Gone Fishin'

U.S. Open 2023: The surprising hobby that may help Wyndham Clark reel in a major title on Sunday

Take a look at the top of the leaderboard heading into Sunday at the 2023 U.S. Open. Rickie, Rory, Scottie. All guys we’re on a first-name basis with. Scroll a little further and you’ll find a Ryder Cup hero as well as the 2016 and 2020 U.S. Open champs. There is one name that sticks out like a sore thumb, however, and it isn’t Harris English.

That’s right, we’re talking about Wyndham Clark.

The 29-year-old Colorado-born pro with the first name of a hotel chain won his first-ever PGA Tour title last month, besting the field by four strokes at the Wells Fargo Championship. Now he’s in the final group at the U.S. Open facing off against the comeback kid, the PGA Tour’s poster child and a dude whose nickname is simply "X." Does he even stand a chance? Time will tell, but Clark’s favorite thing to do off the course might just help him on it on Sunday.

We’re not going to sit here and sing you a sad song about the life of a tour pro, but it can be stressful. Your mistakes are measured in millimeters not feet. There’s massive pressure to perform and if you don’t, you’re not getting paid. That can take its toll on even the most gifted players (the two men Clark is sandwiched between on the leaderboard are proof of enough that). If you want to have prolonged success in this sport, you first need to have an escape from it. For Clark, that’s fly fishing.

He took up the pastime in college after his mother passed away, and since then it has become his place to think or, perhaps more importantly, not think. Although his swing and cast bear only passing resemblances, mentally the two pursuits overlap more than you might think. Angles and trajectories. Calm and focus. Knowing when to go for it and when to let it come to you. All of these are essential, whether reeling in a rainbow trout or a nine iron from 160 yards.

While Clark’s love of fly fishing is as much philosophical as it is physical, he doesn’t approach it much differently than he would a round on the PGA Tour. He gets up at the crack of dawn and drives several hours in the snow with no guarantee of catching anything but peace and quiet. He even has an unofficial fly-fishing swing guru, Josh Hensley.

“I usually can’t sleep the night before fishing,” Clark admits. “It’s actually probably worse than the night before the final round of a tournament when you have a chance to win.”

That theory will certainly be tested at Los Angeles Country Club, where Clark has his first real shot at claiming a major title. Something tells us he didn’t get eight solid hours of REM on Saturday night, but if he can harness the zen he learned standing in a freezing cold river for hours on end and apply it to the final round at a major championship, who knows, he might just win this thing.