Clark defends breakthrough title at Quail Hollow

golf08 May 2024 21:13| © AFP
article image
Wyndham Clark © Getty Images

US Open champion Wyndham Clark is looking back on a "crazy" year since his breakthrough PGA Tour title at Quail Hollow and focusing on the first title defence of his career.

"It's my first chance to defend. I don't know what that's like, so it has been exciting," Clark said on Wednesday as he prepared to tee off Thursday in the Wells Fargo Championship, the sixth of the US PGA Tour's eight $20 million Signature events, which feature smaller fields and no halfway cut.

Now ranked third in the world, Clark was ranked 163rd when he arrived last year at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he out-dueled Olympic champion Xander Schauffele in a back-nine battle on Sunday to win his first career title by four strokes.

He would go on to win his first major title at the US Open and he set a Pebble Beach course record 60 on the way to victory in a weather-shortened Pebble Beach Pro-Am triumph in February.

Clark said his rise over the past year has been "humbling and fun."

"In 12 months, yeah, it's crazy to think I jumped that many spots and have a few wins under my belt now," Clark said.

"I'm just really looking to continue to grow and get better. I like to think this is just the beginning, and hopefully it's the start of a lot of really good golf in the future years."

The 30-year-old from Colorado will be up against an elite field led by world No 2 Rory McIlroy, who won the title in 2010, 2015 and 2021.

McIlroy is coming off a victory alongside Ireland's Shane Lowry in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans PGA Tour team event.


"I think it freed me up a little bit," McIlroy said of playing in the unusual format, with a partner to take on some of the Sunday pressure.

"I've had a pretty slow start to the season, especially over here in the States," he added. "I felt like I needed something like that to get me going and hopefully that's the case."

Seven of the world's top 10 and seven past champions are in the field, including two-time winner Max Homa.

The most notable absentee is world No 1 Scottie Scheffler, who won a second Masters title and followed up with a win at the RBC Heritage last month.

Scheffler, winner of four of his last five starts, opted out of this final tuneup for next week's PGA Championship as he and his wife, Meredith, await the birth of their first child.

World No 6 Ludvig Aberg withdrew with a knee injury.

Fourth-ranked Schauffele, who played on the victorious US Presidents Cup team at Quail Hollow in 2022, is hoping to break through for a win after seven top-10 finishes this season.

"I'd say I haven't really been able to get everything together at once, which is sort of the story for every tour pro, so still working on that bit," Schauffele said.

Officials and the 69-player field were bracing for severe weather, with thunderstorms expected to move in on Wednesday night and perhaps linger through the first and second rounds on Thursday and Friday.