Wyndham Clark fights back with “massive” bogey at TPC Sawgrass’ 17th hole

Wyndham Clark woke up Saturday morning with a four-shot lead at The Players.

The reigning U.S. Open champion waltzed his way around TPC Sawgrass for two days, carding rounds of 65s to seize control of the championship.

But he did not have the same command on Saturday, as he saw his lead evaporate by the time he walked off the par-4 12th. Clark’s playing partner, Xander Schauffele, had just made his sixth birdie of the day to get to 16-under to match him.

Four holes later, this pairing sat deadlocked at 17-under, with one of the most famous par-3s in the world awaiting them.

Clark stepped up to the tee with a sand wedge and struck the most nerve-wracking shot in all of golf. It landed 20 yards short of the green, creating a massive splash.

“He was over that shot for way longer than any other shot today,” NBC reporter John Wood—a former PGA Tour caddy—said on the telecast.

“It was like he was almost frozen over it.”

He hit it only 102 yards on the 124-yard par-3, a massive miss for a player of his caliber. But Clark decided to re-tee instead of going to the drop zone to the left.

“Fortunately, I went first, and I had some time to think about it,” Clark said of his chunk on 17.

“I asked my caddie John [Ellis], and he said, ‘[drop zone is] just too close for us to be able to hit it.’ So, the easier shot was just redoing it. We had a good club. Honestly, I made a bad swing and chunked it, and if we went closer, I think it made it a tougher shot.”

Clark chose wisely because his do-over landed six-and-a-half feet from the cup.

He then drained it for a bogey-four, which elicited a fist pump.

“[That was] massive. 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. But yeah, I followed it with a great swing and a great putt,” Clark explained.

“I’m in the final group tomorrow, which is huge. I’m hoping that’s a huge point in the tournament and we look back after [Sunday] and look at that hole and say, hey, that was maybe the shot and the putt that meant it all.”

Clark missed plenty of putts on Saturday. Short misses at the 8th and 9th immediately come to mind.

“Sometimes you can press and try to force the issue, and I thought I did an amazing job,” Clark added.

“If I had made the par putt on 8 and the birdie putt on 9, it could have been a totally different round. I could be at 19 or 20 [under], and we’d be having a different conversation.”

Clark had a good look at birdie from 10 feet on the 14th, but that missed on the low side, too.

Yet Clark bounced back with his 6-footer on 17. If he had missed that, he would have lost all momentum going into Sunday’s final round.

Wyndham Clark, PGA Tour, The Players Championship

Wyndham Clark during the third round of the 2024 Players Championship.
Photo by James Gilbert/PGA Tour via Getty Images

Instead, he dropped only one shot, and now enters the final 18 holes trailing Schauffele by a shot at 16-under.

“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.

“I felt like that was today. I’m hoping I’ll wake up laser locked-in and focused, have an awesome round, and hopefully have a great finish here.”

Still, Clark feels like he played good golf, and he did so. A 2-under 70 is a respectable round at TPC Sawgrass, especially when everyone is chasing you down.

But now he has to hunt down Schauffele on Sunday, and considering Clark has won three times in the past nine months, he has all the talent in the world to do so.

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough for more golf coverage. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko as well.

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