Ever So Close

Wyndham Clark ‘pretty gutted’ after 180-degree lipout on final hole that would have forced a playoff at Players Championship; still, the Denver native has earned more than $22 million through his tournament play in the last year

By Gary Baines – 3/17/2024

After once being three strokes behind with three holes to play, Denver native Wyndham Clark was starting a fist pump as his birdie try rolled the last inches toward the cup on the final hole of regulation in the Players Championship.

If the putt fell, it would force a playoff with Scottie Scheffler. But, in one of those “only in sports” moments, Clark’s ball was halfway below ground level in the cup before cruelly doing a 180-degree turn and spinning out the front side of the hole.

Elation quickly turned into disbelief as Clark’s shot at arguably the most prestigious non-major championship in men’s golf went by the wayside despite his spectacular late-round rally. 

“I don’t know how that putt doesn’t go in,” Clark said. “It was kind of right center with like a foot to go, and I knew it was going to keep breaking. But it had speed and I thought it was going to good inside left. Even when it kind of lipped, I thought it would lip in. I’m pretty gutted it didn’t go in.”

Wyndham Clark’s birdie try on the 72nd hole all but found the bottom of the cup.

So for the second straight week in a big-time event in Florida, Scheffler won and Clark finished runner-up in a battle of two of golf’s very best players.

With a victory at the Players Championship, Clark would have become the only player on the planet with four PGA Tour wins in the last year. 

And if he had prevailed on Sunday, he would be the reigning champion for two of arguably the five most prestigious men’s golf tournaments on earth — the U.S. Open and the Players.

But it wasn’t to be.

Even though Clark ended up in a three-way tie for second place — with Xander Schauffele and Brian Harman — on Sunday, Clark came by far the closest to forcing a playoff after Scheffler closed with a bogey-free 8-under-par 64. The Texan, who holed out a 92-yard shot for eagle at No. 4 on Sunday, became the first back-to-back winner of the Players.

Clark, three back of Scheffler going into the 16th hole, made his challenge with a two-putt birdie on 16 (after just missing an 11-foot eagle attempt), then making just the fourth birdie of the day at No. 17, where he trickled his putt in from 4 feet, 5 inches.

Clark birdied 17 (above) and 16 to put himself in position to potentially catch Scottie Scheffler on Sunday.

That left the 30-year-old, who grew up at Cherry Hills Country Club, needing a birdie at the formidable 18th hole to push things to overtime. Clark hit an ideal tee shot in the fairway, leaving him 168 yards to the hole. He left his approach with a wedge 17 feet short of the cup. And after Schauffele missed a long birdie try. Clark came ever … so … close to forcing a playoff with his near-perfect stroke. It just had a little too much speed.

“I didn’t really care about the second putt,” he explained. “We’ve already had a good start to the year. I wanted to be in a playoff, so I went for it.

“I hit three perfect shots (on 18), and unfortunately it wasn’t enough.”

Said Harman of Clark’s putt: “That’s a heartbreaker there.”

Though Clark obviously has been looking to add to his PGA Tour victory total of three, back-to-back second places in prestigious tournaments shows he remains in top form.

“I just played back-to-back weeks on two pretty challenging golf courses that I traditionally haven’t done very well on, and just went second and second,” he noted. “I’ll take those positives. I played awesome in both weeks. I’ll also take that I can play in the moment against the best players in the world on the best golf courses. I almost birdied the last three at one of the most iconic golf courses.

“Maybe next week sometime I’ll really be able to look at those positives and feel good about it. But right now I’m pretty down.”

The result leaves Clark trailing only Scheffler in season-long FedExCup standings in 2024. (March 18 update: the Players performance lifted Clark to a career-best fourth in the world rankings.)

“I’m really hoping that these two seconds are just leading to something greater,” the 2010 CGA Amateur champion said. “I’m really looking forward to what’s ahead.” 

Clark led by five strokes after playing 37 holes at TPC Sawgrass, and he stayed in contention throughout the weekend.

Though Clark’s focus was on another victory on Sunday, there is this: He earned $1,891,667, giving him six million-dollar-plus tournament paydays in the last year. (The $5 million he received at the Tour Championship late last summer is one of those six, but it doesn’t count as official money as it’s technically considered a “bonus”.)

Not counting that $5 million, Clark has collected $17.18 million in official prize money on the PGA Tour over the last year. Include the $5 million he earned from the playoffs and we’re talking $22 million-plus.

“You finish second, you get a bunch of points and money and all that stuff, but it just sucks,” he said of falling just short on Sunday. “I’ve always wanted and dreamt about making a putt that really mattered to either force a playoff or win a tournament, and I have yet to do it in my professional career. So I was pretty bummed that I didn’t have one of those really awesome moments.

“I’m still a little beside myself. I’m still shocked that putt didn’t go in.”

Clark — wearing pink on Sunday in honor of his mom, who passed away in 2013 after battling breast cancer — went 65-65-70-69 to end up at 19 under par. 

At TPC Sawgrass, he couldn’t regain the stellar putting form he showed on the first two days, after which he was first in the stroke gained: putting statistic. On Sunday, he missed three putts inside of 10 feet, including a 5-foot eagle attempt at No. 2. He did sink putts of 12 and 11 feet on the final day, when he ended up 63rd in strokes gained: putting.

Clark, the impending Colorado Golf Hall of Famer who came into the week ranked a career-best fifth in the world, is gearing up to play in his first Masters, set for April 11-14.

For all the scores from the Players Championship, CLICK HERE.

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