Weekly Recap: First Win For Wyndham

Weekly Recap: First Win For Wyndham

This article is part of our Weekly PGA Recap series.

When Wyndham Clark arrived on the PGA Tour full-time five years ago, he had the look of a player who would win himself some tournaments. More than one. A bunch. He could hit the ball a ton and he could putt. That's a wonderful combination for a golfer but not too many of them have it. Clark had it.

Fast forward to Clark's 134th career start and the designated and therefore loaded Wells Fargo Championship. He entered the event without a PGA Tour victory, but he is winless no more.

Clark shot 67-67-63-68 across four eye-popping days to take down the elite field and tame the beastly Quail Hollow Club to the tune of 19-under-par. He also went toe-to-toe with the world's fifth-ranked golfer -- Xander Schauffele -- on Sunday and trounced him. 

Clark rebounded from a shaky start in which he lost a two-stroke lead to turn the afternoon into a virtual Sunday stroll and four-shot victory over a didn't-know-what-hit-him Schauffele.

The win came a week after Clark was the third favorite behind Jon Rahm and Tony Finau at the Mexico Open, only to face-plant in the first round and never be in it -- though he did rally to finish with a share of 24th place.

"It's been a long five years to get to this point on Tour," the 29-year-old Clark, choking back tears, told Amanda Renner on CBS right after a meaningless bogey on 18 sealed the victory. "I thought I would have one earlier."

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When Wyndham Clark arrived on the PGA Tour full-time five years ago, he had the look of a player who would win himself some tournaments. More than one. A bunch. He could hit the ball a ton and he could putt. That's a wonderful combination for a golfer but not too many of them have it. Clark had it.

Fast forward to Clark's 134th career start and the designated and therefore loaded Wells Fargo Championship. He entered the event without a PGA Tour victory, but he is winless no more.

Clark shot 67-67-63-68 across four eye-popping days to take down the elite field and tame the beastly Quail Hollow Club to the tune of 19-under-par. He also went toe-to-toe with the world's fifth-ranked golfer -- Xander Schauffele -- on Sunday and trounced him. 

Clark rebounded from a shaky start in which he lost a two-stroke lead to turn the afternoon into a virtual Sunday stroll and four-shot victory over a didn't-know-what-hit-him Schauffele.

The win came a week after Clark was the third favorite behind Jon Rahm and Tony Finau at the Mexico Open, only to face-plant in the first round and never be in it -- though he did rally to finish with a share of 24th place.

"It's been a long five years to get to this point on Tour," the 29-year-old Clark, choking back tears, told Amanda Renner on CBS right after a meaningless bogey on 18 sealed the victory. "I thought I would have one earlier."

A lot of golf observers thought that.

Standing 6 feet tall and weighing about 170 pounds, Clark attended the golf pipeline known as Oklahoma State, then transferred to Oregon in 2016. He won the Pac-12 Conference Championship in 2017, beating, among others, Collin Morikawa, Maverick McNealy, Justin Suh and Brandon Wu in the individual competition, while Oregon also won the team title.

In the 2018-19 season as a PGA Tour Rookie, Clark ranked in the top-10 in both driving distance (fifth) and putting (eighth). His approach play needed some work -- okay, a lot of work -- but the foundation was in place.

Months and years went by, and there were no wins. And really, not many close calls. There was one, a playoff loss to Brian Gay in the 2020 Bermuda Championship.

When Clark shot 73 out of the gate at the very weak Mexico Open a week ago, the last thing anyone thought was that he'd win the following week in a far tougher field.

And then, when he turned a two-stroke lead into a one-shot deficit after seven holes, thanks to his opening bogey and Schauffele's two birdies, the natural reaction was that Schauffele was off and running.

"I think in years past I might've folded," Clark said on CBS.

Instead, he led the field in Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green, was third in SG: Putting -- and also led the field in SG: Approach. Yes, he's gotten better at that.

Clark now has his huge breakthrough win, and he zoomed from a career-best 80th in the world rankings -- he had never been higher than 80th! -- to No. 31.

Finally, five years later, Clark is where he and many others expected him to be.

MONDAY BACKSPIN

Xander Schauffele
Golf is not tennis. Any PGA Tour player can beat another on a given day. But it's still a bit of a surprise that the No. 5 player in the world gained three strokes over a non-winner in the first seven holes then dropped five over the final 11. Especially in a pressure-filled situation for Clark. But Schauffele couldn't hold on. It was a big miss at a chance to win for the first time this season. In time, this will look like a fourth straight top-10, not as an inability to close out a far lesser player. Schauffele now heads to a major seemingly in good form. But he's never been able to close in a major, either.

Tyrrell Hatton
Hatton was unhappy to slide into a tie for third with a bogey on 18. But it continues a great three-month stretch for the Englishman. He now has four top-sixes since Phoenix. Hatton will play the Byron Nelson this week in advance of the PGA Championship.

Harris English
It was almost one year ago that English returned from hip surgery that cost him five months at the beginning of 2022. For a while, it didn't look like he'd regain the form that carried him into the top-10 in the world shortly before the surgery. But this tie for third comes on the somewhat recent heels of a tie for 12th at Riviera and a runner-up at Bay Hill. English is back up to 36th in the world.

