The Players: Wyndham Clark in the “zone,” sets another record as he decimates the field

Wyndham Clark continues to exert his dominance in big-time events.

On Friday, the reigning U.S. Open champion shot a 7-under 65 for the second consecutive day. He became the first player in Players Championship history to open with a pair of 65s or better, per Justin Ray of The Athletic.

“I guess I’ve been breaking some records recently, which is pretty neat,” Clark said after his round.

“More than anything, I’m just super excited that I had a ho-hum front nine and then turned and really just got into a nice zone and felt really good on the greens and shot an awesome number.”

Last month, Clark made history at Pebble Beach, setting the course record with a 12-under 60. That helped him win the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, which was shortened to 54 holes due to inclement weather.

Wyndham Clark hits a shot during the second round of the 2024 Players Championship.
Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images

This week, Clark has exerted himself once again. He sits at 14-under overall through 36 holes and walked off the golf course with a commanding five-shot lead over Matt Fitzpatrick and Maverick McNealy.

“I would like to play great every week,” added Clark, who finished solo second to Scottie Scheffler at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week.

“My thing is just to try to be consistent. With our schedule now, too, you only play big events, so that’s part of it as well.”

One thing remained constant Friday: Clark’s scorching hot putter.

He gained 4.712 strokes on the greens Friday, ranking first in the field.

Over his first seven holes, Clark made five pars, one birdie at the par-5 11th, and a bogey at the par-4 14th, one of the most challenging holes at TPC Sawgrass.

Things then changed for Clark at the famous par-3 17th, where he rolled in a 17-footer for birdie.

Two holes later, at the par-4 1st, Clark stuck his approach shot to 18 inches, which led to his first of four straight birdies.

But the critical point of his round came at the par-4 5th, which, like the 14th, has given players fits over the years.

Clark hit a bomb of a tee shot, traveling 334 yards and carrying the sand trap that meanders down the right side. But he pushed his tee ball a tad, thus finding the thick rough that lines TPC Sawgrass’ soft fairways.

“Unfortunately, I just drew a really bad lie,” Clark said of the fifth hole. “It’s kind of a crap shoot depending if you get a good lie or bad lie, and I had a bad one.”

He had 125 yards left for his second but could not find the green, missing to the right.

“I thought that the rough would pull it left, and it didn’t, so it went to the right, had a really tough lie, and then I hit a poor chip,” Clark added.

“But making that [par] putt [from 22 feet] was huge. That was probably the biggest putt of the day momentum-wise, keeping that mo going, and then I went on to birdie two of the last four, which was huge.”

Clark drained an 18-footer for a birdie on six and then closed with a birdie at the tricky par-5 9th to shoot a 30 on his closing nine.

“When I switched to the putter I’ve been using, that Jailbird, I started really seeing a lot of putts go in, and then all the work that I did off the course in my mental game, I started seeing it on the course because I started making putts,” Clark explained.

“So that’s probably the biggest thing is combining the mental game with making putts, and now I’ve been shooting some good scores.”

Not only did Clark drain plenty of putts and keep his mentality sharp in the process, but he has found plenty of greens in regulation, giving himself ample opportunities.

Through 36 holes, he has hit 31 greens in regulation, translating into a commanding lead at The Players. And at the midway point, Clark shows no signs of slowing down.

Perhaps he does something only Tiger Woods has done: win The Players as the reigning U.S. Open champion. That would be pretty special and likely vault Clark into the upper echelon of the sport.

But he already deserves to be there because his exquisite play has spoken for itself.

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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