U.S. Open 2023: Wyndham Clark outlasts star-studded leaderboard, collects first major in seventh major start

June 18, 2023

Ezra Shaw

The last man many believed would be standing atop a star-studded U.S. Open leaderboard was the last man standing late Sunday at Los Angeles Country Club.

That man was Wyndham Clark, who shot a final-round 70 to outlast Rory McIlroy by a shot. The 29-year-old Clark two-putted for par from 60 feet on the 72nd hole and unleashed tears and threw his hands in the air in relief. He shot 64-67-69-70 for a 10-under 270 total to earn the $3.6 million first-place prize.

“I’ve dreamed about this moment for so long,” Clark said. “I feel like it was my time.”

It’s not a surprise that Clark’s name wasn’t mentioned much earlier in the week, or even hailed as the favorite heading into the final round. Afterall, he was only playing in his seventh major championship and had missed four cuts. His best finish in the game’s biggest events was a tie for 75th place. He wasn’t eligible for the Masters two months ago. Last month he shot eight over in two days to easily miss the cut at the PGA Championship. And yet here, at the 123rd U.S. Open, the 32nd-ranked player in the world was atop the leaderboard to start the final round, tied with Rickie Fowler and ahead of World No. 3 McIlroy and World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler.

Clark, who won his first PGA Tour title last month at the Wells Fargo Championship, remained steady in the pressure cooker as his foes faltered one-by-one.

First it was Fowler, who was looking for his first major title and first PGA Tour win in more than four years. He bogeyed three of the first seven holes and was never in contention again. He shot 75 and dropped into a tie for fifth place. After opening with a U.S. Open record eight-under 62, he finished the week at five-under total.

"I just didn't have it today," Fowler said. "Iron play was very below average and didn't make anything."

Scheffler started the day three shots back and shot even-par 70. He finished third but never made a serious run to catch Clark.

"I just felt like I wasn't sharp enough today to move up the board," Scheffler said. "I did a good job of keeping myself in it but I just wasn't sharp enough."

McIlroy was looking for his fifth major title and first in nine years. With six holes remaining he and Clark were the only two left with a chance to win. But an untimely bogey on the par-5 14th hole via a wedge short of the green put McIlroy in too much of a hole. After four consecutive pars to finish the day McIlroy had shot 70, only made one birdie on the day (the par-5 first hole) and walked away with his third runner-up finish in a major.

"When I do finally win this next major, it's going to be really, really sweet," McIlroy said. "I would go through 100 Sundays like this to get my hands on another major championship."

While McIlroy continues to search for another one, Clark will be celebrating this one, a hard-earned victory after leading most of the day.

Clark made a good bogey on the par-5 eighth hole after whiffing a chip shot in the thick fescue guarding the green. On the next hole he pulled off a sensational up and down for par to make the turn at 11 under and a one-shot lead over McIlroy.

While McIlroy made bogey on the 14th hole, Clark was standing in the fairway, 282 yards away. He hit a high cut 3-wood on the par-5 to 20 feet and two putted for par to lead by three shots. Bogeys from Clark on 15 and 16 made the lead only one, but pars on the last two holes, including the aforementioned two-putt from 60 feet for par on the last, did the trick.

"I hit some great shots coming down at the end, and although I made a couple bogeys and it seemed like maybe the rails were coming off, I was inside pretty calm," Clark said. "I'm really pleased with myself with how I performed."

Cameron Smith shot a final-round 67 to jump up to fourth place, four shots behind Clark. Tommy Fleetwood, a week after losing the RBC Canadian Open in a playoff to Nick Taylor, shot 63 to tie for fifth place with Fowler and Min Woo Lee. Gordon Sargent, who just completed his sophomore season at Vanderbilt, tied for 39th place to collect low amateur honors.