Cantlay heeds Nicklaus' advice to win his tournament
Patrick Cantlay carded a final-round 64 to win the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide
June 02, 2019
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Patrick Cantlay's news conference after winning the Memorial Tournament
DUBLIN, Ohio – Jack Nicklaus was watching for something intently in Patrick Cantlay’s final round at the Memorial Tournament Presented by Nationwide.
It wasn’t the crisp irons under pressure. It wasn’t hip turn, or club head speed, face angle, or anything else Trackman might measure.
It was a smile.
“He did it at 15!,” Nicklaus interjected in Cantlay’s winners conference when it was suggested Cantlay hadn’t smiled until he putted out on 18 to all but secure his second PGA TOUR victory and move to 6th in the FedExCup standings.
The reason Nicklaus was looking for it was some advice he had passed on to Cantlay on Friday at Muirfield Village.
You see Cantlay has always had a special relationship with Mr. Nicklaus.
From the time he was awarded the Jack Nicklaus Award as the best collegiate player in America in 2011 the two have had a kinship. Nicklaus goes as far to say Cantlay, and all of the other previous winners of the award, are “in many ways my children.”
But on Friday, having seen Cantlay not turn his stellar talent into more wins since he won in November 2017 at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas, Nicklaus seized an opportunity.
“I was in there having lunch after the early morning round on Friday, and he grabbed me aside and said, you need to go out there, have a good time. Look around when you're out there. Look at all the people having a great time. And then you need to have a great time and realize that that's why you're there and relax and go have fun and go win the golf tournament,” Cantlay recounted of Nicklaus’ advice.
“And I definitely said that to myself down the stretch today on the back nine. It put me a little more at ease, and I hit a lot of really nice quality shots with the lead, coming down the stretch.”
It wasn’t the first time the two had conversed on golfing matters. In fact a few years ago Cantlay went to Nicklaus’ house and the two spent 90 minutes going over strategy for Muirfield Village. Clearly that was time well spent. But this week the 18-time major winner had something he really wanted to get across.
“He reminds me a lot of me,” Nicklaus said.
“I get so wrapped up in what I'm doing I forget about everything else that's going on around me. And I sit there and say, you know, if I can help them, pass that along, maybe it will help them. And if it did, that's great. If it didn't, it didn't make any difference, he won a golf tournament, either way.”
The thing with Cantlay is whether he is aware of it or not, he always looks serious. Like Batman serious. He’s locked in. He’s all business. You never see the Phil Mickleson thumbs up to the masses or a Rickie Fowler selfie session. It’s just not his style.
“I understand that's my look. I try and be natural. So I try and be how I am all the time. And that's kind of how I am all the time,” Cantlay shrugs.
“I was walking in this morning and somebody said, 'it can't be that bad, can it?' And I don't even realize that’s the look on my face. I was in a great mood this morning.
“But I feel like if I tried to be any way else, it wouldn't be me. I'd be trying to force it. So I just try and be me out there. I definitely am focused and intent on what I'm doing. And I think that's part of me and I think that's part of why I have success.”
And he had plenty of success on Sunday. His 8-under 64 is the best ever final round by a winner at the Memorial. It pushed him to 19-under 269. Only Tom Lehman (268 in 1994) has been lower over four rounds. He joined Tiger Woods as the only former Nicklaus award winner to win Nicklaus’ tournament.
Cantlay is not surprised though. Well he is surprised … but only that he hasn’t won more. This was a guy who spent eons as the world’s best amateur and was touted as better than Jordan Spieth in the junior years.
The delay was heavily due to a serious back injury that killed almost three years for him. But once he came back healthy and won, he thought he’d keep winning.
“I definitely feel like I've had a lot of close calls since my last win. I'm a little surprised it's taken me this long,” Cantlay said.
“I really did (think the first win would open the floodgates). I've played a lot of really good golf, a lot of really solid golf. And so I think I was closer than it seems. So maybe this one will do it.”
Maybe it will indeed. And if it does both Patrick and Jack will be smiling.
Patrick Cantlay's Round 4 highlights from the Memorial