LOS ANGELES (AFP) — Wyndham Clark held his nerve to card an even-par 70 on Sunday to win the 123rd US Open, capturing his first major title and denying four-time major winner Rory McIlroy his first in nine years.
Clark, whose previous best finish in six prior major starts was a tie for 75th, shrugged off two late bogeys, closing with a pair of confident pars to seal the victory with a 10-under par total of 270 at Los Angeles Country Club.
That was good enough for a one-shot win over McIlroy, who also closed with a 70.
World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler also carded an even par final round to finish third on 273.
“You know, I just felt like my mom was watching over me today,” said the 29-year-old, whose mother, Lise, nurtured his golf dream but died of cancer when he was in college.
“I just feel like it was my time,” Clark said.
Clark, ranked 32nd in the world, started the day tied for the lead with Rickie Fowler and had a three-shot lead after his fourth birdie of the day at the par-five 14th where he hit his “shot of the tournament.”
McIlroy, playing a group ahead, had bogeyed the same hole.
But Clark’s lead dwindled to one after bogeys at 15 and 16, and McIlroy kept the pressure on with an unlikely par at 17
— where his errant tee shot ended up on the fairway of the neighboring second hole.
Clark missed the green at the par-four 17th, but stuck his third shot within two feet of the pin for a needed par.
His approach at 18 left him 60 feet, and he made a confident run with his first putt and sealed the victory with a par putt from within three feet.
McIlroy had opened with a birdie, then parred 12 straight, finding green after green but unable to get any birdie putts to drop.
He bogeyed 14, where his third shot was plugged deep in the muddy bank of a bunker and he received a free drop, only to miss a nine-foot par-saving putt.
“The putter, I’ll rue some of the chances I missed,” McIlroy said.
“It was hard to get the ball close all day.”
“I hung in there and fought right to the end and didn’t quite get the job done.”
“But I’ll keep coming back until I get another one,” added McIlroy, who counts the 2011 US Open among his four majors but hasn’t won one since winning the Open Championship and PGA Championship in 2014.
Reigning British Open champion Cameron Smith of Australia climbed the leaderboard with a 67 to grab fourth place on six-under 274.
Fowler, trying to claim his first major title to cement his return from a slump that saw him fall to 185th in the world, endured a nightmare day with seven bogeys in a five-over 75.
That left the American sharing fifth with Min Woo Lee and Tommy Fleetwood — who carded a superb seven-under-par 63 to become the first golfer with two rounds of 63 on his US Open resume.
Clark opened with a birdie, but immediately gave a shot back at the second hole.
He rolled in a five-footer for birdie at the par-three fourth and had a two-shot lead after a birdie at the sixth.
He gave a stroke back at the par-five eighth, where he found himself hitting out of waist-high clumps of grass left of the green.
His first attempt to hit out barely advanced the ball and his next went through the green.
He limited the damage with a chip to three feet on the way to a bogey that put him at 11-under.
“Honestly, that up and down for bogey was probably the key to the tournament,” he said.
Clark drained a seven-foot putt to salvage par at the par-three ninth after hitting his tee shot into the rough on the edge of a greenside bunker.
“US Opens are tough,” Clark said.
“It’s tough on the back nine trying to win a tournament. I felt at ease and I just kept saying “All right, I can do this, I can do this.”