Cantlay completes long journey to winner's circle
November 05, 2017
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Patrick Cantlay news conference after winning Shriners
LAS VEGAS – Freshly crowned Shriners Hospitals for Children Open champion Patrick Cantlay turned professional in 2012 a few months before Jordan Spieth… and he was better than him.
Before that the California kid had spent a record 55-weeks at the top of the world amateur golf rankings.
As a freshman at UCLA, he had won the Haskins and Nicklaus awards as the best college player in the country.
During the 2011 summer he was 21st at the U.S. Open and then shot into further consciousness among mainstream golf fans when he shot a second-round 60 at the Travelers Championship, the lowest ever score by an amateur on the PGA TOUR.
This kid was the goods and the career we have seen from Spieth, well… that was expected to be something Cantlay would produce in his first five years on TOUR.
But life doesn’t always come easy. And in Cantlay’s case… it can come at you very hard indeed.
In 2013 he was warming up on the range at the DEAN & DELUCA Invitational at Colonial prior to the second round when he felt a sharp pain in his back. He tried to play but was forced to withdraw mid-round.
Eventually he would be diagnosed with a stress fracture in his back – an injury that kept him out for three months. He returned to secure his playing status but in doing so forced himself out for seven more months.
A few comeback attempts came in 2014, 2015 and 2016 but they all ended the same… with extended time off as his back would just not cooperate.
But that wasn’t even the worst of it.
In 2016 Cantlay was out with his caddie and best friend from high school Chris Roth in Newport Beach. As they crossed a road Roth, just 10 feet or so in front of Cantlay, was struck by a car in a hit-and-run accident.
Cantlay called 911 and tried to help his stricken friend but Roth was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
He admits the incident sent him into a depressive state. One “there was and still is a reason for.”
The plan had always been for Roth to be on his bag. He would have been celebrating in this victory but of course that was not to be.
Despite this Cantlay fought on.
“There's not a lot of give up in me,” he said Sunday.
Last season we saw his return and in just his second start at the Valspar Championship he was runner up. Two starts later he was T3 at the RBC Heritage.
In just nine starts he forced his way into the FedExCup Playoffs where he went T10-T13-T9 in the opening three events to force his way into the TOUR Championship.
In his 2017-18 debut he was T15 at the World Golf Championships – HSBC Champions last week before this triumph.
And it didn’t come without his now trademark fight. He produced five birdies in a six-hole run around the turn on Sunday but then bogeyed the final two holes in regulation to slip back.
Given a second chance he nailed a pressure 8-foot bogey putt in the first hole of the playoff with his back against the wall and then on the second playoff hole carved his way out of tree trouble before putting beautifully from off the green to set up a tap-in par for victory.
Just 35 weeks ago Cantlay sat outside the top 1000 golfers in the world. Now the 25-year-old projects inside the top 50, the third fastest player in history to make such a leap.
And while his contemporaries like Spieth and Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele have been making waves in the 25 and under category, Cantlay now has hopes of making his own run at history.
“I want to be the best player in the world, and I want to win a bunch of tournaments. I feel like if that's not what you're out here for, you shouldn't be out here,” Cantlay said.
“Having won, I hope they pile up. I feel like getting your first one can sometimes be the toughest one to get, and I feel really good about my game, and hopefully I can start getting some more wins.”
Cantlay says he’s not frustrated by his lost time or the success of those he was once beating as an amateur.
“I don't feel like I'm behind the eight ball. I feel like someone put the pause button on playing… but I feel like I picked up right where I left off, where I was playing good before,” he added.
“This year has been really good. I feel like I've always been right there with those guys, so I’m looking forward to working hard and hopefully having some battles with them in the future.”
We hope so too.
- Alex Cejka was packed up and about to put his clubs in the car when he thought better of it. Having finished two hours ahead of eventual playoff combatants Patrick Cantlay and Whee Kim he had good reason. His awesome 8-under 63 Sunday left him 9 under but the German figured it wasn’t quite going to be enough. And it was fair enough thinking. Both Cantlay and J.J. Spaun sat above him on the leaderboard with the getable back nine to play. Countless others sat equal with him or just one back playing a stretch he made six birdies on. But as the winds started to lift around TPC Summerlin the Las Vegas resident decided to hit a few putts… then he hit the range. And after the carnage ensued he was indeed headed to extra holes. He had a 15-foot putt on the first playoff hole for the win that burned the edge and another from similar distance to keep the playoff alive on the second sudden-death hole that missed low to cruel his chance to add to his 2015 Puerto Rico Open title. “You cannot win a playoff with a bogey and I made two bogeys in the playoff, so that's a little bit disappointing,” Cejka lamented. “But overall, I'm happy… that's the way the cookie crumbles, sometimes.”
