CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Wyndham Clark tried to pull his hat over his eyes with both hands as he struggled to hold back tears on the 18th green at Quail Hollow Club, where he won the Wells Fargo Championship on Sunday for his first PGA Tour victory.
The long, agonizing wait of five years on the tour, including days where he wanted to "break some clubs," was finally over. It was time to celebrate.
"I'm a little choked up," Clark said on the green. "It's been a long five years to get to this point. I thought I would have won one earlier, but it is well worth the wait."
The 29-year-old Colorado native closed with a 3-under-par 68 for a four-shot victory over Xander Schauffele (70), who struggled with accuracy from the tee in the final round. Clark finished the 72-hole event at 19-under 265, the second-lowest score in relation to par in the tournament's history, behind only three-time champion Rory McIlroy's 21-under 267 in 2015, when par for the course was 72.
Baylor School graduate Harris English (69) tied for third with England's Tyrell Hatton (70) at 12 under, one shot better than England's Tommy Fleetwood (70) and Australia's Adam Scott (71). English was 2 over for the round at the turn, but his four birdies on the back nine secured the strong finish.
Michael Kim (69) was seventh at 10 under, one stroke ahead of a six-man jam that included Max Homa (70), who won the 2022 edition of the tournament at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm in Maryland because Quail Hollow was preparing to host last fall's Presidents Cup.
Chattanooga's Stephan Jaeger shot a 70 for the fourth straight day and tied for 27th at 4 under, while fellow Baylor grad Keith Mitchell (75) shared 59th at 2 over.
Clark's victory didn't come easy, which was perhaps fitting for his career. The world's 80th-ranked player opened the final round with a two-shot lead, surrendered it to Schauffele after seven holes, then stormed back to win after playing the final 11 holes in 4 under.
"There are so many times that I wanted to cry and break clubs — and I did break clubs at times — in this journey," Clark said. "But to get to this point is so sweet. It is just amazing to finally do this."
There were signs Clark was due. He had finished in the top six in three of his past five starts, including last month's third-place finish at the Zurich Classic, a team event where he played with Beau Hossler. And he set himself up at Quail Hollow with Saturday's third-round 63, one stroke better than Schauffele.
"To go and put that round of 63 together and finish at 19 under is a fantastic effort," Hatton said. "Yeah, he deserves to be holding that trophy."
Clark showed the poise of a champion after a rough start Sunday. He pulled his tee shot left on No. 1 over the cart path, leaving him a difficult approach shot that led to a bogey. Schauffele pulled into the lead with birdies at Nos. 3 and 7, and it looked like Clark, who was struggling just to make a birdie over the first six holes, might collapse under the pressure of trying to win.
Clark said his caddie, John Ellis, "kept preaching to me that it's going to be challenging, and get your mind wrapped around it."
The momentum changed on the eighth hole. Clark chipped to within four feet and rolled in a short birdie putt to pull back into a tie, then took the lead for good at the turn when Schauffele's par putt lipped out on No. 9.
Schauffele started struggling with his driver, missing four straight fairways. Clark kept the pressure on by sinking birdie putts at No. 10 and 12 to sandwich a Schauffele bogey on No. 11, pushing the lead to four strokes with six holes left to play.
Clark matched Schauffele's birdies at the 14th and 15th holes to maintain a four-shot edge heading into the difficult closing three holes known as the Green Mile. From there, the only real drama was whether he would break McIlroy's tournament record.
Clark was 1 over on the final three holes, bogeying the 18th after finding a fairway bunker. Even if it wasn't enough for the record, it was enough for the win.
"I didn't hit it as well and didn't make as many putts as maybe I did the day before, but mentally I was super strong," Clark said. "I didn't start out great. I was kind of shaky. I think in years past I might have folded. But this time I stayed patient and hung in there and caught fire on the back nine."
Schauffele said he wished he could have put more pressure on Clark, but that he was just flat on Sunday: "I started leaking oil."
Ames closes it out
DULUTH, Ga. — Stephen Ames capped a dominant three days at TPC Sugarloaf with a 4-under 68 that gave him the tournament scoring record and a four-shot victory in the Mitsubishi Electric Classic.
Ames joined David Toms as the only multiple winners on the PGA Tour Champions this year. The 59-year-old previously won the Trophy Hassan II in Morocco.
Ames had a three-shot lead going into the final round and was never seriously challenged. He drove into the water on the final hole and still made a 30-foot par putt to finish at 19-under 197. Ames broke his own 54-hole record at Sugarloaf by four shots; he also won in 2017.
Miguel Angel Jimenez birdied the final hole for a 68 to finish alone in second, two shots ahead of Ken Tanigawa (71). Brett Quigley tried to make a run at Ames and got within three shots until a bogey-double bogey finish for a 69 to finish alone in fourth at 12 under.
Meronk by a shot
GUIDONIA MONTECELIO, Italy — Adrian Meronk closed with a 2-under 69 for a one-shot victory in the Italian Open, strengthening the 29-year-old Polish player's case to return to Marco Simone Golf and Country Club this fall as part of Europe's Ryder Cup team.
Meronk finished the 72-hole event at 13-under 271 to hold off Romain Langasque (70). Julien Guerrier, who held the 54-hole lead, shot a 73 and finished alone in third at 10 under as French players took two of the top three spots.
Meronk won for the third time on the European circuit and moved to No. 4 in the Race to Dubai standings for the DP World Tour.
He took the lead with a 3-wood shot that landed just short of the green on the par-4 16th. Meronk then saved par on the 17th after missing the green to the right, and he effectively sealed his win by making a seven-foot birdie putt on the final hole.
Marco Simone will host the Ryder Cup the last week in September, when Europe will be trying to take the trophy back from the United States, which won a record-setting rout on American soil in 2021.
Crown for Thailand
SAN FRANCISCO — Atthaya Thitikul birdied the 16th hole to cap a dominant week that carried Thailand to a 3-0 victory over Australia on Sunday for the country's first International Crown team match play title.
Thitikul beat Stephanie Kyriacou 4 and 2 to improve to 5-0 for the week and earn the clinching point in the final. Patty Tavatanakit had already beaten Hannah Green 4 and 3 in the other singles match.
Sisters Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn won their match over Sarah Kemp and Minjee Lee, 4 and 3, when Ariya holed out a chip shot from the edge of the green on the 15th hole as sixth-seeded Thailand finished the week winning 11 of 12 matches.
The United States beat Sweden 2-1 in the consolation match to finish third.
It was a breakthrough weekend for Thailand, which had never finished better than fourth in the first three editions of this tournament. The Thai team was dominant at Harding Park as the only country to win every match in pool play and then delivered a dominating championship match after surviving a tight semifinal against the United States earlier in the day, 2-1.
Australia beat Sweden 3-0 in the other semifinal.