Tournament Saturdays at Pebble Beach Golf Links on the Monterey Peninsula in recent history have been all about celebrities, from Bing Crosby and Jack Lemmon to Bill Murray and Ray Romano. It was amateur hour, sure, but in the best way. Hit, giggle, crack a few jokes and banter with the massive galleries. The PGA TOUR professionals would be handed back their stage on Sunday, and all was good with the world.
This week at Pebble has been a different one, new and improved in many ways, including a loaded field of pros. In Pebble Beach’s first iteration as a limited-field Signature Event, the celebrities packed their sticks away on Friday. Instead, this time, Saturday at famed Pebble Beach and the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am was all about one man chasing history at one of the most tradition-rich venues in the game. And what a chase it was.
Wyndham Clark, who last summer moved into a new echelon in golf as the U.S. Open champion, had one of those magical, almost make-believe days in the works – he was 10-under par through 11 holes – and eventually stood over a 26-footer for eagle at the picturesque 18th to shoot the 13th sub-60 round in PGA TOUR history.
Clark’s attempt for his third eagle of the day drifted off just short and a little right. Clark’s consolation would be the lowest tournament score – 12-under 60 – ever posted at the famed links. That wasn’t such a bad deal. Having walked off the first green after an opening par some four-plus hours earlier in a tie for 31st, Clark exited that last green with a three-shot lead, and a great chance to add a second big title in California in an eight-month stretch. He will enter Sunday’s final round – harsh expected weather permitting – at 17-under 199.
“It was honestly surreal,” Clark said of the round. “To have a chance to shoot 59 with that putt … it was pretty special.”
Clark’s 12-under 60 – highlighted by two early eagles in a record-setting opening-nine 28, included three near-misses at the end of the round. An 11-footer for birdie at the par-4 16th pulled up two inches short; a 14-footer for birdie after a hole-high 8-iron at 17 hit the brakes one inch – one inch– shy of the cup; and his attempt at a third eagle of the round drifted off short of its target at the last. A dozen players have posted sub-60 rounds in PGA TOUR history, the last being Scottie Scheffler at TPC Boston (The Northern Trust) in 2020.
Clark’s 60 shattered the tournament scoring mark of 62 at Pebble Beach that was shared by four players (Tom Kite, David Duval, Patrick Cantlay and Matthias Schwab), and clipped Pebble’s overall competitive course record of 61 set by Texas Tech’s Hurly Long at the Carmel Cup, a collegiate event, in 2017. Clark made just less than 190 feet of putts on the round, a record since such statistics have been kept at Pebble Beach.
As good as his eagles and birdies were – five times he holed putts of 25 feet or longer – one of Clark’s most amazing putts came on the par-3 12th – for bogey. The hole included a left-handed chip for his third from an awkward lie above the bunker. The ball squirted across the green, and he made the 26-foot putt from the collar for 4. He said he wasn’t even trying to make it, just hoping to lag it close and walk away with a double.
“For that to go in, it was like all right, man, I’m hot,” he said.
Clark had been struggling with his putting of late, and brought nine putters with him to Pebble Beach as he went to work early in the week. He even switched from a conventional grip to cross-handed, something he tinkered with in December at the Hero World Challenge but has not done regularly since his college days. He looks at the 189 feet, 9 inches of putts he sank and says hands down, this was the best putting day of his career.
Heading out early and looking to beat expected rains that were on the way, Clark was in a rare zone over his opening nine holes. Famed Pebble Beach Golf Links allows for a fast start in the early going, and with the coastal winds taking a breather, Clark pounced. Eagles at two par-5 holes (Nos. 2 and 6), a near-ace at the short seventh, and two long birdie putts at Nos. 8 and 9 added up to 28 strokes, the lowest front-nine total at Pebble in more than two decades (Brent Schwarzrock, Round 1, 2002).
Pebble’s poa greens can be puzzling and troubling to many, but Clark was moving along as if he were putting on a magic carpet, rolling in more than 150 feet of putts on his first nine holes alone. Included in his red-hot run were a 39-footer for eagle at the second hole; a 42-footer for eagle at the sixth; and putts of 30 and 28 feet for birdies to close out his nine. He then tacked on birdies at 10 and 11, moving to 10-under on the day.
Clark turned 30 in December, and is coming off his finest year as a professional. In 2023, he won twice, including the U.S. Open, his first major, down the coast in Los Angeles. In September, Clark played on his first national team as a pro, qualifying for the Ryder Cup in Italy. In two starts this season, his best finish was a T29 at Sentry, though in his two starts (The Sentry and The American Express) he has gone low, shooting 64 or lower twice.
This is Clark’s fourth time playing the AT&T Pebble Beach, with his best finish at tie for 18th in 2020.
Clark said he didn’t think about shooting 59 until he got to the tee box at 18. He piped a big drive, and reached the green from 224 yards with a 4-iron, leaving him 26 feet, potentially, from his third eagle of the day. He also had made eagle-3 on 18 at Pebble Beach one day earlier.
“I haven’t shot 59, but I would say even if I had shot 59 somewhere, I don’t think it would compare to shooting a score like this at one of the most historic golf courses in the world,” Clark said.
“I think in the past I would have kind of coasted in and shot a nice 8, 9 under. To keep the pedal down and to stay aggressive mentally was the most impressive thing to myself. And then obviously making all those putts was, you know, out of the ordinary. It was pretty awesome.”