- When his tee ball on the second playoff hole started to sail left towards the desert Whee Kim knew his chances of victory were dwindling. The unplayable lie did prove the death of him but he took solace in the fact he’s trending in the right direction. While the Korean was obviously disappointed to lose at TPC Summerlin he’s taking plenty of momentum to Mexico next week. After finishing fourth at THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES and now runner-up in his next start he figures the uptrend only has one better spot to get to. First.
- J.J. Spaun had shown grit to claw his way back to the lead on the back nine after some struggles mid round but a maiden victory fell from his grasp down the stretch. A bogey on 15 and doubles on 17 and 18 left the 36 and 54-hole leader crashing down into a tie for 10th.
- A.J. McInerney emerged from the scorers trailer on Sunday to raucous applause after his final-round 67. The Las Vegas local, who shielded his girlfriend from gunfire and returned in his truck after evacuating to help others at the Las Vegas massacre, had surged up the leaderboard much to the delight of a very vocal support group. In his first ever PGA TOUR start McInerney finished T10, leaving him with a tough decision to make. He could leverage that into another start next week at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba but in doing so he would have to give up his spot at second stage of Web.com Tour Q-School. After some frantic phone calls and pacing around the locker room McInerney decided to tee it up at Q-School to try for full status for next season. “Just amazing. This week has been absolutely incredible,” McInerney said. “I tried to make Vegas proud, they came out strong today, and it was absolutely amazing to be a part of that.”
- UNLV grad Charley Hoffman posted scores of 68-71-71-70—280 (-4) to finish T18 in his hometown event. Hoffman announced early in the week that he would be donating his entire paycheck this week to the Direct Impact Fund via PGA TOUR Charities to aid in the relief efforts of last month’s Las Vegas shooting. Hoffman’s T18 finish was worth $98,600.
“My goals for the rest of the season, definitely majors. It will be nice to be into all of those, and making it all the way to the FedExCup Playoffs and TOUR Championship. And (I want to) play well in those events, those are big. It was my first time playing (the Playoffs) last year, and really realized the gravity of them, and would like to do well and compete.” – Patrick Cantlay on his goals moving forward.
“I'm lucky that the Shriners Hospitals and PGA TOUR gave me the platform to help donate and help people here in the city of Las Vegas. I called Las Vegas home for 20 years. Went to college here. Lot of pride, lot of friends out here in Las Vegas, a lot of people obviously grieving. Just hope to be able to give back hopefully a decent check here and hopefully do some good.” – Charley Hoffman after his T18 finish earned just under 100K for the victims of the Route 91 shooting.
“This is my third year on TOUR, and I've been able to start pretty fast, which I don't know what the story is with that, but it's nice. I enjoy fall golf. I have some goals for this year. I want to get in the winner’s circle. Trophies are what I'm after. So that's where my focus is. I have to be patient, but I'm eager to get one.” – Patton Kizzire after a Sunday 64 left him T4.
Low Round: Alex Cejka birdied eight of his last 12 holes to shoot a sublime 8-under 63 and surge his way into a playoff. Shout out to Alex Kang, Talor Gooch and Patton Kizzire for nice Sunday 64s.
Longest Drive: The honor for longest drive Sunday went to Adam Schenk for his 375-yard effort on the fourth hole. He made par.
Longest Putt: Ryan Armour might not have backed up his win with another but his 75’10” eagle bomb on the par-5 16th was mighty impressive from the Sanderson Farms Championship winner.
Toughest Hole: The par-4 3rd proved the toughest hole on Sunday playing to a 4.295 average with just two birdies on the hole.
Easiest Hole: The drivable par-4 15th was the hole to get after on Sunday playing at just 281-yards. It averaged 3.551 with two eagles and 40 birdies.
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Alex Cejka's brilliant chip-in birdie at Shriners
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