Wyndham Clark’s winning formula at Quail Hollow

Wyndham Clark, 2023 Wells Fargo Championship,Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
Wyndham Clark, 2023 Wells Fargo Championship,Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports /

There are essentially two ways to win a Tour event, and Wyndham Clark hit on both of them this weekend.

The first is to get broiling hot with your irons. At Quail Hollow, Clark did. He led the field in Strokes Gained Approaching the Green at 8.859; that’s a pickup of 2.21 strokes on the field in that area.

Of the four major Strokes Gained categories, Approaching the Green is the one that, over the course of the full season, most frequently aligns with low scores. Last season the correlation between a player’s performance in Strokes Gained Approach and scoring average was 68.7 percent, a stiflingly high relationship.

The second way you can win on Tour is to sink nearly every putt.

At Quail Hollow, Wyndham Clark did that as well.

He ran up a 7.465 Strokes Gained advantage over the field on the greens, the week’s third best behind only Denny McCarthy and Brendon Todd, both of whom tied for eighth.

When you excel in both of those mission-critical areas, you get the kind of dominant performance  Clark delivered this weekend.

His winning score of 265, four strokes better than runner-up Xander Schauffele, translated to 3.13 standard deviations ahead of the four-round field average, making it one of the 2022-23 season’s premier single-week efforts.

That was all the more unlikely given Clark’s previous status as a non-winner and his overall statistical profile, which was good but not excellent in any aspect of the scoring game.

Wyndham Clark entered the week as the 38th rated player on Tour for Strokes Gained Approach, his game producing an average .454 stroke pickup per round. At Quail Hollow, he went nuclear on that advantage, gaining 2.21 strokes per round with his approach shots.

It was the same with his putting. He came in ranked 74th on Tour with a .145 stroke advantage per round on the greens. At Quail Hollow, that suddenly became a 1.87 stroke advantage per round.

Wyndham Clark supplemented that with a handy bump in his effectiveness off the tee. He entered the week ranked 59th on Tour at .196 Strokes Gained Off The Tee, but picked up 1.87 strokes per round in that area.  Because driving long and well is such a common commodity on Tour, that only translated to the No. 20 rank for the week, but it helped.

It is tempting to conclude from this sudden improvement in Clark’s statistics that he has discovered some heretofore unlocked magical formula, and that his game will be transformed moving forward. History suggests otherwise.

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There is nothing more ephemeral on Tour than a hot putter. Week after week guys enjoy the kind of scoring boost on the greens that Clark got at Quail Hollow, only to fall back.

And while a solid game is a more repeatable commodity from week to week, it doesn’t guarantee results either. The leader in Strokes Gained Approach last week at Vidanta was Emiliano Grillo, who rode that performance to a tie for fifth. This week Grillo only fell to fifth place for the value of his approaches, but finished in a tie for 23rd overall.