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Wyndham Clark fueled by attitude change at Wells Fargo Championship

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CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - MAY 06:  Wyndham Clark of the United States lines up a putt on the 15th green during the third round of the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Country Club on May 06, 2023 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - MAY 06: Wyndham Clark of the United States lines up a putt on the 15th green during the third round of the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Country Club on May 06, 2023 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

In search of first win, has two-shot lead over Xander Schauffele

    Written by Cameron Morfit @CMorfitPGATOUR

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Wyndham Clark has never won on the PGA TOUR.

    After shooting an eight-birdie, no-bogey 63 in the third round of the Designated event Wells Fargo Championship he’ll take a two-shot lead over Xander Schauffele (64) into what figures to be an important Sunday at Quail Hollow, with the $3.6 million winner’s check in the balance.

    Nothing like diving into the deep end, but Clark feels he’s ready.

    Wyndham Clark’s Round 3 highlights from the Wells Fargo

    “I'd say then I wasn't as good of a player as I am now,” he said of his previous close calls, which include a playoff loss at the 2020 Bermuda Championship and a handful of high finishes this season. “I also think mentally I was a lot more impatient and fragile out there.”

    The mental side has been huge for Clark, who is five shots clear of Adam Scott (67) and Tyrrell Hatton (68), his next closest pursuers. Frustration forced a reckoning of sorts for Clark and his team, who told him the time to change his attitude was now or never. Asked about Clark via text message, Casey Martin, his coach at Oregon, replied, “Great kid. Driven. Almost to a fault. Wants it bad. Hard worker. Great athlete.”

    Indeed, there was no doubt Clark had all the tools. The 2017 Pac-12 Player of the Year after transferring to Oregon from Oklahoma State, he turned pro with high hopes. What followed, though, was a topsy-turvy ride.

    “I was maybe a little too focused on my score and kind of living and dying on that,” he said.

    When those closest to him intervened, it began a journey in which he went all-in on the mental side, which meant not only seeing a sports psychologist but diving into books like “The Obstacle is the Way” by Ryan Holiday and especially “The Energy Bus” by Jon Gordon.

    “It was either that or quit,” Clark said. “I just wasn’t having any fun.”

    Wyndham Clark’s interview after Round 3 of Wells Fargo

    On the course, Clark also has teamed up with caddie John Ellis, a former player and assistant coach at Oregon who made nine PGA TOUR starts, his best a T24 at the 2010 Open. To the extent that Clark has a coach these days, it’s Ellis. “They have a great relationship,” Oregon’s Martin texted. “John has turned down some very good jobs to stick with Wyndham because he believes in him.”

    There was, in one respect, an inevitability to Clark playing well this week. He came to Quail Hollow having compiled what is already a career-best five top-10 finishes this season.

    All that work on the mental side is paying off.

    “I'm excited to see how I handle the pressure tomorrow,” he said after twice stringing together three straight birdies Saturday, once on the front nine and once on the back. “It's going to be a fun challenge. Obviously, it's going to be tough, I've got one of the best players in the world right behind me and a bunch of other good players.

    “I'm just really looking forward to the challenge tomorrow.”

    Schauffele, who made 10 3s Saturday, could be tough. He has seven PGA TOUR wins and is ranked fifth in the world. (Clark is 80th.) He has an Olympic gold medal, and as Tony Finau cited his friendship with Jon Rahm ("Iron sharpens iron”) in Mexico last week, Schauffele has been helped by being around pal Patrick Cantlay (71, 4 under).

    Xander Schauffele’s Round 3 highlights from the Wells Fargo

    They Cantlay-Schauffele partnership invariably fuels every winning U.S. Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup team, and they also won the 2022 Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

    “Yeah, a lot,” Schauffele said, when asked how much his golfing identity has been shaped by his friendship with Cantlay. “His ability to think his way around the property is amazing and his short game's insane, so anytime I – I just watch, watch to learn, kind of.”

    Xander Schauffele’s interview after Round 3 of Wells Fargo

    This week Schauffele seems to be feeding off Clark at Quail Hollow.

    Both players are 29. Both are in the top three in Strokes Gained: Putting through 54 holes, Clark second, despite coming in 74th in that stat on the season, and Schauffele third. Clark is longer off the tee but hitting fewer fairways – T56 in Driving Accuracy. (Schauffele is T13.)

    One guy, Schauffele, has more experience, while the other, Clark, made no mistakes Saturday. After combining for 15 birdies and an eagle in the third round, they’ll do it again Sunday.

    “I hope we do the same thing tomorrow,” Clark said, “because it was a lot of fun.”

    Cameron Morfit is a Staff Writer for the PGA TOUR. He has covered rodeo, arm-wrestling, and snowmobile hill climb in addition to a lot of golf. Follow Cameron Morfit on Twitter.

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