Maryland’s long-awaited return as a PGA Tour host was an exceptionally memorable, as a fervid and raucous crowd in the Old Line State were treated to the epitome of a duel, with Patrick Cantlay ousting Bryson DeChambeau on the sixth playoff hole to win the BMW Championship, the second leg of the three-week FedExCup playoffs.
Cantlay’s third victory of the 2021 PGA Tour season, and fifth of his career, was catalyzed by an all-time great putting performance that saw the 29-year-old UCLA product gain a ridiculous 14.6 strokes on the field with his flat stick, a Tour record since ShotLink started recording strokes gained statistics in 2004.
In the final Sunday grouping, Cantlay was consistently outdriven by DeChambeau, who has been obliterating distance records this season, but while Cantlay couldn’t miss on the greens at Caves Valley Golf Club, DeChambeau missed clutch putt after clutch putt that would have sealed a ninth career PGA Tour victory.
DeChambeau had a fantastic week scoring, highlighted by a 12-under 60 in the second round, where he badly missed a six-foot putt on 18 to fall a single stroke short of the season’s first 59. For the week, he carded four eagles on his way to a final score of 27-under 261.
But it was only enough to defeat 67 of the other 68 golfers in the field. Cantlay’s unflappable demeanor, which drew consistent chants of “Patty Ice”, prevented him from making the one misstep DeChambeau needed late on Sunday.
Playoffs have become all the rage on the PGA Tour this season, to the point where a six-hole playoff almost seemed like nothing significant. The Travelers Championship back in late June lasted eight holes, while the Wyndham Championship, played just two weeks earlier, featured six participants. Even at The Olympics in Tokyo earlier this month, there was a seven-man showdown for the bronze medal.
Cantlay and DeChambeau began the final day at Caves Valley with a three stroke advantage on South Korea’s Sungjae Im, and it became apparent early that it would be a two-man race on Sunday. Cantlay carded birdies on four of his first five holes, while DeChambeau birdied three of his first six.
Both played the front nine in 3-under, before DeChambeau put his foot on the gas with birdies on 10, 11, and 12 to open up his back nine. Cantlay kept pace, but it appeared he would fall just short, when he knocked his tee shot on the par-3 17th into the water, while already down one to DeChambeau with just two to play.
Cantlay scrambled for a bogey, hitting a clutch 8-foot putt to only drop one stroke, and after DeChambeau was unable to get up-and-down for par himself, the lead stayed just one with one to go.
Again, Cantlay appeared unfazed by the pressure. On 18, he sunk a 22-foot putt for birdie, and then watched as DeChambeau missed a tournament-clinching birdie putt of his own from 15-feet, meaning yet another playoff in a PGA Tour season that has seemingly had them every week.
The two traded barbs for four holes, with DeChambeau constantly being well out in front of Cantlay, but consistently missing birdie putts that would have ended the tournament. His miss on the third playoff hole was exceptionally painful, as his ball just barely lipped out. On the fifth playoff hole, both players hit incredible tee-shots into the par 3 17th, and both carding birdies. The marathon playoff finally ended on the par 4 18th, the sixth extra hole, when Cantlay nailed his birdie putt from 17 feet, while DeChambeau missed his from eight.
Strangely enough, DeChambeau is far from a poor putter: he ranks 14th on Tour in strokes gained: putting, and was second for the week at the BMW, but while Cantlay could not miss the putts he needed to stay alive, DeChambeau consistently missed to the left of the cup.
Cantlay and DeChambeau both shot 6-under 66s on Sunday to shoot 27-under for the week, finishing four strokes ahead of Im, and five clear of two-time FedExCup Champion Rory McIlroy. Forty players saw their 2020-21 seasons end, as the field was cut to 30 for next week’s Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, where the winner will take the FedExCup and $15 million prize.
BMW Championship: Top 10
Pos-Player (Final Rd)
1. Patrick Cantlay -27 (-6)*
2. Bryson DeChambeau -27 (-6)
3. Sungjae Im -23 (-5)
4. Rory McIlroy -22 (-5)
5. Erik van Rooyen -21 (-7)
6. Dustin Johnson -20 (-6)
6. Sergio Garcia -20 (-3)
8. Sam Burns -19 (-2)
9. Alex Noren -18 (-6)
9. Jon Rahm -18 (-2)
9. Abraham Ancer -18 (-1)
How Patrick Cantlay Won The BMW Championship
It is difficult to understate how much Cantlay’s putter carried him. While he gained 14.6 strokes on the first with his flatstick, he failed to gain more than 1.2 strokes in any of the other four strokes gained categories. He was just 28th in the field in strokes gained: approach-the-green, although he did 31 of 36 greens in regulation in his two weekend rounds. For the week, he was T2 in that statistic.