Tommy Fleetwood
Fleetwood will enter the PGA Championship in two weeks on an up note. In making his seventh straight cut, he tied for fifth. He also was third at the Valspar. Close both times, but now another non-winner has won on the PGA Tour before Fleetwood has.

Adam Scott
This has not been a great 2023 for Scott. He had made eight starts before the Wells Fargo and, while he didn't miss a cut, he also didn't have a top-20. That changed at Quail Hollow, where Scott tied for fifth. It will take more than one week, even a great one, to show that Scott has turned around his season.

Michael Kim
Kim is playing some very good golf. Over his past nine starts, he's missed only one cut and now has two top-10s. He was solo seventh at the Wells Fargo, after an earlier solo fifth in Puerto Rico, and he also just missed a third top-10 with a tie for 11th at Pebble Beach. Kim looks to keep it going this week at the Byron Nelson. He jumped from 241st in the world to 157th.

Max Homa
Long, hard golf courses have proven to be Homa's wheelhouse – he won at Quail Hollow in 2019. This year, he tied for eighth, reversing a mini-slump that saw a T43 at the Masters and a missed cut at the RBC Heritage. Up next for Homa is another chance to show he can get it done in a major. He still doesn't have a top-10 in them.

Denny McCarthy
McCarthy tied for eighth to move to a career-best 55th in the world rankings. He now has two top-10s and four other top-25s in his past eight starts. McCarthy is not putting quite as well as he has in years past, but his tee-to-green game has really improved, hence the string of good results and rise in the world rankings.

K.H. Lee
Lee will enter his bid for a rare three-peat on a high. He tied for eighth at Quail Hollow and now heads to TPC Craig Branch, where he's won the Byron Nelson the past two years. When Lee won his first Nelson, it was viewed as an outlier. But in the two years since, he has become a quality player, one who is now ranked 44th in the world.

Sungjae Im
Solid, solid and more solid. Im tied for eighth, giving him five top-eight finishes already this season. He also was T16 at the Masters. Just a very solid season and Im heads to the PGA Championship with a good chance to do some damage.

Brendon Todd
Regular readers will know we often turn to Todd on shorter courses. But Quail Hollow? Todd tied for eighth and moved inside the top-70 in the world rankings.

Rickie Fowler
The return to the old Fowler continues. He tied for 14th at Quail Hollow to, finally, get back into the top-50 in the world rankings for the first time in almost 2 and a half years. Fowler is ranked 50th, and not only will he play in the PGA Championship in two weeks, he will still be top-60 that Sunday no matter what happens, meaning he will also play in the U.S. Open next month.

Justin Thomas
Thomas was having a great tournament through three rounds at the site of his 2017 PGA Championship victory. Then he went out on Sunday in 31 and a great tournament turned into something even better. But then Thomas tumbled on the back-nine with four bogeys to limp home in 40. He tied for 14th, which looks good. But he won't feel all that good.

Jimmy Walker
Walker is on fire. He really is. The 44-year-old tied for 14th, giving him a fourth successive top-25. He was ranked in the 400s when this streak started and now he's 245th. Can Walker make it five in a row? He'll give it go this week at the Byron Nelson before he plays in the PGA Championship in two weeks.

Gary Woodland
Woodland tied for 14th to make it six straight cuts and 10 of 11. He's now moved back inside the top-80 in the world rankings for the first time in 21 months (he's 75th). We'll see Woodland next at another long course, Oak Hill, for the PGA Championship.

Dylan Wu
There was a bit of a kerfuffle before the tournament when Wu was granted sponsor invite and Tour player Andrew Novak publicly complained about it on Twitter. Very odd! Novak was ranked 306th and Wu was 326th, so they were almost identical, not that that is the determining factor on a sponsor invite. Wu backed up the invitation by tying for 21st. If you're scoring at home, Novak is now ranked 310th and Wu, 292nd.

Rory McIlroy
McIlroy explained at the beginning of the week that he skipped the RBC Heritage and, in effect, was fined $3 million because he simply needed a break. Understood. He had been going full throttle as a full-time golfer and part-time commissioner for a year. But on Tuesday, he didn't sound refreshed or ready to resume playing. He opened nicely with a 68, then didn't break 70 again and meandered home in a tie for 47th. At a course where he's won three times. He'll now take another week off before the PGA Championship, but it remains to be seen whether McIlroy will really be ready to play even then.

MISSED CUTS

Quite a few big names failed to reach the weekend: Jordan Spieth, Collin Morikawa, Sam Burns, Jason Day, Shane Lowry and Kurt Kitayama. It's not the worst thing in the world to miss a cut right now, and get a bit of a breather after such a busy first four months of the year. … For Morikawa, though, it's more than just an MC. He's now fallen to No. 16 in the world. … Kitayama continues to struggle following his big win at Bay Hill. … Danny Willett is leading a charmed life. Entering the week at No. 100 in the world rankings, with the top-100 getting into the PGA Championship, the Englishman missed the cut. But when the new rankings came out on Sunday night, Willett had inched up to 99th. He's off to Oak Hill in two weeks.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Len Hochberg
Len Hochberg has covered golf for RotoWire since 2013. A veteran sports journalist, he was an editor and reporter at The Washington Post for nine years. Len is a three-time winner of the FSWA DFS Writer of the Year Award (2020, '22 and '23) and a five-time nominee (2019-23). He is also a writer and editor for MLB Advanced Media.
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