By Tim Liotta
Clark Prevails over McIlroy to win 123rd U.S. Open
With his a chance to claim his first major championship hanging in the balance, and the man who wants to win one more major than anyone else on the planet breathing down his neck the entire day, Wyndham Clark hit all the shots he needed to hit on Sunday.
Clarke held off Rory McIlroy by one shot to win the 123rd U.S. Open Championship, his first major championship and only the second victory of his five-year professional career. He took the lead on the front nine Sunday, and held on to it to the end.
"U.S. Opens are tough, and it's tough on the back nine trying to win the tournament," said Clark at the trophy ceremony. "I was at ease, and kept telling myself, 'I can do this, this can do.' "
Clark birdied the 14th hole with a hard fade from 279 yards onto the green and two putts to give himself an advantage he would not surrender despite bogeys on 15 and 16.
"The shot on 14 was kind of the shot of the week for me," Clark said. "To make a birdie there, and grind it all the way in."
Clark, who won a PGA Tour elevated event last month by four shots, has climbed to golf's highest level after being a decorated amateur, and a college player who found himself at the University of Oregon, where he won the Pacific-12 Conference title and was named Golfweek magazine's Player of the Year. He lost his mother, who introduced him to the game, to breast cancer a year ago.
"I just felt like my mother was watching over me today," said Clark.
For McIlroy, his just-miss was simply the latest in a long string of nice tries that has seen him 34 times attempt to win his fifth major championship.
"I'll rue some of the chances I missed," said McIlroy. "I felt it was really hard to get the ball really close all day," he said. "It was that, and the wedge shot on 14, coming up just a little bit short."
After driving the ball into the rough left, and being forced to lay up from 125 yards away, McIlroy hit a wedge shot that embedded in the collar above the bunker in front of the 14th green. He fortunately got a drop, chipped long and right of the pin to just inside 10 feet, and missed the putt for his only bogey of the day.
"I'm right there," McIlroy said after Clark sank his winning putt. "It's such fine margins at this level. I've just got to keep putting myself in these positions, and sooner or later it's going to happen for me."
Instead it was Clark, who escaped a disaster of his own on the eighth hole.
After his second shot fell into the barranca to the left of the green, his first swing failed to move the ball. His second try, his fourth shot on the far five, shot high, long and left to the far edge of the green. He managed to get up and down from there to hang onto a one-shot lead with 10 holes to play.
Scottie Scheffler also could not find whatever it was he needed to make a challenge, making three birdies and three bogeys without ever threatening the top two. Scheffler finished at 7-under-par in third place.
Cameron Smith, the reigning Open Champion, shot a final-round, 3-under-par 67 to finish fourth.
Rickie Fowler, who started the day tied with Clark, could get nothing going, making bogeys at two, five and the seventh hole to fall five shots off the lead. He was not a factor the rest of the afternoon. He finished tied for fifth with England's Tommy Fleetwood and Min Woo Lee of Australia.
After starting the day 2-over, Fleetwood reached 8-under par for his round, flirting with the tournament's third 62, early in the day when he eagled the par-5 14th hole, his second eagle of the day. Unfortunately, he had to settle for a bogey at 16 en route to finishing with a final-round 63.
Master Champion Jon Rahm shot a final-round 65 to move up into a tie for 11th at 3-under.
PGA Champion Brooks Koepka never got untracket at LACC, shooting a final-round, 1-under-par 69 to finish tied for 17th at 1-under for the championship.