As Wyndham Clark strolled along the last fairway at Quail Hollow on Sunday, with victory almost certain, he purposefully took in all the sights and sounds surrounding him. Shortly after, he confidently putted to secure the Wells Fargo Championship and claim his very first PGA Tour victory.
“I can only win my first tournament once,” Clark pondered, but he had imagined this victory countless times before.
“It’s unbelievable. I’ve had this dream since I was around six years old,” Clark expressed to reporters in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“Ever since I joined the PGA Tour, I constantly imagine and daydream about winning. This year, I have caught myself doing it multiple times.”
“I never could have imagined a better scenario than competing in this golf course against such tough opponents.”
Long time coming
Clark’s victory was a fairy tale come true. He scored 19-under and won by four shots against his fellow countryman Xander Schauffele, who is ranked 5th in the world, 75 places above Clark. According to the PGA Tour, this marked the second-best score in relation to par in the event’s history, with Rory McIlroy’s 21-under in 2015 being the only one better.
After not qualifying for The Masters, McIlroy returned to compete in a highly competitive field with six of the top 10 players in the world. He finished in 31st place.
Clark, aged 29, ended the tournament with a final score of 68, marking his fourth consecutive round in the 60’s. He remained calm and collected after an impressive score of 63 on Saturday, which had given him a two-shot advantage over Schauffele going into the last round.
In 2017, Clark became a professional golfer and went without a win for five years and 133 starts on the PGA Tour. However, after placing sixth at the Corales Puntacana Championship in the Dominican Republic in March, he started to believe that he may never experience victory.
“I understand it may seem unbelievable since I’ve only been in this industry for five years, but I have had numerous opportunities where I was within two or three shots of either entering the back nine or starting on a Sunday. However, I always seemed to come up short and not only that, but also fell back in ranks,” Clark confessed.
“There were several instances where I received numerous texts and calls, and I reached a point of extreme frustration with some individuals in my camp. I began to doubt my chances of success and thought it best to avoid discussing the matter any further. I even considered that perhaps winning was not meant for me.”
“In my current situation, I thought to myself, ‘We have learned from our mistakes and know what to avoid.'”
On Sunday, Clark began his round with a bogey and stayed at one-over until the eighth hole. But he then scored a birdie and went on to make four more on the back nine, leading him to an easy finish.
After making his final bogey, Clark appeared to be overwhelmed with emotion as he returned home. He hugged his caddie and Schauffele before holding back tears while acknowledging the audience at the 18th hole.
“I was unsure of my destination.”
Clark’s victory earned him the top prize of $3.6 million, a significant increase from his previous highest payout of $485,000. This win also guaranteed his spot in the 151st Open Championship at Royal Liverpool in July and boosted his world ranking by 49 spots to No. 31.
It made a long-held aspiration come true, despite almost not becoming a reality. When Clark was 19 and making a name for himself as a skilled player at Oklahoma State University, his mother passed away from breast cancer.
Clark misplaced his “rock” and seriously contemplated quitting the sport altogether.
“I performed poorly,” Clark remembered. “There were numerous instances where I angrily left the golf course during qualifying or tournaments and sped off, not knowing my destination.”
“I struggled with the stress of golf and not having my mom there as a support system. This has been difficult for me. Additionally, in my professional career, I have experienced similar moments where I have missed multiple cuts or felt that my game was strong but not yielding desired results, causing me to consider stepping away.”
Max Homa has a powerful statement: “Every golfer is just one shot away from feeling like they can win the Masters, or one shot away from giving up on golf altogether.” This quote rings true for many golfers, and I am grateful that I persevered and am now in this position.