On Sunday, Wyndham Clark defeated Rory McIlroy in a thrilling final at Los Angeles Country Club to claim his first major title.
The American, who had never made the cut at the tournament and had only won once on the PGA Tour, defeated Northern Ireland’s four-time major champion to win the 123rd edition of the major by one stroke.
Clark, 29, shot an even-par 70 in the final round to finish 10-under overall and win a $3.6 million share of a record $20 million prize pool, the most money ever given out in major championship history.
Even though Clark won the race on Father’s Day, he dedicated it to Lise Clark, his mother, who died of breast cancer in 2013.
Earlier in the tournament, the golfer from Denver had talked a lot about how she had inspired her, telling him that she had told him to “play big.” Clark wept as he talked about her in his winner’s interview, mission accomplished.
Despite the fact that she cannot be present, “I just felt like my mom was watching over me today.” Miss you, mom,” a tearful Clark declared.
“I’ve put in so much effort and have long fantasized about this moment. There’s been so often I’ve pictured being here before you all and coming out on top for this title.
“I just feel like my time was up.”
After winning the US Open in 2011, McIlroy has not won a major title in nine years. Since winning The Open and PGA Championship in 2014, the 34-year-old has finished inside the top five at ten major tournaments.
McIlroy told reporters, “When I do finally win this next major, it’s going to be really, really sweet.”
“I would endure 100 Sundays like this to win another major championship,” he said.
A much longer hang tight perseveres for Rickie Fowler, who – having started the last round tied for the lead with Clark – saw his fantasies of a subtle first major dissipate in an excruciating last day slide.
The 34-year-old had a historic start, shooting 62 to tie American compatriot Xander Schauffele for the lowest single-round score ever at a US Open. However, he finished with a 75, the fourth-highest score of the final round, to tie for fifth place.
Eight times in the top 10 and three times in second place: The Californian remains a fan favorite despite having the unfortunate distinction of being one of the best golfers to never win a major championship.
Global No. 1 Scottie Scheffler finished third, one shot ahead of Australian Cameron Smith in fourth and three shots behind Clark at seven under.
Along with Fowler, Australian Min Woo Lee and England’s Tommy Fleetwood finished in fifth place. Following a blistering final round, Fleetwood was just inches away from equaling Fowler and Schauffele’s historic record.
Fleetwood shot two eagles and four birdies to move up 32 spots in the leaderboard. However, his final seven-foot birdie attempt missed horribly and he finished with a score of 63.
Matt Fitzpatrick, the defending champion, tied for 17th overall at one-under, as did Brooks Koepka, the winner of the PGA Championship the previous month.
The Open Championship, the fourth and final men’s major of the year, begins on July 20 at Royal Liverpool Golf Club.
Any hopes Fowler had of starting from scratch were quickly dashed when he finished his third round with a agonizing bogey. The global no. 45 had a nightmare start, making two bogeys on two consecutive tee shots in his first six holes and losing his first ever share of a 54-hole major lead.
Again, Clark took advantage, making three quick birdies in the same area. After 53 holes, Fowler was two strokes behind him, but by the 60th hole, he was three strokes ahead of his playing partner.
However, sadly for Clark, McIlroy was ahead of him and displaying the calm that befits his glittering resume in the final round. The Northern Irishman was not exactly lighting up the North Course, birdieing just once by the turn and missing an easy birdie chance at the eighth, but he was still within striking distance after making just one bogey in his previous 23 holes.
A two-horse race was taking shape as Fowler continued to fall, and it was clear who had the pedigree. McIlroy had twice as many major titles going into this week as Clark had, but Clark was still the No. 32 appeared unflappable in unfamiliar waters.
Then tragedy struck. Clark swung and looked up in an attempt to track a sailing ball that never materialized, finding himself in a grisly position among the fescue at the side of the eighth green. His ball was still in the long grass, to the American’s obvious horror.
Similar to the unsuccessful bunker escape that ended Viktor Hovland’s hopes at the PGA Championship last month, it was the kind of terrifying moment that has ended the major dreams of players far more accomplished than Clark, but Clark responded admirably. He was left with a straightforward putt for a bogey six at the subsequent attempt after a brilliantly executed shot.
He was one stroke ahead of McIlroy as Clark made the turn.
Fowler made back-to-back bogeys to sink two under eight-under overall, the score he had held for the first 18 holes of the tournament. As a result, the possibility of a one-on-one shootout was soon almost confirmed.
At McIlroy’s 14th hole, his wind-caught approach sunk into a bunker’s face, causing drama. The Northern Irishman’s agony caused him to drop to his knees, but officials ruled that his ball had broken the surface, giving him a drop in the rough ahead of the bunker.
His subsequent nine-foot putt for par fell short, so relief was fleeting. After McIlroy finally made a bogey, Clark retaliated by birdieing the same hole to take a three-shot lead into his final five holes.
Clark, on the other hand, quickly displayed his first nerves. The American made back-to-back bogeys as McIlroy, who was being aggressive, put immediate pressure on with a birdie at the 16th. The lead was suddenly reduced to just one.
With a par, Clark steered the ship in the right direction and gave himself a one-shot lead as he walked to the par-four 18th tee. The American was one par away from winning the US Open when McIlroy’s long-range attempt to make birdie from the tee rolled wide.
Hundreds of fans followed Clark on what must have felt like the longest walk of his life as he made it to the green in two. Clark gave himself a fist pump after knocking his way down to within a foot before leaping over and winning the championship.
Clark, overcome, raised his cap to his face and looked skyward after a prolonged embrace with caddie John Ellis.
played very well.