Wyndham Clark Works at Producing His Best Game More Often
17 Feb,2024 Credit : Keyur Khamar - Getty Images

By Tim Liotta


Wyndham Clark Works at Producing His Best Game More Often

In the last year, Wyndham Clark has won a major championship and two PGA Tour Signature/Designated/Elevated events. It's the other weeks that keep him working.

"I always like playing with the best players, and I like to somewhat compare my game to theirs and see where they're at and go, okay, yeah, I feel like my game's similar to his or I need to get better in these areas and work on X,Y, and Z," said Clark prior to the Genesis Invitational.

Since winning the 2023 U.S. Open last June, when tee times for the tournament he's playing in are announced, Clark has found himself placed in featured groups. He was paired in the first two rounds last week in Phoenix with former Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama and the world's top-ranked player, Scottie Scheffler, giving Clark a view from inside the ropes of a higher bar.  

"The one thing I see, I look at like Scottie Scheffler right now, I played with him last week at Waste Management, I'm just amazed of how consistent he is and how good of a ball-striker and how every week he seems to be in the hunt," Clark said. "That's something I need to get better at. 

"I think I do it in spurts and I obviously had some success in winning, but I think there's some weeks that I go and finish 30th or 40th and it was kind of - it just doesn't seem - yeah, I just don't think the consistency's there.

"That's something that I'm hoping in the next year or two that I can get to that level wherever every week I'm kind of on the front page of the leaderboard."

Clark combines the ability to hit the ball a long way - ranking 12th in driving distance in 2023, according to PGA Tour stats - with an impressive short game. In 2023, Clark ranked 29th on tour in Strokes Gained: Approach, 27th in Strokes Gained around the Green, and 33rd in Strokes Gained Putting. 

One sticking point may be Clark's ranking 156th in driving accuracy percentage. 

"I don't want to put a limit to myself," said Clark. "I would love to try to get to No. 1 player in the world. I don't know when that's going to happen, if it will happen, but I do know if I continue to do the things that make me successful, I think that's -- there's a chance that that could happen.

"I'm just going to continue to focus on my process, which is focus on that mental game, working hard in the gym and working hard on the range and then hoping that results in good results, which ultimately gets me to where I want to be in the world.

Ranked 166th in the Official World Golf Rankings going into 2023, Clark surged to a four-shot victory in the Wells Fargo Championship last March, his 19-under-par 265 score setting a tournament record in one of the tour's first elevated events. 

In June, he won the U.S. Open by a single shot, outplaying Rory McIlroy, Scottie Scheffer and Ricky Fowler in the final round. 

The major championship catapulted Clark to No. 13 in the world and onto the 2023 U.S. Ryder Cup team. In August, Clark finished third in the PGA Tour championship and found himself the No. 10-ranked player in the world at the end of 2023. 

Two weeks ago, Clark put together another spurt of his best golf, shooting a course-record 60 at Pebble Beach Golf Links. He would be declared the winner when weather forced the event to be shortened to 54 holes, ending a frustrating few months of results and poor putting. 

Afterwards, Clark was asked: "You mentioned the struggles or maybe not being in contention the last few months, having those wins last year, realizing you can be one of the best in the world but then not kind of be where you want to be those next few months?"

The struggles were not surprising, Clark went on to say. 

"It's obviously tough. I think if you ask some people on my team they probably would have predicted it just because you do have such a great year and then we had some time off. It's kind of hard because for me it was hard to get back to present and to not be frustrated and now your expectations are through the roof.

So that's been kind of a little bit of a struggle in this first part of the year.

"Then you add not putting well, so I was really getting frustrated. But I know it's the start of the year, I've been hitting it good and I've been doing a lot of positive things. I just have really been trying to focus on that."

Attempting to get more insight into his poor putting, prior to Pebble Beach, Clark and his team reached out to putting coach Phil Kenyon who was unable to make himself available, but had a member of his team come out and work with Clark.

"I've got to give some credit to my team," Clark said after winning at Pebble. "I worked with a guy by the name of Mike. Sorry, don't know his last name, just met him this week. 

"I flew in early Sunday, spent about three, four hours with him. I had nine putters on the putting green and I've been using kind of the putter that Rickie and I have been using, kind of started using that last year and I've really struggled on the greens since the U.S. Open.

"So basically I brought these putters and we resulted to changing no line on the putter, I went a little bit shorter and I went from being conventional to cross-hand. A lot of big changes, but when you were as - when you're in a spot where I was mentally in putting you kind of needed a change, just something totally different so you couldn't complain or have those same feels that I had in previous tournaments."

After winning the U.S. Open, Clark credited as a key to raising his game to a major championship level the work he'd been doing with Julie Elion, a sports psychologist who is the founder of the Center for Athletic Performance Enhancement. After the U.S. Open, Clark spent his final-round warmup session with Elion right next to him on the range. 

"We were talking about anything but golf actually," Clark said in the winner's press conference. "We were talking about traveling. We were talking about the beautiful homes out here. She was just trying to keep it light.

"It's huge in a major championship because you can kind of get really tunnel vision, and it's great to sometimes just look up and see what's going on and be like, hey, this is just like any other day. I've done this a thousand times.

"She has a great calmness and presence about her that just makes me calm and relaxed. I'm just so glad that my caddie and agent in November said, hey, we've got this lady that we think you should work with. I was a little reluctant to do it, and I'm just so glad that she was brought into my life, and what these honestly six months, it's crazy to see how much I've improved and how much she's helped me.

"I wouldn't have thought I'd be a major champion six, seven months ago."

After his record 60 at Pebble Beach, Clark credited Elion once again with getting him into a good state of mind.

"The brunt of our work has been on the putting recently. We've been so focused on it, and she kind of told me - she told me this week, she said let's stop having goals for putting and let's just move on. We're putting too much emphasis on the putting. We were trying to have the best attitude we could possibly have, especially coming into greens like this where they are really bumpy, so slopey and it makes it really hard to make putts," Clark said. 

"So I was really just trying to focus on making the best stroke I can and regardless of where the ball goes, even though everyone tries to do that, it's been really hard for me lately. And I've done a good job this week of that and I think my patience the first two days on the greens really paid off because obviously I made a lot of putts today."

At the Open Championship in Liverpool, England last July, Clark was asked about how the world around him had changed since becoming a major champion.

" You know, being in it sometimes it's hard to reflect on everything, but I've had some time, and comments like this or people reminding me how high up in the world or low in the world I was as far as World Ranking kind of puts it in perspective of how much has changed in one year,"

"I've always set goals I think in the past, and it's been a result-oriented goal. Then, in this year, I've done more process like mind goals where I'm trying to get better mentally, and let the results take care of themselves.

Clark expanded on that approach in another interview. 

"I really try not to think about winning. I think when first got on Tour that's all I thought about and I didn't win. Now I try to not think about winning and I'm winning, so I'm going to try to keep that trend going."

Clark may have changed that approach when it comes to playing in tournaments, but winning important golf tournaments and the recognition that comes with them was central to his decision where to play professionally in 2024.

"I definitely met with LIV and went through those discussions. I wanted to see what they could bring to the table," Clark said. "I ultimately declined going to LIV because I felt like I still have a lot of things left in the tank on the PGA Tour and I wanted to chase records, I wanted to chase world ranking. 

"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. So I ultimately, I chose my legacy over LIV, and that's really what it came down to.

"You know, I don't know what the future holds with my career and what the PGA Tour and LIV is going to do, but at least for this season I am 100 percent set on the PGA TOUR and I want to try to get to as high in the world as I possibly can."

Those other weeks will certainly play into that.