CHARLOTTE, N.C. – It’s the one thing every PGA Tour player has in common; from the 15-time major champion to the rookie, there will always come a moment when they’ll be faced with the unique challenges of winning for the first time at the game’s highest level.
For Wyndham Clark, that moment awaits Sunday at the Wells Fargo Championship. The fifth-year Tour player has come close. He lost a playoff at the 2021 Bermuda Championship after starting the final round a shot off the lead, and he took a one-stroke lead into the final turn at the ’19 Honda Classic before a closing 72 dropped him into a tie for seventh place.
He’s also been on an impressive tear the last few weeks on Tour, with top-10 finishes in three of his last five starts, including a third-place showing paired with Beau Hossler at the Zurich Classic last month.
It’s certain all those memories will be swirling when he tees off Sunday afternoon with a two-stroke lead over Xander Schauffele, following a flawless 63 on Day 3 at Quail Hollow Club.
“I’m excited to see how I handle the pressure tomorrow,” Clark said. “It’s going to be a fun challenge. Obviously, it’s going to be tough; I’ve got one of the best players in the world right behind me and a bunch of other good players. I’m just really looking forward to the challenge tomorrow.”
Clark said all the right things because he’s conditioned himself over the last year to be his own best friend.
It wasn’t always that way.
He explained that last season took a toll, and after an ultimatum from his team, he dedicated himself to a more positive approach. That’s why the final round, at least in Clark’s eyes, is an opportunity – not a burden. But self-help can only go so far for a player who is vying for his first Tour victory.
“The hardest thing, people talk about these guys aren’t closing well, but it’s putting 72 holes of good together, whether that’s on the PGA Tour or if you were to play four-straight rounds at home. It’s a lot of golf to play really well,” said Hossler, who has learned firsthand the challenges of a breakthrough victory on Tour. “The challenge is you’re going to have 18 [holes] that are really difficult and just getting through them is the key. You know that you’re not going to be ‘on’ for 72 holes. If you keep it together on the ones that you’re off, that keeps guys in the tournament, and it seems like the best players in the world are able to do it.”
The first 54 holes haven’t exactly been challenging for Clark, who has made just three bogeys this week and set a new 54-hole scoring record (197). He ranks inside the top 5 in strokes gained: tee to green (second), strokes gained: approach to the green (first) and strokes gained: putting (second) and missed a perfect 18-for-18 card in greens in regulation on Day 3 by about a half foot, when his second shot at the 18th hole skipped into the first cut.
Clark has been dominant through three rounds, but winning for the first time can have a cumulative impact particularly at the Wells Fargo Championship – a designated event with six of the top 10 players in the world ranking and the elevated prestige of a $20 million purse.
“Everything’s gotten bigger and bigger and bigger, and here we are now, we’ve been at designated events, and if you’re trying to win your first at a designated event, it’s all incredibly significant,” said Adam Scott, who will start Sunday five shots back and tied for third. “It’s never easy to win out here, let alone your first, but thinking back to when I won any tournament but even the first, it’s your day. If you can keep yourself under control, something goes right and you end up getting across the line. I know that’s easier said than done, but that’s kind of what it felt like.”
Clark would likely appreciate the simplicity of Scott’s take. He is, after all, on a journey to alleviate the negative in his life, and if Sunday is going to be his day, he’ll need to keep things as simple as possible.
Source : Golf Channel