Admit it: In a four-way battle that also involved Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy, and Rickie Fowler, you gave Wyndham Clark the least shot.
So did everyone else.
Here’s what we all missed. Three guys out of that foursome – Mcilroy, Scheffler, and Fowler – play mature and developed games. They have established clear statistical profiles from which their variances are in the normal week-to-week range that is natural on Tour.
Clark is the exception. Compared with McIlroy, Scheffler, and Fowler, his game is a rocket ship that launched earlier this year and continues to climb. We may not know the altitude it will eventually achieve, but for the present, it’s a fast ascent.
Clark triumphed at Los Angeles Country Club because — as is happening with increasing frequency – his rapidly developing long game is catching up with the short game skills that got him to the pro tour. It was also that way in early May when he won at the Wells Fargo.
The eye-opener – and the stat suggesting that he could become a first-magnitude star — is Clark’s improvement off the tee. Look at the numbers below – which reflect his score in Strokes Gained Off The Tee for each of the past four seasons:
SG Tee Rank
2020 -0.398 176th
2021 -0.015 117th
2022 0.209 56th
2023 0.305 40th
His driving game isn’t yet elite, but it’s a darn sight better than a short four seasons ago. Impressively, the improvement has been consistent.
Both that consistency and the improvement showed up at LACC. For the full four rounds, he averaged 1.36 Strokes Gained Off The Tee. That ranked second in the field behind only McIlroy, who is widely acknowledged as the game’s best driver of the ball.
Wyndham Clark continues to improve.
And although it was not a strong point in the Open, Wyndham Clark has also made measurable progress in the most decisive area of the professional game, his approaches. He left LACC ranked 25th on Tour in that aspect, picking up 0.531 strokes per round due to his iron game. One year ago Clark ranked 171st, and that – as mediocre as it sounds – was the highest rank of his career.
Combine those improvements with the two aspects that have always been Clark’s strengths – his chipping and putting – and you get a champion. At Los Angeles, Clark ranked seventh in Strokes Gained Around the Green and fourth in Strokes Gained Putting.
If there was a decisive element on Sunday, it was putting. With the tournament pressure at its most substantial, here’s how each of the four contenders measured up in Strokes Gained Putting during the final round.
Player SG Putt Rank
Clark -0.58 37th
Scheffler -1.07 47th
Fowler -1.52 53rd
McIlroy -2.02 57th
Wyndham Clark didn’t exactly wow the field Sunday. But he was a half stroke better than Scheffler, a stroke better than Fowler, and a stroke and a half better than McIlroy. It was all the advantage he needed.
A few other statistical odds and ends to wrap up the Open experience at LACC.