AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — It doesn’t faze Wyndham Clark that no player has won in his Masters debut since Fuzzy Zoeller 45 years ago.

“Stats like that are meant to be broken,” Clark said.

Of course, Clark is not your ordinary Masters newcomer.

He has the rare distinction of playing in his first Masters as the U.S. Open champion, not to mention being one of the hottest players on the PGA Tour.

Clark followed up two PGA Tour victories last year by winning at Pebble Beach in February and finishing second at the Arnold Palmer Invitational Pro-Am and The Players Championship, where he finished one shot behind world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler in a three-way tie.

Ranked fourth in the world, Clark enters this tournament with a 40-1 shot to win, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

While Clark acknowledged that winning as a Masters rookie would be a tall task, he’s quick to add that few could have predicted he would win the U.S. Open last summer.

“So I like my chances,” he said.

Clark isn’t the only notable newcomer playing this week at Augusta National.

Ludvig Aberg of Sweden, ranked No. 9 in the world, is a popular pick despite never testing the slippery greens at Augusta National. He won a PGA Tour event as a rookie and had two wins in foursomes at the 2023 Ryder Cup in Rome, helping the Europeans dominate.

And don’t forget about Alabama sophomore Nick Dunlap, who stunned the golf world in January by becoming the first amateur to win a PGA Tour event in 33 years when he captured The American Express.

He’s since turned pro and is ready to cash in at the Masters.

If you’re looking for a sleeper, there’s also Dean Shipley, who received an automatic invitation to the Masters by finishing runner-up in the 2023 U.S. Amateur, where he lost to Dunlap 4 and 3.

“It’s a tricky balance because obviously I’m feeling all the first-time feelings that everyone’s feeling, but I’m also trying to be OK with all those things coming at me,” Aberg said of his Masters debut. “I guess all I’m trying to do is just embrace all the nerves and all the excitement that I feel, and at the same time know my capabilities and know that that’s probably going to be good enough to compete.”

All 20 newcomers have been given an opportunity to play practice rounds at Augusta National in the weeks leading up the tournament. Some even played a round or two here in college.

So it won’t be like they’re playing Amen Corner for the first time.

Clark has played 72 holes leading up to Thursday’s first round, so there is some familiarity with the undulations of the greens.

But he knows the course becomes a whole different beast this week.

“Come tournament week, just how firm and fast the greens are versus when you come here six, eight weeks ago and it’s nice and receptive,” Clark said. “That’s a little bit of a difference.”

Clark said he’s approaching this tournament just like any other — trying to have fun, while realizing he’s living his childhood dream of playing the Masters.

This was his favorite tournament to watch growing up.

His father attended in 2005, the year Tiger Woods made that remarkable chip in on the 16th hole en route to his fourth green jacket. Clark watched that at home on television, looking for his dad in the crowd.

Whether Clark or another newcomer can pull off a similar bit of magic amid the towering pines and flowering azaleas and win the Masters remains to be seen.

But he wouldn’t be shocked if it happens.

“If it’s not me this week it could be Ludvig or someone else that does it,” Clark said. “I think the guys that are playing professional golf now have gotten so good, and I don’t think we really listen to all of that. We just see the golf ball and put it where we want to put it and wherever the ball ends up, we go and hit it again and try to win a golf tournament.”


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