Wyndham Clark: The Maestro of my $5 Bet

Wyndham Clark, 123rd U.S. Open,Mandatory Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports
Wyndham Clark, 123rd U.S. Open,Mandatory Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports /

Wyndham Clark: The Maestro of my $5 bet.

Ahhh…the $5 bet.

Whether it’s DraftKings or any other sportsbook, putting down a fiver on a game is like opting to sit in the back row of calculus class. Other than being physically present, you’re not there to accomplish much else.

Yet for some reason, I enjoy the casual $5 bet. I’m not the biggest gambler since sports already provides enough intrigue, suspense, and storylines to lead me on a masochistic roller-coaster of emotion. I don’t need to put money on a game for me to freak out.

$5 is still so little – does it even matter? Sure the cost adds up if you lay down $5 on eighty separate wagers, but by itself is such a marginal unit that even rationalizing its equivalence to a cup of coffee devalues coffee.

In spite of valiant prior attempts to figure out a successful way to bet golf, and thus watching multiple $5 wagers assemble into a vast total of nothingness, I was still compelled to make one wager for this year’s US Open. On the Wednesday of the tournament, I placed my allotted $5 on an outright winner – Wyndham Clark at +6500.

As much as I follow golf, there’s no insider knowledge for why I chose Wyndham Clark. Okay, he was piling up great finishes in the last two months – four Top 6 finishes including his first career victory at the Wells Fargo Championship. But honestly, I made this bet for sentimental purposes. He’s from Denver.

Since I moved to the Mile High City in 2020, it’s become the city of Champions (Russell Wilson notwithstanding). The Avalanche won the Stanley Cup last year and the Nuggets won their first title in franchise history earlier this week. Let’s keep the Denver victory streak going with Wyndham, I thought.

Fast forward to Sunday.

For all my surprise for Clark’s play on Thursday and my cautious glee for him somehow tied for the lead after Saturday, no emotion was like the anxiety I felt on Sunday.

This because of $5.

Given the insane odds, it was finally a reality that my five-spot could turn into $330. It was hard to wrap my head around how any financial return of that proportion could be possible.

At any rate, I was watching at my friends’ house, glued to the left side of their couch. You couldn’t peel me away if you tried.

But right before Clark’s tee time, something else besides the match had my attention. It was a series of internal ruminations – thoughts I’m sure other (more serious and skilled) gamblers have had.

Earlier that day, I had texted a few friends about my premonitive bet as if bragging rights of “predicting” a +6500 underdog felt just as valuable as the winnings. Look who I predicted to win! It was as if communal kudos paralleled money as its own resource, its own currency, of which I was also hedging. I wanted my friends’ praise now, before I no longer deserved it.

Wyndham Clark teed off and the pursuit of the impossible was underway.

But after a few holes, I couldn’t tell if those texts to friends were the equivalent of jinxing my no-hitter.

When Wyndham Clark birdied 1,4, and 6, I had that instinct to be braggadocious with more friends. But when he bogeyed 2 and 8, I was humbled and made sure my phone was buried.

At the turn, when the round had officially morphed from Clark vs. Rickie into Clark vs. Rory, I started to ponder my potential winnings. My mind was doing gymnastics, rehashing my B.A. in Psychology to rediscover gambling phenomena like loss aversion and sunk-cost fallacy. I opened up my sportsbook app.

The CASH OUT option, highlighted in an aggressive yellow and piercing black, was staring me in the face.

"WAGER: $5CASH OUT: $131.50"

Wyndham Clark had the solo lead with eight holes remaining, but this potential net winning of $126.50 was ripe for the taking. This would be the most I’ve ever won from a $5 bet. With that perspective, and framing it within the context of +6500 odds, I briefly convinced myself that I had already won.

But again, there’s more to this bet than winning. What about bragging rights? If I chickened out, any attempt to share a true victory with friends would be nullified. What about my ego? Would I be able to live with myself if Clark held on? Again, it was only $5. Also if Clark comes in second, would I technically “lose” $5 or “lose” $126.50? Ahhh….what to do? Too much math!

My brain and heart had an internal battle akin to front office departments fighting between new-age analytics and the old-school eyeball test. Ultimately, my decision was not dictated by numbers, but by heated motivational rhetoric. I channeled former New York Jets Head Coach Herm Edwards, who once famously exclaimed “You play to win the game!”

"You play to win the game."

Hot. Fans Roast U.S. Open and LACC. light

Following this reminder, I gave myself the lamest internal pep-talk imaginable – something along the gambler’s version of “you can do it” – which meant not doing anything at all and letting the bet ride.

Because of $5.

With my decision not to cash out in the rear, I could refocus on the round.

There was a simmering intensity revolving Rory’s scorecard, not knowing when he would break his streak of twelve straight pars and in which fashion. He finally snapped the trend on 14, surprisingly not with a birdie, but a bogey – the result of a bad break when his ball embedded in the side of the bunker.

At any rate, my boy Wyndham Clark was sitting pretty at three up with five to play.

I was feeling confident, especially in my decision not to cash out.

Half an hour later, that confidence changed.

Clark bogeyed 15 and 16. His lead had shrunk to one. I panicked and opened up my app so I could at least glaaaaance at the CASH OUT option. But it was gone.

Alright then. Like I said earlier, I wouldn’t be cashing out.

Wyndham Clark parred 17 and after Rory failed to birdie either of his final two holes, the stage was set. Clark was up one stroke with one hole to play. Par this and he wins.

He laced his drive down the fairway and while his approach landed 60 feet from the cup, it was on the green with a straight uphill putt. I had the confidence he would convert on his two-putt.

As Clark walked up the fairway toward his history-making moment, my mind continued to sprint from “Holy shit, you bet on this guy at +6500!” to “You idiot, why didn’t you bet more money?”

When his lag putt fell to within 2 feet of the cup, I galloped throughout my friends’ house. When Clark tapped in to officially seal his victory, I ran the same lap around the house, this time sans shirt.

All because of $5.

I was now one with improbability. The absurdity of winning anything on a +6500 bet or a 1/156 chance to win is incomprehensible. As I mentioned earlier, Wyndham Clark was the only person I bet on to win the darn thing.

After I regained my composure from sprinting around the house, I posted on my Instagram story a screenshot of my winning ticket along with a photo my friend had taken of me squeezing his good luck teddy bear as I watched Clark’s lag putt. My expression was akin to someone who just saw a ghost.

dark. Next. 123rd U.S. Open Winners and Losers

Those two posts were the most commented Instagram posts I’ve ever had. I received messages not just from close friends and colleagues, but fringe acquaintances and people I hadn’t spoken to in years.

Winning $325 isn’t life-changing. It’s not gonna pay the rent or even a car payment. This was more than just money. It goes to show that people still resonate with the underdog, the chaotic, the bizarre, the random …and every other attribute a +6500 longshot embodies.

All because of five measly dollars.