Blown Away

Wyndham Clark’s first Masters started in promising fashion, but wind and problems with putting and on the par-5s lead to a 73

By Gary Baines – 4/11/2024

AUGUSTA, Ga. — “Enjoy your day in heaven,” a hole crossing monitor said to a spectator at Augusta National Golf Club on Thursday, the first day of the Masters.

For a little over half of his first round as a Masters competitor, Denver native Wyndham Clark must have felt heavenly about the way things were going for him. He was 3 under par and on the leaderboard of the year’s first major championship. 

Alas, things seldom come easy at Augusta National — often not even for Masters veterans, much less rookies at ANGC. And Clark experienced that firsthand as he paid the price for a few mistakes and took the brunt of late-day wind that at times blew hard enough that sand was sailing out of the bunkers at Augusta National, including when the Valor Christian grad was wrapping up his round at nearly 7 p.m. local time.

The result was a once-promising round that went south as Clark played his last eight holes in 4 over. He posted a 1-over-par 73 and trails leader Bryson DeChambeau by eight and world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler by seven as the two made just one bogey between them despite the conditions. The 66 by Scheffler, the 2022 Masters champion, was his best ever in the event.

“The wind is pretty challenging,” said Clark, the reigning U.S. Open champion. “It’s unfortunate. I played really good on the front nine (3 under), and I honestly played really good on the back nine. Just not birdieing 13 was kind of tough and then spinning it in the water on 15 really put a damper on the round. You take that away, it’s a 2, 3 (under) round, maybe even better — and we’re in a good spot.”

Clark was 3 under par through 10 holes on Thursday, but went 4 over in the stretch from 11 through 18. (Photo: Joel Marklund)

Clark, winner of three PGA Tour events in the last year and currently ranked fourth in the world, certainly knows what it takes to be successful at Augusta National, even though he hadn’t competed in the event before. Actually, most people who have followed the game understand that two of the key ingredients to Masters success are taking advantage of the par-5s and putting well. 

But Clark struggled in both regards on Thursday. Though he’s become very good on the greens, in round 1 he didn’t make a putt longer than 7 feet. And despite being one of the longest hitters on tour, he played the four par-5s in 2 over par. He needed a 5-footer to par No. 2. He 3-putted No. 8 for par after reaching the green in two. He laid up on No. 13 and missed a 7-foot birdie try. And on No. 15, he laid up again after being a little left off a tee and made a double-bogey 7. He spun his third shot back off the green and into the pond. 

Regarding his putting, “It’s really hard to make putts when it’s blowing 20 (mph) and gusting,” the impending Colorado Golf Hall of Famer said. “You’re trying to time the putt with the gusts and then you have all this break and then you’re playing wind — it’s hard to make putts. I know some guys probably did, but it’s tough out there right now.”

On average, the field overall played four par-5s in 18.67 strokes on Thursday, while Clark had 22. And with his length — he was third in average driving distance on Thursday, at 323.8 yards — it might be reasonable for him to average perhaps 2 or 3 under par for those holes.

“I played them fine, just the score wasn’t good,” Clark said of the par-5s. “That’s probably the biggest takeaway. You play them 2 under, it’s a totally different round.”

Bryson DeChambeau made eight birdies in his round of 65 on Thursday. (Photo: Thomas Lovelock)

A score of 73 is certainly high by Clark’s standards this year. In 29 previous rounds on the PGA Tour in 2024, he had shot 73 (or higher) just once. 

“Today it was blowing 20 (mph) with gusts up to 30,” he said. “It’s just a hard day. I played, I thought, close to flawless on the front, other than the three-putt on 8, and was playing solid most of the back nine other than the two par-5s. It’s really hard right now. I think it was a little easier in the morning when it wasn’t blowing as much, and now it’s very challenging.”

Clark was bogey-free for the first 10 holes, making birdie putts of 6 feet on No. 3, 3 feet on No. 7 and 5 feet on No. 9. His first bogey came on the very difficult 11th, where he missed a 10-foot par attempt. Besides his double bogey on 15, he closed with a bogey after hitting his tee shot under a tree and having to pitch down the fairway on 18. He missed a 14-foot par attempt there.

But given that there are three rounds left for him, Clark thinks it’s very doable for him to catch the leaders, despite his current eight-stroke deficit. 

“We’ve got 54 holes,” he noted. “In LIV Golf (where DeChambeau competes) they only play 54, so I like my chances. We’ve got a lot of golf left. As you can see, someone shot 7 under. I could do that tomorrow.

“I felt like I played great (Thursday). My game feels good. I’ve just got to make some putts and tighten it up on the par-5s.”

Clark is scheduled to be in the last group off on Friday, teeing off at noon (MT). 

Because Thursday’s first round didn’t start until 10:30 a.m. local time because of heavy overnight rain, the round wasn’t completed at nightfall. The 27 players who have yet to finish round 1, including Tiger Woods (1 under par through 13 holes), will resume Friday morning. ESPN’s live coverage on Friday will begin at 6 a.m. (MT)  and continue to the completion of round 1. Then there also will be the 1-5:30 p.m. (MT) segment for ESPN on Friday.

How the 2023 U.S. Amateur Finalists Fared: Neal Shipley, the Ohio State golfer who finished runner-up in the 2023 U.S. Amateur at Cherry Hills Country Club, opened with a 1-under-par 71, which puts him atop the amateur leaderboard. Nick Dunlap, the 2023 U.S. Amateur champion and current pro after winning the American Express PGA Tour event as an amateur in January, struggled to a 77 on Thursday. 

For all the scores from the Masters, CLICK HERE.

Jack Nicklaus (center) joins Gary Player (left) and Tom Watson (right) as the honorary starters at the Masters on Thursday. (Photo: Thomas Lovelock)

About the Writer: Gary Baines has covered golf in Colorado continuously since 1983. He was a sports writer at the Daily Camera newspaper in Boulder, then the sports editor there, and has written regularly for since 2009. The University of Colorado Evans Scholar alum was inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in 2022. He owns and operates