Jan
25
2010
The Second Coming of Tim Clark
By Stephanie Wei under General

It’s tough to find much fault with a bogey-free round of 65. But it’s easy to scrutinize Tim Clark’s decision to lay up on the 18th hole, a relatively straightforward and easily reachable in two par 5 — especially since his T2 at the Bob Hope Classic was his 8th runner-up finish on the PGA Tour and he remains winless in 197 starts.

Going into the final hole, Clark was tied for the lead. While he must have figured he needed to make a birdie to force a playoff, he opted for the safe play, laying up with a 7-iron. He followed it with a good wedge shot into the green, which left him a makeable eight-foot putt. But Clark, who hasn’t proven to be clutch in these situations, missed and settled for a par and another bridesmaid title.

Hear Timmy make excuses explain his reasoning:

There’s a chance I could have gotten there, but a great shot still would have left me probably over the ridge with a tough 30-footer down the slope.

My wedge game is my strength, so I knew laying it up, I hopefully wouldn’t have more than 10 feet. And I left myself a perfect 7- to 8-footer, not much to it.

So at the end of the day, I think I did what I needed to, to give myself a best look at birdie there. I certainly didn’t want to throw away the tournament. If I hit my 3-wood there, it’s probably going to come up short in the water. A great shot is probably going to either leave me a long 2-putt or a chip from the back of the green, which I didn’t want either.

So I tried to play it the way I played the whole round and the whole week. I don’t want to get ahead of myself and try and do anything silly.

But he’s never been solid with seven to eight footers in must-make-to-win moments. Rewind back to the Crowne Plaza Invitational last year. After bogeying the final hole in regulation by leaving a par putt short, he flubbed a straightaway seven-footer in the first playoff hole to lose to Steve Stricker.

Had he left himself a long putt after reaching the green in two, he would have still only had to two-putt for a birdie, giving him a chance to win. In the less favorable scenario where he hit it over the green, at least he wouldn’t have looked gutless.

When it comes to winning tournaments, the so-called safe play isn’t always the right one. In this scenario, it wasn’t. It’s like Clark was protecting a lead he didn’t have, which is what seems silly to me — unless he doesn’t mind continuing to be one of the best players to never have hoisted a trophy. Meanwhile, Bill Haas knocked a 3-iron to 30 feet on the 18th and two-putted his way to his first Tour victory.

[Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images]