PerspectivesCole Pepper Jacksonville Today Contributor
Wyndham Clark celebrates after winning after the U.S. Open golf tournament at Los Angeles Country Club on Sunday, June 18, 2023, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio J. Sanchez)

SPORTS | An unlikely US Open winner and uncertainty for pro golf

Published on June 19, 2023 at 4:45 pm
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The dramatic duel between a LIV golfer like Dustin Johnson or Cam Smith and the PGA Tour’s most outspoken defender, Rory McIlroy, never developed. But the U.S. Open did show what the reunification of pro golf could bring in the future.

While McIlroy shot even par for the final round, it was one-time PGA Tour winner Wyndham Clark who won by one stroke while hitting every fairway and green in regulation during the tournament. That’s precisely how you win a U.S. Open. Even if Clark isn’t a household name, his play provided some interest, even if it wasn’t the story many expected.

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Less than two weeks after the shocking announcement of the agreement between the PGA Tour and the Saudi Public Investment Fund, the money behind the breakaway LIV Golf series, the third major tournament of the year brought some expected drama with some of the biggest names in the sport on the leaderboard.

In addition to McIlroy, the world’s No. 1 ranked player Scottie Scheffler finished in third place. Ricky Fowler, who is trying to work his way back into regular contention on tour, finished tied for fifth, one stroke behind Ponte Vedra Beach resident Smith, the winner of the 2022 Players and British Open, who finished fourth.

Other familiar names like Johnson, Jon Rahm, and Xander Schaufele were among the top 12. While there are still concerns about the future of pro golf, the action on the course was a welcome return.

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So what happens next? On the course, the British Open tees off July 20 at Royal Liverpool. Off the course, the golf world waits to hear where the merger will lead.

Top PGA Tour stars have discussed how to be “made whole” after turning down the Saudi money over the past year and a half. That has led to some reported discord between players like McIlroy and some rank-and-file tour players. The drama is not over, but much of it appears more likely to play out away from the cameras that cover tournaments.

Then there are the questions about what will happen with the 2,600-plus employees of the PGA Tour who work at the Ponte Vedra Beach headquarters. It appears to business as usual, at least until further notice (isn’t that the case with all of us?)

And with the reworked pro golf calendar, there will be eight months between the British Open and The Players Championship and nine months between the British and The Masters. Those may be pro golf’s most transformative months since the PGA Tour broke away from the PGA in 1968.

Buckle up; this story is a long way from being fully written.

Photo credit: Wyndham Clark celebrates after winning after the U.S. Open golf tournament at Los Angeles Country Club on Sunday, June 18, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio J. Sanchez)

author image Jacksonville Today Contributor

Cole Pepper has covered sports in Jacksonville since 1996, most recently for News4Jax. He is currently broadcast director for Sporting Club Jacksonville and has called play-by-play for a number of teams, including the Suns, Tomcats, Jacksonville University, Sharks and The Bolles School football. He also served as the studio host for the Jaguars Radio Network.

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