Cantlay withdraws from Chiquita Classic due to back injury, no timetable for return

McDermott/Getty Images
Patrick Cantlay finished second at the Hotel Fitness Championship.
September 03, 2013
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent

DAVIDSON, N.C. – Patrick Cantlay, who gutted out back pain to finish second in the Tour Finals opener at the Hotel Fitness Championship, withdrew Tuesday from this week’s Chiquita Classic and hinted it may not be a one-week absence.

“I’m just going to take it day-to-day right now,” Cantlay told a PGA TOUR official after taking his name out of the lineup. “I won’t play until I feel confident that I know I won’t hurt it again.

“I was committed to playing this week, and would have if I felt completely healthy. It’s disappointing that I won’t get a chance to play in the Chiquita Classic, but I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to make it this week.”

Cantlay stands No. 2 on the Finals money list after finishing one stroke behind Trevor Immelman at last week’s Hotel Fitness Championship. PGA TOUR cards await the top 25 who haven’t already secured cards from the Tour’s regular season.

The Finals brings together the top 75 on the Tour money list and Nos. 126-200 from the FedExCup points race. With the series in its first year, though, there’s no track record as to where Cantlay’s $108,000 in earnings might land him at the finish.

“It’s definitely a bit of relief to have played well in Fort Wayne and know that I have taken a big step toward achieving one of my goals,” he said. “There’s no history in the Finals and so it’s tough to figure out what might make it, but I assume I should be in pretty good shape.”

Cantlay, who spent nearly a year atop the world amateur rankings, is recovering from a hairline fracture in his L5 vertebrae. He took nearly three months off after withdrawing from the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, but recovery has been slow.

The former UCLA standout returned to action at the Price Cutter Charity Championship in hopes of keeping his name in the top 25 for the first batch of PGA TOUR cards. But he missed the cut in each of the last two regular-season events, finishing 29th on the final list.

Things took an upturn in Fort Wayne, Ind., as he used a third-round 64 to take a three-stroke lead into the final day. But he faded to a closing 72, and was seen grabbing his back on at least two occasions.

Even so, Cantlay had a chance to force a playoff until the final hole, when his 8-foot birdie try curled off just left. He went home to California on Monday to re-assess his prospects.

“I never felt healthy these past couple of weeks,” he acknowledged. “My back was hurting last week, especially coming out of the rough on Sunday.

“Like I’ve said, I don’t want to blame anything on my back. I just didn’t play well at times and I missed a lot of chances. … I was lucky enough to play well last week so that I don’t have to take a lot of chances with my back.”