18 to go.  

Afterward, as Fowler was taking questions during his press conference and Clark was waiting for his, we talked about 17. He said he made the call right away. He said making a bogey doesn’t lose the tournament — but making a double or triple does. He said it was the right play, and it was. But I was curious. 

Your mind must have been racing, right?

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“No, the lie was pretty bad. It was pretty clear-cut. I kind of made the decision fast. But my caddie and I were both like, we couldn’t hit the shot close. And then it could go in a place where we bring in double or triple so we thought it was the best play, and if you don’t get up and down there, then maybe it wasn’t, but because we did, I think it was the right play.”

In the press conference, Clark was asked about the round. And Sunday’s round. About emotions. And 17, too. But this stands out. GOLF’s Dylan Dethier asked Clark if he’s “an emotional player in general or pretty flat-lined.”

“Well, if you think I’m flat-lined out there, I’m not,” he said. “I’m very emotional. I try to keep my emotions very level just because I think that’s how I play my best. But yeah, deep down inside I want to fist-pump every time I make a putt and talk-trash and whatever. But I try to keep it as level as possible because that’s how I play my best.”

A few minutes later, Clark and I then had a laugh about the old Clark. 

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