Wyndham Clark plays big, earns spot on U.S. Ryder Cup Team
Residence: Scottsdale, Arizona
World Ranking: 11
Ryder Cup ranking: 2
Ryder Cup appearances: Making debut
Those two words have inspired Wyndham Clark ever since his mother, Lise, first took her oldest son, as a rambunctious 3-year-old, to a local driving range to hit golf balls.
Lise Clark died in 2013 at age 55, after a second battle with breast cancer, but her words of encouragement – she’d also frequently call Wyndham by the nickname she’d given him, “Wynner” – have remained firmly entrenched in the now-29-year-old major champion.
Through grief, Clark has continued to play bigger and bigger:
A finalist for all three individual awards – the Hogan, Haskins and Nicklaus – his senior year at Oregon.
Needing only a year to earn his PGA Tour card – and having yet to lose it.
Winning for the first time on Tour earlier this year at the Wells Fargo Championship before wasting no time in notching his first major victory, back in June at the U.S. Open at Los Angeles Country Club.
And now, as the best season of his career winds down, Clark is officially a Ryder Cupper.
“Since I started my journey in golf, I've had a goal of making a U.S. Ryder Cup Team,” Clark said after following Scottie Scheffler as the second automatic qualifier for U.S. Captain Zach Johnson’s 12-man squad that will compete next month at Marco Simone Golf Club.
“One of my mottos is to play big, play for something bigger than yourself. This represents an opportunity to do just that by playing for my country and hopefully inspiring young golfers. I know Zach is going to put us in the best position to win, and I can't wait to take on this challenge alongside a great group of individuals and bring the Ryder Cup back home to America.”
Sparked by a vastly improved approach game, a putting change and the addition of sports psychologist Julie Elion to his team, Clark has broken out this year. He adjusted the lie angle on his irons from relatively flat to 3 degrees upright about a year and a half ago while also becoming his own swing coach. And it’s working.
After never finishing a season ranked better than No. 173 in strokes gained approach, Clark is top 25 in that category this season. He also switched to an exact replica of Rickie Fowler’s Odyssey Versa Jailbird putter prior to the Arnold Palmer Invitational last March, and since then the perennially deft putter has climbed from outside the top 100 in strokes gained putting to inside the top 50.
The biggest evolution has come mentally. With some urging from his agent and caddie, Clark teamed up with Elion last November. All week at LACC, Clark continued to set mini goals, just like Elion had taught him. Each day consisted of the same three objectives for Clark: 1. Enjoy himself, 2. Stay cocky, and 3. Remind himself of the first two goals.
And with chants of Fowler’s name showering him all day, Clark outplayed his fellow 54-hole co-leader, plus Rory McIlroy, Scheffler and a host of other charging stars, to lift the trophy on Sunday evening.
“I know she'd be very proud of me,” Clark, just moments removed from his U.S. Open triumph, said of his mother. “I miss her, and it's obviously great to think about her ... and winning something like this makes me think of her even more.”
Johnson is hoping for more of that big play out of his Ryder Cup rookie in Rome.
“Wyndham showed incredible poise and resiliency at Los Angeles Country Club in June,” Johnson said. “He's been playing at an elite level all year and owns the most sub-par rounds on the PGA Tour in 2023. Having the ability to make a ton of birdies is exactly what is needed at a Ryder Cup. I'm pumped to have Wyndham on the U.S. Team.”
What Clark Brings to the Team
Clark has a scintillating skillet. He is a balanced player, ranking top 50 in every strokes-gained category, including top 20 off the tee. He is very long (top 10 in driving distance) and makes a ton of birdies (fourth in total birdies made). His improvements with his irons, after never being a top-150 player on approach before this season, were crucial for Clark becoming a major champion. If he continues to showcase a rock-solid mental game, he could end up being a star not only at this year’s Ryder Cup but for many more to come.
Clark, a birdie machine, could be a nice four-ball option for Johnson in the way Tony Finau has been the past two Ryder Cups. Potential Captain’s pick and Oklahoma State alum Rickie Fowler, whom Clark ousted at the U.S. Open and has a close relationship with, makes sense, too.
It’s also worth noting that the last time the Americans headed across the pond, just three rookies made the trip to Le Golf National outside of Paris. All three of them – Justin Thomas, Tony Finau and Bryson DeChambeau – paired with more experienced teammates. However, back in 2014, Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed had success in an all-rookie pairing, going 2-0-1 together.
Career Ryder Cup Highlight
Clark is a Ryder Cup rookie, but he’s not stranger to big match-play settings. In college, he played in two NCAA match-play finals, in 2014 as a freshman at Oklahoma State and again in 2017 as a senior at Oregon. He went a combined 5-1 in those two championships with his lone loss coming to Viktor Hovland in the quarterfinals in 2017.