Clark inches from shooting 59 in Pebble course record-setting effort

Mark McGowan
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Wyndham Clark with his caddie after tapping in for 60 on 18 (Photo by Tracy Wilcox/PGA TOUR via Getty Images)

Mark McGowan

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Reigning US Open champion Wyndham Clark’s eagle putt on the the iconic 18th green at Pebble Beach came up one roll shy, but he tapped in for a round of 60, shaving two strokes off the tournament course record.

And his sublime 12-under was enough to propel him to the head of the leaderboard, one stroke clear of Ludvig Aberg at -16, with Matthieu Pavon, whose fairytale run shows no sign of stopping, one further adrift at -15.

With horrendous weather forecast for Sunday’s scheduled final round, it remains to be seen whether Clark will even take to the course, but the benign weather on moving day combined with the soft underfoot conditions meant the course was ripe for the taking.

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And take it he did, carding two eagles, nine birdies and one bogey, covering the front nine in 28 strokes and leaving each of his two birdie putts on 16 and 17, and his eagle putt at the last just short on the perfect lines.

“Man, I didn’t even visualize it being this good,” Clark said. “It was honestly surreal. To start as good as I did, and you kind of get in the zone, and you get to the back nine and start thinking about 59. I’m honestly really proud of how I played, and to shoot a score like I did on this golf course is pretty special.”

But 59 wasn’t on his mind until he got to the 18th tee, when he suddenly realised how close he could’ve been to 58. “Oh my gosh,” he said. “If I had just had three inches in my last two putts, I would have been 13 under going into 18. … For me to pipe my drive [at 18] thinking all of that, to have a chance to shoot 58 with that putt was pretty special.”

Clark had been heavily rumoured to be joining LIV before finally ending speculation last week, and it’s ironic that a day after Joaquin Niemann had shot the magical number at El Camaleon Golf Club in Mayakoba on LIV’s first round of the year, he was desperately close to upstaging him on the Monterey Peninsula.

As in every great round, there was an element of fortune involved that helped the drive for 59 remain on track on the 16th. After driving into the heavy rough at 11-under for the day, the ball disappeared into looked a horrific lie, but thanks to the remnants left behind by a burrowing animal, he was able to take relief, drop in a much more favourable lie and almost walked off with birdie.

“We were right on the edge of it to where it was in my way,” he later explained, “and I was essentially in the start of that animal burrowing hole. I brought the officials over to make sure because obviously the ground’s very saturated. … I said, ‘What do you think this is?’ He said, ‘Yeah, that does not look like a divot or any sort of footprint;, it was definitely something that was going under the surface, so that’s why we got the drop there.”

It’s rare to be both lucky to shoot 60 and unlucky not to shoot 59, but that was the case at the end of the day. He’s given himself a wonderful opportunity to capture his third big title – a major and two signature events – in nine months, having gone 0 for 134 previously.

But he’ll be thinking about those putts he left short tonight, particularly the one on the last.

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