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Arnold Palmer Invitational: Wyndham Clark sinks 9 birdies, co-leads


Wyndham Clark made an abundance of birdies at Bay Hill, a course that, due to its difficulty, has been compared to the U.S. Open.

Considering Clark won the U.S. Open last year at the Los Angeles Country Club, he knows how to succeed on challenging golf courses.

He did just that Friday.

“I always like to think there are nine birdies out there, but, no, this golf course is one of the toughest courses on tour,” Clark said after his round.

“There’s no hole that just feels like a birdie; you always have to kind of sack up and hit a great shot. You [need] to hit a great tee shot, and then you have to hit a great second shot, but once you do that, it’s a birdie hole.”

Clark followed this formula early and often, birdieing the 3rd, 4th, and 6th holes to quickly reach 4-under par for the championship.

Wyndham Clark, PGA Tour, Arnold Palmer Invitational

Wyndham Clark acknowledges the fans after making a birdie.
Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images

But he had some misfires on the par-4 8th and par-4 9th holes, two of Bay Hill’s toughest holes. He made two straight bogeys there to drop back to 2-under.

He then bounced back with a birdie at the short par-4 10th, but inexplicably bogeyed the par-5 12th—one of the easier holes on the course.

Regardless, Clark called the bogey putt he made at 12 the best putt he made all day, which is quite the statement, considering he made plenty of long ones—including a 32-footer at 17 and a 27-footer at 18.

“The bogey putt on 12 was about a 5-footer,” Clark explained.

“There’s hardly any grass on the greens right now. They’re so fast. That putt could have wiggled offline, and making a double on essentially a birdie hole would have been terrible. So, making that was huge because it was one of those momentum putts.”

That gave Clark all of the momentum in the world, as he proceeded to birdie five of his last six holes.

But of those five par-breakers, Clark was most proud of his first one at 13.

“A stat I always love… to excel at and do well with is a bounce back,” Clark said.

“So, birdieing 13 after bogeying 12 was huge. It was a pretty straight putt, and straight putts from 20 feet are so hard to make. We played just inside right, and it stayed right where we wanted. Literally, the last roll, it went in. So, that was just huge because it’s always nice to bounce back after a bogey.”

Funny enough, Clark had a strong disdain for Bay Hill before last year. He even told himself he would never return after his first appearance at Arnie’s Place.

That changed last year, as the Arnold Palmer Invitational became a designated event on tour. But Clark would have skipped it altogether if not for its prestigious field.

“To be honest, I really didn’t have high expectations going into last year. I hit it really well and found myself in the top 20, and I said, ‘Okay, our game’s progressed to the point where I feel like I can play here,’” Clark reminisced.

“So, I carried the same mentality into this week, and honestly, for me, making the cut and being where I’m at is a win on a course that maybe traditionally hasn’t been my favorite.”

Clark’s complete change in his mental approach is a testament to his tenacity and fortitude, two aspects of his life that he has worked on over the past couple of years.

But now that he finds himself in contention on a brutal golf course, Clark can only do one thing over the final 36 holes:

‘Sack up.’

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough for more golf coverage. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko as well.



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