Clark criticizes late start for U.S. Open’s third round
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Call him a traditionalist, but Wyndham Clark thinks professional golf is better in the daylight.
The U.S. Open co-leader criticized NBC’s decision to put Saturday's third round in a late broadcast window that forced the final competitors to finish their rounds around sunset. Visibility at Los Angeles Country Club was poor for the final hour of play, and Clark wasn't thrilled to finish the biggest round of his life in suboptimal conditions.
“Personally, I don’t quite understand it,” Clark said. “I know we’re (on the) West Coast and whatnot, and I know they probably have the say, but I would like to think that they would step in and be like, ‘Hey, we want to make sure it’s in the light and we have time.’ Definitely Rickie (Fowler) and I had a little bit of a disadvantage on those last two holes playing in the dark.”
Clark and Fowler were the final pairing of the third round, and the broadcast network raised eyebrows Friday night when it was announced they wouldn’t even tee off until 3:40 p.m. in California. Clark finished his 69 on Saturday with a six-foot birdie putt right around sunset, which happened at 8:07 p.m. Pacific time.
The biggest moment of Clark's golfing life was made more challenging by the late hour and the resulting poor visibility, but he persevered.
“I wanted to be in the final group,” Clark said. “Every shot matters out here. And on top of it, we couldn’t see. So just the fact making it when we were kind of just feeling it and didn’t really have the clearest of reads, yeah, there’s a lot of emotion. It’s a U.S. Open, and I wanted to be in that final group.”
NBC presumably started the leaders uncommonly late to put nearly all of their rounds in prime time on the East Coast.
All but one of the last six U.S. Opens on the West Coast had a Saturday television window that ended at 10 p.m. EDT. The leaders in Los Angeles didn't wrap up until after 11 p.m. on the East Coast.
At least the final round will be a bit more reasonable for the leaders: Fowler and Clark will tee off at 2:30 p.m. Pacific time in the final pairing Sunday, which means they should finish their 18 holes well before sundown.
But if a two-hole playoff is necessary, the failing light could become a problem yet again.
On the (not so) bright side, Clark said the conditions reminded him of his childhood at Cherry Hills Country Club in the Denver suburbs.
“They have a putting green right by the 10th tee, and I’d be out there putting until dark,” he said. “You have putts just like I did on 18 (at LACC) where you can half see it and half can’t, and no one is out there, and you’re just calling out whatever tournament it is to win.”
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