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Brian Gay became the latest 40-plus golfer to win on the PGA TOUR, a victory that left Colorado native Wyndham Clark feeling “just gutted.”
“Old-man” golf continued to be all the rage on the PGA TOUR last weekend—Brian Gay, 48, became the third 40-plus golfer to win in the first eight events of the 2020-21 season, joining Stewart Cink and Sergio Garcia. The recent surge of “experienced” champions also includes players knocking hard on the Big 4-0s door—like former Colorado State University star Martin Laird. Laird, who will turn 38 before the year is done, scored his first Tour win in seven years last month at Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas.
Perhaps they’ll come a time, maybe 10 or 12 years and many, many wins from now, when Wyndham Clark will look back on Gay’s win at the Bermuda Championship and feel little more than the slightest twinge of regret.
But today isn’t that day.
“I’m pretty heartbroken about how it finished—last night I was actually just gutted,” Clark, the graduate of Valor Christian High School in Highlands Ranch said on Monday, the day after he lost to Gay on the first playoff hole in Bermuda. “I went out to dinner with my caddie and some of the guys, but it was hard not to think about.”
Clark’s experience points out the thin line prevalent in a profession where a blade of grass can literally mean the difference between winning and not winning, where a career-best finish and a princely amount of money nonetheless rings hollow because of how close he came to the ultimate prize—victory.
At one point in Sunday’s final round, a win for the 26-year-old seemed like a foregone conclusion. Clark held a three-shot lead with nine holes to play. When he made the turn and birdied the next two holes, Clark admits it was hard for him to stay in the moment as well.
“That’s just how it goes; you think about…every time I made a birdie my mind would race and wander,” he said. “After 10 and 11, the hardest thing for me to do was not to get too far ahead—there are so many thoughts that go through your head in that situation. Yeah, I thought about it multiple times, but then I would bring myself back to the present and focus on that.”
Indeed, even as Gay surged and drew close, playing in the penultimate pairing in front of him, Clark kept it together. It wasn’t until a bogey on the par-3 16th hole that he lost the lead, but Gay returned the favor with a bogey on the following hole. On the 410-yard, par 4 18th hole, Clark missed a putt for birdie that would have closed the door once and for all—instead, Gay forced the playoff with a three of his own.
When he repeated the feat again on the subsequent playoff hole, Gay became the oldest TOUR winner since Davis Love III took the…wait for it…Wyndham Championship in 2015.
Meanwhile, the learning curve for Clark, who has gone missed cut, 66th, 13th and second in his last four events, continues.
“I feel like I did everything right; I did everything I could, I just missed a putt,” Clark said. “There isn’t a crazy amount I can learn from this—I’ve been put in a lot of situations now, I’ve had chances to win—I’m just learning more and more.”
He added that he’s thankful for the chance to get right back on the horse as it were, playing in the Vivint Houston Open, the prelude to The Masters. Clark will return to action that next week; the RSM Classic in Sea Island, Georgia will likely be his final event of the year.
“I’m going to be doing a combination of things—hanging out with family, I’ll go fish some,” he said. “But mainly, I’ll be getting ready for the new year; there’s a bunch of things I want to work on….I want to improve some stuff mentally and physically—I want to gain some clubhead speed to hit the ball a little bit further than I do now, but really I just want to keep working on the things that have made me more successful recently.”
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