Golf-Hollywood ending for U.S. Open champion Clark

By Rory Carroll

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) -American Wyndham Clark announced himself as golf’s newest star with a gutsy U.S. Open triumph at the Los Angeles Country Club on Sunday to claim his first major title.

Facing off against some of the game’s biggest names in the shadow of Hollywood, Clark tuned out some late drama to clinch a one-shot victory over Rory McIlroy.

Clark wept tears of joy after he sank a short par putt on 18 to finish the championship on 10-under par 270 behind an impressive display of power and precision.

“I feel like I belong on this stage,” said Clark, who collected the trophy and winner’s check of $3.6 million.

“Even two, three years ago when people didn’t know who I was, I felt like I could still compete against the best players in the world.”

World number one Scottie Scheffler was third at seven under while overnight co-leader Rickie Fowler faded early and had to settle for a share of fifth.

The 29-year-old Clark, who notched his first PGA Tour victory last month at Quail Hollow, said he drew inspiration from his late mother.

“I felt like my mom was watching over me today,” said Clark, who considered quitting golf a decade ago after his mother died of breast cancer.

“She was so positive and such a motivator in what she did. She’d be crying tears of joy.

“She called me ‘Winner’ when I was little. She would just say, ‘I love you, Winner.’ She had the mantra of ‘play big’.”

Clark had to ‘play big’ to get out of trouble around the turn and looked to be in total control when a birdie on 14 pushed his lead to three shots with four holes to play.

But the drama ramped up with a bogey on the short par-three 15th and again when his advantage shrank to a single stroke after his par putt lipped out on 16.

Despite the pressure, Clark would not crack, holding his nerve to make par on the two long closing holes, while McIlroy failed to sink a 41-foot birdie putt on 18 that would have moved him into a tie for first.

“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,” said Clark.


McIlroy’s latest failed bid for one of golf’s biggest prizes will sting. The Northern Irishman has gone nine years without adding to his four major titles.

The world number three started well with a birdie on the first but could not get his speed right with the putter and finished with an even-par 70.

The 34-year-old is confident a fifth major title will come.

“When I do finally win this next major, it’s going to be really, really sweet,” he said.

“I would go through 100 Sundays like this to get my hands on another major championship.”

The talk of the tournament all week had been the resurgence of Fowler, the fan favourite who led or shared the lead at the end of the first three rounds.

But he struggled from the outset on Sunday, bogeying three of his first seven holes to take the pressure off Clark and McIlroy and signed for a closing round 75.

“I just didn’t have it today,” he told reporters.

It has been a long road back for the Southern California native, a former top-10 golfer who last September dropped to a career-low 185th in the rankings.

The 34-year-old, who missed the last two iterations of the tournament, said he would take positives away from his first three rounds, which included an opening round of 62.

“You learn from all your experiences. Not the position I wanted to be in after today, but a lot of good coming from this week.”

(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles;Editing by Peter Rutherford)