After two bounce-back birdies, will go into final round with share of the lead
LOS ANGELES – The old Wyndham Clark might have gnashed his teeth and packed it in.
He had bogeyed the par-3 11th and par-4 12th holes, the latter with a chunked chip that barely advanced the ball. Rickie Fowler had jarred a nearly 70-foot putt to birdie the par-4 13th.
The 123rd U.S. Open at Los Angeles Country Club wasn’t going Clark’s way.
And then it was.
Clark, who authored his first PGA TOUR victory at the Wells Fargo Championship last month, answered Fowler’s unlikely putt with a birdie of his own from 12 1/2 feet on 13. And after a second bounce-back birdie on 18, this one from just over six feet, Clark had shot a third-round 69 to Fowler’s even-par 70.
Both are 10-under par and will play together in the final pairing again Sunday.
“Every shot matters out here,” Clark said. “And on top of it, we couldn’t see (on 18). So just the fact making it when we were kind of just feeling it and didn’t really have the clearest of reads.
“There’s a lot of emotion,” he added. “It’s a U.S. Open and I wanted to be in that final group.”
Fowler and Rory McIlroy (69) will be the people’s choice on Sunday. Clark knows that, but he doesn’t care. They’re going to have to beat him; he used to do that all by himself.
Clark first considered quitting golf a decade ago, after his mother, Lise, died of breast cancer. She was the one who started him in golf, driving him to tournaments, and she leveled him out when the game drove him to distraction. Without her, he would lose his composure in qualifiers at Oklahoma State.
He transferred to Oregon, and while he was the 2017 Pac-12 Player of the Year, he remained volatile, a liability that followed him into the pro ranks, as well. He was fragile – his word – and living and dying with every shot. As the middling results piled up, he got angrier and angrier until finally his team insisted he address it.
“It was either that or quit,” Clark said at Quail Hollow last month, where his Wells Fargo Championship win validated his inner work. “I just wasn’t having any fun.”
So began a journey in which he went all-in on the mental side, which meant not only seeing a sports psychologist but also reading “The Obstacle is the Way” by Ryan Holiday and “The Energy Bus” by Jon Gordon. It paid off handsomely at the Wells Fargo and continues to pay off this week, as well.
So has an early scouting trip to LACC, Clark flying in from his home in Scottsdale, Arizona, touring the course with a friend who is a member of the club (who caddied for him), and then flying home. They got so much work done, and it was so illuminating, that Clark compared it to two normal practice rounds.
But it’s Clark’s tireless work on the mental game that continues to be most impactful.
“It’s a little surreal to be in this situation,” he said in the dark Saturday night. “Honestly, I’m really looking forward to tomorrow and the challenge it’s going to bring, and hopefully it’s my day.”
*Credit Information to www.pgatour.com & Written by Cameron Morfit@CMorfitPGATOUR