As he strolled along the last fairway at Quail Hollow on Sunday, Wyndham Clark was confident of his impending victory. He deliberately took in all the sights and sounds surrounding him. Shortly after, he confidently tapped in the winning shot to secure the Wells Fargo Championship and his first PGA Tour win.
Clark reflected on the fact that winning your first tournament can only happen once. However, he had imagined this victory countless times before.
Clark expressed to reporters in Charlotte, North Carolina that it was a surreal experience as he had dreamed about it since he was six years old.
“Ever since I joined the PGA Tour, I often find myself daydreaming about winning. This year, I have caught myself doing it multiple times.”
“I could never have imagined doing this at this golf course against such tough competition.”
Long time coming
The manner of victory was the stuff of dreams too, as Clark carded 19-under to seal a four-shot victory over compatriot Xander Schauffele, ranked 75 places above him at world No. 5. It marked the second-lowest score in relation to par in the event’s history, second only to Rory McIlroy’s 21-under in 2015, according to the PGA Tour.
McIlroy placed 31st in a highly competitive tournament against six of the top 10 players in the world. This was his first competition since not qualifying for The Masters.
Clark, 29, ended his final round with a score of 68, making it his fourth consecutive round in the 60’s. After an impressive 63 on Saturday that put him two shots ahead of Schauffele, he maintained his composure and finished strong in the closing round.
In 2017, Clark became a professional golfer and went through five years and 133 PGA Tour events without winning. Following a sixth place finish at the Corales Puntacana Championship in March, the American started to consider the possibility that he may never experience victory.
“I understand it may seem unbelievable since I’ve only been here for five years, but I have had many opportunities where I was within two or three shots either going into the back nine or starting on a Sunday. However, I always seem to come up short and even fall back in positions,” Clark confessed.
“I experienced numerous instances of receiving texts and calls that left me feeling frustrated with my fellow camp members. At one point, I even doubted my ability to win and thought it best to avoid discussing it further in order to avoid dwelling on it. I began to think that perhaps winning was not meant for me.”
“Having been in this position before, I thought to myself, ‘We already know what mistakes to avoid.”
On Sunday, Clark began his round with a bogey and was at one-over by the time he reached the eighth tee. But he quickly bounced back with a birdie and continued to play well, making four more birdies on the back nine to finish strong.
After making his final bogey, Clark appeared to be overwhelmed with feelings. 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 a prize of $3.6 million, which was significantly more than his previous largest payout of $485,000. This win also granted him a spot in the 151st Open Championship at Royal Liverpool in July and boosted his world ranking to No. 31, a jump of 49 spots.
It realized a goal that was almost impossible to achieve. At the age of 19, Clark was making a name for himself as a skilled athlete at Oklahoma State University when his mother passed away from breast cancer.
Clark misplaced his “rock” and seriously contemplated quitting the sport completely.
“I played very poorly,” Clark remembered. “There were numerous occasions when I angrily left the golf course during qualifying or tournaments and sped off without any sense of direction.”
The stress of playing golf without my mother’s support was incredibly difficult for me. I have also faced similar challenges in my professional career, such as a string of missed cuts or feeling like my game is strong but not yielding results, causing me to consider quitting.
“I really appreciate Max Homa’s insightful statement: ‘At any given moment, a golfer can go from feeling like they can win the Masters to feeling like giving up on golf.’ This quote resonates with me because it reflects the reality of the sport. I am grateful that I persevered and am now at this point in my golf journey.”