With Patrick Cantlay coming up big down the stretch, he and Denver native Wyndham Clark rally for Ryder Cup four-ball win after being 1 down with 2 holes left; it’s Clark first match victory at RC
By Gary Baines – 9/30/2023
Wyndham Clark has found himself on a lot of big 18th-hole stages in the last five months.
In May, the Denver native clinched his first PGA Tour victory on No. 18 at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, the site of the Wells Fargo Championship. In June, he secured a one-stroke victory over Rory McIlroy in the U.S. Open on the 18th green of Los Angeles Country Club’s North Course.
Then these last two days at his first Ryder Cup — with his four-ball matches the only ones left on the course at Marco Simone Golf Club in Rome — all of the attention was focused on what Clark, his partners and his opponents did on the 18th hole with the matches hanging in the balance.
On Friday, things didn’t go well there for Clark and four-ball partner Max Homa as they lost a 1-up lead and had to settle for a tie as Clark couldn’t do better than a par on the par-5 after being in the fairway 247 yards from the hole after his tee shot. In a match in which Clark made seven birdies, he and Homa landed half a point against Justin Rose and Robert MacIntyre after the Americans were 2 up with two holes left.
On Saturday, the script was flipped as the U.S. won the last two holes after being 1 down through 16 against McIlroy and Matt Fitzpatrick. Clark fared much the same on 18 — where he hit a 354-yard drive down the middle of the fairway, flared his second shot and ended up making par — but partner Patrick Cantlay came up big, sinking a 43-foot birdie putt to win the hole, and the match.
It was Clark’s first victory in a Ryder Cup match, and he now owns a 1-0-1 mark in the event.
The Americans hadn’t led at all in the matchup until Cantlay’s ball fell in the cup on 18.
Cantlay wasn’t just the difference on 18. He also birdied 16 (from 11 feet for a tie) and 17 (from 10 feet to knot the match).
“We (the Americans) needed some momentum going into tomorrow,” Cantlay said. “Hopefully we have a little ray of light and we can build off this session and try to pull off a big, big comeback tomorrow.’
“He’s ‘Patty Ice’ for a reason,” Clark said of Cantlay, known as an ice-water-in-his-veins sort of guy. “I told him, I lose to him in money games all the time, so I hope you can go out there and make as many birdies and beat me in a money game.’ Coming down the stretch he showed why he’s one or the best in the world.”
Clark and Cantlay have known one another for more than a decade. In fact, in 2010 at Saddle Rock Golf Course in Aurora, the two shared medalist honors in 36-hole qualifying for the U.S. Amateur.
Clark hits a pitch shot surrounded by fans left of the 16th green.
Saturday’s win by Cantlay and Clark helped keep alive the Americans’ slim hopes of retaining the Ryder Cup after winning in 2021. Down 10.5-5.5, the U.S. will need to earn 8.5 out of the 12 points that will be available in Sunday’s singles matches in order to keep the Cup. Nine or more will be needed to win the 2023 competition outright. The Americans, who won Saturday’s four-ball session 3-1, haven’t claimed a Ryder Cup in Europe since 1993.
In Sunday’s singles, Clark will square off with fellow Ryder Cup rookie MacIntyre in the final match of the session. They’ll tee off at 5:47 a.m. (MT). NBC’s coverage of the singles will begin at 3:30 a.m. on Sunday (MT).
Saturday’s Clark/Cantlay ended in a somewhat heated fashion as, after Cantlay drained his long birdie putt on 18, his caddie, Joe LaCava, was celebrating and gesturing while near the line of Mcilroy’s impending birdie putt.
“Rory politely asked Joe to move aside,” European captain Luke Donald said. ‘He was in his line. He stood there and didn’t move for a while and continued to wave his hat. … So I think Rory was upset about that.”
Indeed, McIlroy was videotaped later — just before leaving the club — in a heated verbal exchange with an unknown person. European teammate Shane Lowry had to restrain McIlroy and encourage him to get in the vehicle.
Earlier, just after the match ended, McIlroy said, “Matt and I played well. Obviously (the Americans) had a great finish and you know, Patrick made three great putts at the end to seal the deal, so hats off to them. They played a great match, and yeah, I mean, a few scenes there on 18 and just fuel for the fire tomorrow.”
Clark, 1-0-1 so far in his first Ryder Cup, will play Robert MacIntyre in Sunday’s singles matches.
Clark didn’t play as well as he had for most of Friday’s four-ball match, when he made six birdies in a nine-hole stretch in the middle of the round On Saturday, the Colorado native hit some stray tee balls — one into the water and one out of bounds — and his putter wasn’t cooperative as he made three just birdies, including two of the two-putt variety.
But with Cantlay’s stellar stretch run, he and Clark handed McIlroy his first loss of this Ryder Cup after three wins.
Prior to this weekend’s competition, there was a mini hubbub regarding comments Clark made to Golf Channel on Sept. 20 in response to a question about the possibility of playing McIlroy in the singles portion of the event.
“I have the utmost respect for Rory — he is one of our great ambassadors of our game,” Clark said “He is obviously one of the best of all time and he is still going so he can be that. I have tons of respect for Rory and because of that respect, I also want to beat him. I like to think I am better than him, and I want to prove that. I would love to play Rory, I think that would be really fun for the fans too. Long-ball hitters … we have similar games in that respect. It would be a little bit of David and Goliath. I am hoping to get that chance.”
When he was asked on Wednesday about the comments, Clark said this:
“I want everyone to know, I think it was taken out of context. If you listen to the whole interview, I praised (Rory) and said how much I respect him and how good I think he is and how he’s one of the best players in the last 20 years.
“And what I said was I think I’m better than him when I’m playing good. If I don’t think I’m better than every player out here, then what am I doing? If I’m trying to be the best player in the world, which is what I’m trying to be, I’ve got to believe that. Right now, maybe I’m not. He’s had a way better career than me; that’s obvious. But I also have to have that self belief that I can beat anyone out here. It is kind of funny to me that people took it that way because they kind of saw that I’m better than him and I want to beat him. Well, of course I want to beat him and of course I believe that I can beat him. Yeah, it’s interesting how things get taken out of context.”
After Saturday’s match, Clark addressed the situation again.
“I think what I said in that interview has been taken out of context a little bit,” the Valor Christian graduate said. “I’ve given Rory a lot of praise, and he’s an amazing player and he’s obviously amazing in Ryder Cup.
“I need to have belief in myself that I’m as good as anyone in the world, if not better, and that’s kind of what I said. I didn’t have my best today, but it does feel great to beat them. You know, fortunately I had a great horse here (Cantlay) that brought it in in the last three holes. But it’s fun to get a point for Team USA; it doesn’t matter who it’s against. But it definitely makes it sweeter to do it against a U.S. Open champion in Matt Fitzpatrick and a multiple major winner in Rory. So it feels great.”
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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 ColoradoGolf.org since 2009. He was inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in 2022. He owns and operates ColoradoGolfJournal.com