Opportunity Awaits

Wyndham Clark loses lead to Xander Schauffele at Players Championship, but Denver native just 1 back in quest for 4th PGA Tour title in the last year

By Gary Baines – 3/16/2024

Nobody said this was going to be easy.

Despite making it look pretty simple in shooting 65-65 and building a four-stroke lead at the midway point of the Players Championship, Wyndham Clark showed on Saturday he isn’t impervious to a very challenging course at TPC Sawgrass.

Still, he remains in the thick of the battle to win the title at arguably the most prestigious men’s championship outside of the majors. 

On Saturday, the Denver native wasn’t the wizard with the putter he’s been in many recent PGA Tour rounds, which gave Xander Schauffele an opening to catch him. Schauffele, who sits just behind Clark in the world rankings (6 vs. 5), shot a bogey-free 7-under-par 65 to overtake Clark, the Valor Christian graduate and 2010 CGA Amateur champion. To be precise, Schauffele will take a one-stroke lead over Clark into Sunday’s final round in Ponte Vedra, Fla.

“I think everyone kind of has one round where they have to really grind it out and make those par putts and bogey putts or whatever it is,” Clark said on Saturday evening. “I felt like that was today. I’m hoping tomorrow I’ll wake up laser focused and can go have an awesome round and hopefully have a great finish here.”

Despite admittedly chunking his tee shot on No. 17 — where his ball fell into the water about 30 yards short of the green — and needing to sink a 7-footer there for bogey, Clark finished with a 2-under-par 70 on Saturday.

“It’s unfortunate on a hole that’s so iconic and has a bunch of trouble to have kind of your worst swing of the day,” the 2023 U.S. Open champ said. “But I followed it with a great swing and a great putt. I’m in the final group tomorrow, which is huge.”

British Open champion Brian Harman, who was paired with Clark the first two days, went 65-64 on Friday and Saturday to check in at 15 under par, two back of Schauffele.

After missing just one putt inside of 18 feet in his first 40 holes of the tournament, Clark came down to earth a little on Saturday as he failed to convert four putts of 10 feet or less in his final 14 holes. He was at the very top of the field in the strokes gained: putting stat on day 1 and 2, but he finished 39th in that category on Saturday.

Still, Clark remains in very good position to record his fourth PGA Tour victory in the last year, a total that includes the U.S. Open win. That would leave him in a class alone regarding the last 365-day period.

Clark made two bogeys on Saturday, but one of them easily could have been worse. After making birdie at the island-green 17th hole both Thursday and Friday, he badly mishit his wedge there on Saturday, decelerating during his swing with his ball plopping into the water well short of the green. But he promptly re-teed, and this one trickled to just shy of 7 feet from the cup and he rolled that one in for a bogey, losing just one stroke to Schauffele when there could have been a bigger swing.

“I’m hoping that’s a huge point in the tournament and we look back after tomorrow at that hole and say, ‘Hey, that was maybe the shot and the putt that meant it all.’”

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