Wyndham Clark knew he was in the midst of something special on Saturday at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. The 2023 U.S. Open champion could feel his gallery already starting to swell as he reached the par-3 12th hole. When you are a video-game-like 10-under par through 11 holes on iconic Pebble Beach Golf Links – pretty much the most famous golf course in America – and the hole has widened to the size of a peach basket, people tend to want to witness what you’re doing.
Clark’s attempt for eagle from 26 feet after two crisp shots into the famed par-5 18th drifted off just shy of the cup, and what was left was a tap-in for birdie and a 12-under 60, the best round ever recorded on a links that welcomed its first shots when Woodrow Wilson was sitting U.S. President. It was Saturday, sure, but in so many ways – not only his heated chase for 59, but where he’d done it, and with bad weather closing in – Clark walked off the 18th green feeling as if he had won the tournament.
Actually, he had.
Clark would not strike another shot at a setting so special to him, so breathtakingly gorgeous, that he chose to get married there. Sunday’s scheduled fourth round – and even 18 holes potentially to be played on Monday – would be washed out by a violent storm that carried heavy rains and dangerous winds that gusted upward of 60 mph, turning one of golf’s most revered postcards into a dangerous place.
To Clark, coming down 16, 17 and 18 at Pebble Beach in the round of his lifetime felt very much like a late Sunday would. When officials made it official Sunday evening – Pebble was too saturated, and winds were too high, for any more golf – Clark was the tournament’s champion. He would celebrate in the house where he was staying belonging to a friend who lives inside the gates as Pebble’s newest champion. In his heart, he already was there.
Clark finished 54 holes at 17-under 199, edging Ludvig Åberg, the long-bombing Swedish phenom playing in only his 20th PGA TOUR start, by a shot. Frenchman Matthieu Pavon, a winner at Farmer’s Insurance one week earlier, finished solo third, moving to the top of the FedExCup standings. The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am marked the second Signature Event on the 2024 PGA TOUR schedule; Clark earned full shares of FedExCup points (700, which moved him to third in the season standings) and winner’s bounty, earning $3.6 million of a $20 million purse.
Clark, 30, was a winner for the third time in less than 10 months, having earned three significant titles – 2023 Wells Fargo Championship, 2023 U.S. Open, and now 2024 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. In winning at Pebble Beach, he was joining the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Lanny Wadkins, Curtis Strange, Tom Kite, Payne Stewart and Tiger Woods, Hall of Famers all.
“The stands were full, the fans were there, the buzz was there, the feelings were there, the nerves were there,” Clark said on Sunday evening, once deemed the tournament’s official champion. He was Pebble Beach’s first 54-hole winner since 2009 (Dustin Johnson).
“Walking as I came to the green, I got a standing ovation and everyone was giving me the respect for having such a great round,” Clark said. “Then to almost shoot 59, but to shoot 60 and break the course record … When I shook hands and waved to the crowd, it really felt like I just won the tournament. So I don’t feel like I got cheated at all.”
Nor should he. Clark got better with each day at Pebble Beach. He opened with a round of 72 at Spyglass Hill Golf Course, which he termed “mediocre.” On Friday, Clark was solid at Pebble Beach Golf Links, shooting 67. And Saturday, well, Saturday. That was a day when everything went right. Clark said the hole was looking “like a bucket,” and he just kept pouring in the putts, needing only 23.
There was a 39-footer for his first eagle, at the par-5 second. He ran in a 42-footer for another eagle at the uphill par-5 sixth. He nearly aced the tiny seventh. On 8 and 9, he knocked in putts of 29 and 25 feet for birdies to tie the front-nine record of 8-under 28. Reminder: This is a place that has hosted championship golf for nearly a century, and does not dole out history like gumballs from a machine.
Birdies followed at the difficult 10th and 11th. Even at 12, a challenging, 204-yard par 3, there was magic. Clark plugged a tee shot in a bunker and hit a second that settled into such an awkward lie outside the left bunker that his third was played with an inverted wedge, left-handed. That shot scooted across the green. He was looking at double, at least, hoping to two-putt from 26 feet. Then made a putt he wasn’t trying to make. A great 4. Complete bonus.
Basically, there were 79 pros trying to scratch out a score at Pebble Beach, and one guy playing like the bishop inside a monsoon in “Caddyshack.” Clearly, it was the round of Clark’s life. Maybe it was the buzz of that, and not just suddenly having the lead, that had caused Clark a such a sleepless, restless night heading to Sunday.
Sunday, he first woke up around 2 a.m., checked the weather, and discovered it didn’t look as bad as he thought it might. At 5:15 a.m., his alarm sounded so that he could get his first alert from the TOUR: Play would start no earlier than noon local time. More sleep. He woke and passed the time with breakfast, a movie, and some ping pong with a former teacher who was there to watch him play. Eventually Clark received a call telling him, hey, this might get called off.
Still, he wanted to stay mentally ready to play. When one more call arrived telling Clark there was no more golf, he officially was a winner, tears of joy came. His caddie, John Ellis, who has competed as a pro at Pebble Beach, grew up only 90 minutes away, and always told Clark, even if you go on to win 100 times, please make sure one is at Pebble. Mission complete. The two men hugged, then sat and talked and laughed discussing some of the shots Clark had hit.
On Saturday, Clark made it from the first tee through the 18th green needing only 60 shots. It was magical. It was memorable. It was meaningful. And it was historic. What a journey this has been for Clark, who began 2023 ranked No. 163 in the world, a man with a hot temper who was in his own way. Finally, he now has belief in himself, and in his immense talents. Clark rose four spots, up to sixth in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Sometimes, life really does begin at 29.
“My dream is to try to be one of the top players in the world, if not the top player. I just grew up always imagining winning PGA TOUR events,” Clark said Sunday.
Oh, and don’t forget making history. That, too. Clark is the newest, proudest owner of the all-time low round at venerable Pebble Beach Golf Links. Sixty. If anyone asks, he has the trophy to prove it.