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US Open champion Clark defends breakthrough title in Quail Hollow
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US Open champion Clark defends breakthrough title in Quail Hollow

US Open champion Wyndham Clark reflects on a “crazy” year since his breakthrough PGA Tour title at Quail Hollow and focuses on the first title defense of his career.

“It’s my first chance to defend. I don’t know what that’s like, so it was exciting,” Clark said Wednesday as he prepared to tee off Thursday in the Wells Fargo Championship, the sixth of the US PGA Tour’s eight $20 million Signature events, featuring smaller fields and no halving.

Clark is now ranked third in the world and was ranked 163rd when he arrived last year at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he defeated Olympic champion Xander Schauffele on Sunday in a back-nine fight for his first career title with four to gain an advantage. strokes.

He would win his first major title at the US Open and set a Pebble Beach course record of 60 en route to victory in a weather-shortened Pebble Beach Pro-Am triumph in February.

Clark said his rise this past year has been “humbling and fun.”

“Yeah, it’s crazy to think that I’ve jumped so many places in 12 months and now have a few wins under my belt,” said Clark. “I just want to keep growing and getting better. I like to think this is just the beginning, and hopefully this is the start of a lot of good golf in the years to come.”

The 30-year-old from Colorado will compete against an elite field led by world number two Rory McIlroy, who won the title in 2010, 2015 and 2021.

McIlroy is coming off a victory alongside Ireland’s Shane Lowry in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans PGA Tour team event.

“I think it freed me up a little bit,” McIlroy said of playing in the unusual format, with a partner to take some of the Sunday pressure.

“I’ve had a pretty slow start to the season, especially here in the States,” he added. “I felt like I needed something like that to get going and hopefully that’s the case.”

Seven of the world’s top 10 and seven former champions are in the field, including two-time winner Max Homa.

The most notable absentee is world number one Scottie Scheffler, who won a second Masters title and followed it up with a victory at the RBC Heritage last month.

Scheffler, winner of four of his last five starts, has opted out of this final preparation for next week’s PGA Championship as he and his wife, Meredith, await the birth of their first child.

World number six Ludvig Aberg withdrew with a knee injury.

The fourth-ranked Schauffele, who was part of the victorious U.S. Presidents Cup team at Quail Hollow in 2022, is hoping to break through for a win after seven top-10 finishes this season.

“I would say I haven’t really been able to get it all together at once, which is kind of the story for every tour pro, so I’m still working on that piece,” Schauffele said.

Officials and the 69-player field were bracing for severe weather, with thunderstorms expected to move in on Wednesday evening and perhaps continue through the first and second rounds on Thursday and Friday.

Agence France-Presse