Standing before him were two of golf’s most promising players: Rory McIlroy, who seemed poised to finally break his nine-year dry spell in major tournaments, and Rickie Fowler, a native of Southern California who had recently overcome a three-year slump and was ready to claim his first major victory. Despite the challenge, Clark held onto the words of his late mother, who always encouraged him to “play big,” and his unwavering belief that he could compete with the best on any stage.
Clark’s defining moment came at the U.S. Open, held near Beverly Hills, where he made crucial saves and employed his trademark shot to dominate the game with confidence, ultimately defeating McIlroy and securing a major championship. Clark expressed his sense of belonging on this grand stage, even when he was relatively unknown, as he always believed he had the skills to compete with the world’s top players. He closed the tournament with a level-par 70, clinching a one-shot victory over McIlroy.
After only his seventh start in a major tournament, which was a significant improvement from his previous best finish of tying for 75th place, golfer Clark emerged victorious. This win came just six weeks following his first PGA Tour championship win at Quail Hollow. Clark expressed surprise at the speed of his mental growth as a player and stated that he believes he is one of the world’s top players. He felt that this victory is a testament to what he believes he’s capable of achieving.
In the last moments of the game, Clark was faced with two putts from a considerable distance of 60 feet on the 18th hole situated at the Los Angeles Country Club. After he successfully managed to place the ball within a foot of the hole, the 29-year-old golfer raised his fist in celebration. Without much difficulty, he tapped the ball in for a par, which was probably the simplest shot he had to make all day.The other well-known players that Clark had competed against were left behind in his trail. Even Scottie Scheffler, the top-ranked player in the world, and the British Open champion, Cameron Smith, were unable to catch up with him. Fowler, who had been part of the final group in a major tournament for the third time, was also outpaced by Clark. Clark had also been in the final round of a major tournament on two previous occasions, but on both the occasions, he had finished the game before lunch.
At the end, Clark released his emotions, gazing up at the blue sky as tears flowed down his face and he covered his eyes with his cap, crying on the grass. A decade ago, he contemplated giving up golf when he faced challenges dealing with the passing of his mother, Lise, due to breast cancer. She was his rock during both the good and challenging times, and Clark had been focusing on her all week for several reasons.
Clark, who was born in Denver, shared that his mother had lived in Los Angeles for a few years before. During his stay in LA, some people showed him pictures of his mother when she was in her 20s and early 30s, which made the experience special for him. Clark’s parents got married at the Riviera Country Club, which gave him some roots in the area. Despite that, he wished that his mother could be there, and he could celebrate with her. He believes that she’s proud of him.
McIlroy experienced further letdown in his pursuit to break his nine-year dry spell without a major championship. He began the game with a birdie, but failed to achieve any others for the remainder of the match. His final round performance was one that would typically secure a U.S. Open victory – 16 pars and one bogey. However, in this case, it was not enough. Despite Clark displaying signs of faltering during the strenuous concluding stretch, McIlroy struggled to hit fairways and missed out on any viable opportunities to score a birdie.
It was reminiscent of his performance at the British Open in St. Andrews last summer, where he was able to hit every green but struggled to sink putts. Now, he will have to face more inquiries as to when he will win another major.McIlroy expressed his eagerness in winning another major, saying that the victory would be “really, really sweet.” He stated that he would endure countless Sundays like this one, as long as it ultimately led him to another major championship.
Despite Scheffler’s strong performance, he missed too many putts early on in the back nine and did not receive the necessary assistance from Clark and McIlroy. He finished in third place with a 70, a month following his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship.
Fowler managed to achieve 23 birdies, setting a new record for the U.S. Open. However, as with many other major events, he faltered at the start with three bogeys in the first seven holes. Despite his efforts, he was unable to make up the lost ground and finished with a score of 75.On the other hand, Clark had an exceptional day, displaying impressive composure and confidence in himself. His short game was extraordinary, and he also had a remarkable fairway metal that he will surely remember for a long time. Ultimately, the day belonged to Clark.
Despite his two-shot lead, Clark faced a challenge on the eighth hole par-5 as his approach hit a steep bank of the barranca to the left. His golf ball was barely visible, but he took a swing and managed to move it a few inches deeper into the thick grass.Clark attempted to hit the ball again, but this time it went over the green and landed 70 feet away on a firm and frightening putting surface. He then had to chip it to 3 feet to avoid getting a bogey.
According to Clark, his ability to make that up-and-down shot was crucial to winning the tournament.
Several additional shots came after that. While on the par-3 ninth, he found himself on the edge of a bunker and skillfully utilized the slope to chip the ball away from the flag and land it within 7 feet, making another remarkable save. Later on, he hit a pitch from a constrained lie to the left of the 11th green, landing it within 4 feet to save par.However, his most notable shot was his fairway metal from 282 yards away on the par-5 14th hole. He landed the ball 20 feet from the hole, setting up a two-putt birdie that granted Clark a three-shot advantage with only four holes left to play.
He had a flawless performance throughout the day except for the par-3 15th hole where he made a bogey. Later, he found himself in a bunker on the left side of the 16th fairway and his frustration was evident when he missed a 7-foot par putt and hit his putter with his hand. As a result, his lead was reduced to just one shot. However, he managed to maintain his lead by getting up-and-down from the left side of the 17th green. The USGA made an interesting decision by allowing thousands of fans to surround the fairway near the 18th green as there were very few grandstands, creating a dramatic atmosphere for Clark’s final moments.
Fowler, who has yet to win a major championship, went back to the 18th green to embrace Clark. Fowler stated, “I went back in there and just said, ‘Your mom was with you. She’d be very proud.'” Clark finished the tournament with a score of 10-under 270 and received a $3.6 million prize, which is his second such win in the last six weeks. He also moved up to No. 2 in the Ryder Cup standings. Smith placed fourth after shooting a 67. Fleetwood became the first player to achieve two rounds of 63 in the U.S. Open and finished tied for fifth with Fowler and Min Woo Lee, who both shot 67. In the final round of 2018, Fleetwood also shot 63 at Shinnecock Hills.