‘I wish you could be here, Mom’: Wyndham Clark channels late mother’s instruction as he surges into US Open contention

“Play big.”

For the last decade, American golfer Wyndham Clark has carried a two-word rule into every competition. This week, the 29-year-old has taken it to Los Angeles Country Club, where he has surged into contention at the US Open courtesy of a blistering first two rounds.

It’s an instruction left by his mother, Lise Clark, who died of breast cancer in 2013 while he was learning his trade at Oklahoma State University.

“When she was sick and I was in college, she told me, ‘Hey, play big,’” Clark told reporters after his second round on Friday.

“‘Play for something bigger than yourself. You have a platform to either witness or help or be a role model for so many people.’

“I’ve taken that to heart. When I’m out there playing, I want to do that for her. I want to show everyone the person I am and how much joy I have out there playing and hope I can inspire people to want to be like me and be better than me.”

The loss left a 19-year-old Clark, out of form and rudderless without his “rock,” seriously considering quitting the sport for good.

Yet he stayed the course, and big plays have defined his US Open start. After opening with a six-under 64, just two shots shy of the tournament-record rounds carded by Rickie Fowler and Xander Schauffele, the world No. 32 followed up with a 67 to soar into the weekend in solo second, just one shot behind leader Fowler.

Having missed the cut on both previous starts at the major, the Denver-born golfer is comfortably on course to beat his best-ever major finish, a top-75 finish at the PGA Championship in 2021.

Clark is enjoying himself, so much so that he even confessed to “feeling a little cocky,” but tangled amid that joy is an ache.

“I was walking down yesterday [Thursday] and was just smiling as I was playing well, and I go, ‘Man, I wish you could be here, Mom,’ because it’s a dream come true to be doing this at the highest level in front of friends and family that are out here,” Clark said.

“I wish she could be here, but I know she’s proud of me, and she’s made a huge impact on my life – I am who I am today because of her.

“She was kind of my rock and my always-there supporter. So when things were tough or when things were going great, she was always there to keep me grounded and either bring me up or keep the high going.

“I’m getting a little choked up. She’s everything, and I miss her, and everything I do out here is a lot for her.”

‘I feel like I can compete with the best players in the world’

It continues a superb 2023 for Clark, who powered to his first PGA Tour crown at the Wells Fargo Championship in May.

A dominant four-shot victory over Schauffele in Charlotte, North Carolina, secured him a $3.6 million winner’s check and ended a run of five years and 133 PGA Tours starts without a win.

Following a string of good performances without silverware to start the year, it was a confidence-boosting triumph for a player who was beginning to wonder if a win would ever come.

“That’s a major championship golf course, and it demands a lot of the same things this does and a US Open would demand, which is all parts of your game being on,” Clark added Friday.

“For me, winning any tournament was big, and then that one in particular felt like a major. I just feel like I can compete with the best players in the world and I think of myself as one of them.”

Clark tees off his third round, alongside overnight leader Rickie Fowler, at 6.40 p.m. ET

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