Cantlay grabbed the 54-hole co-lead with 66s in round 1 and 3, and a brilliant 9-under 63 on Friday. His 31 birdies led the field for the week, while he cancelled out only six of those 31 with bogeys, and he had nothing worse.
Patrick Cantlay’s Winning Numbers
Driving: 311.4 yards (17th)
Fairways: 66.07% (37/56) (T33)
Greens: 80.56% (58/72) (T2)
Putts/GIR: 1.500 (1st)
Off the Tee: 1.193 (5th)
Approach the Green: 1.139 (28th)
Around the Green: -1.098 (T47)
Putting: 14.577 (1st)
Tee to Green: 1.233 (28th)
Total: 15.812 (T1)
What It Means For Cantlay
As for the FedExCup, Cantlay moved from fourth to first in the standings, meaning he gets to begin play at the Tour Championship at 10-under-par, two strokes ahead of Tony Finau, who won last week’s The Northern Trust, the first leg of the playoffs, and three ahead of DeChambeau. It is an excellent position to be in, as last year’s FedExCup Champion Dustin Johnson found out when he took the title from the first position heading into East Lake. The year prior, the first year of the current format, McIlroy won from the fifth position, starting the week at 5-under.
In addition, Cantlay locked up the sixth and final automatic spot on the 12-man American Ryder Cup team. Set to tee off in Wisconsin next month, Cantlay would have needed to be one of the six “Captain’s Picks” had he not taken one of the six automatic positions. U.S. Captain Steve Stricker almost definitely would have taken Cantlay anyway, though.
Cantlay also rose from 10th to a career-best 4th in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Cantlay’s 2021 Season
Cuts Made: 18
Wins: 3 (ZOZO, Memorial, BMW)
Additional Top 10: 3
Earnings: $7,638,805 (2nd)
FedExCup Pts: 4,302 (1st)
World Rank Before/After: 10/4
There was considerable movement inside the top 30, but only two players in the BMW Championship field played their way from outside the bubble to a position next week at the Tour Championship.
Erik van Rooyen shot a Sunday 65 to finish in solo-fifth, moving him from 45th to 27th in the standings. The other player to shoot their way in was Sergio Garcia, who finished T6 at Caves Valley, which jumped him from 44th to 28th.
To make room for van Rooyen and Garcia, Charley Hoffman (29th to 32nd) and Max Homa (30th to 35th) dropped out.
The final position at East Lake went to Patrick Reed, who’d missed the final two regular season events (Memphis and Greensboro) as well as both playoff stops (Northern Trust and BMW) after pneumonia put him in the hospital.
For the second consecutive week, Tony Finau exploded on Sunday’s back nine to shoot a very low number. With five birdies in his last six holes, Finau shot a field-low 9-under 63, which bumped him 17 spots on the final leaderboard, from T32 to T15. He had 10 Sunday birdies to just one bogey.
Among the five players who shot 7-under 65 was two-time season winner Harris English, who followed an eagle on 2 with birdies on 3 and 4. English was bogey-free on Sunday, which allowed him to jump from T40 to T26, and put him in the seventh position at East Lake. He will be among those starting the Tour Championship at 4-under.
Also getting to start next week at 4-under is Jordan Spieth, who was a disaster on the weekend at last week’s The Northern Trust. Three rounds in the 70s had him well out of contention at Caves Valley, but he gave himself considerable momentum going into East Lake by shooting a bogey-free 6-under 66 in the final round. That 6-under Sunday moved him 15 spots up the final leaderboard, from T49 to T34.
Sweden’s Alex Noren shot a 6-under 66 on Sunday, but he stumbled at the worst time, missing an 8-foot par putt on the final hole that would have gotten him into the field for the Tour Championship, despite sitting 91st in the standings at the start of the playoffs. Noren finished T9 for the week after a T4 at last week’s The Northern Trust.
Abraham Ancer began the final day just four strokes behind Cantlay and DeChambeau, giving him a prayer to snag his second win in the past month, but he had one of the most underwhelming rounds in the field, a 1-under 71 that dropped him from T4 to T9. Ancer bogeyed his final two holes, preventing a better position at East Lake, where he will begin the week among those sharing sixth position at 4-under.
There were just three over-par rounds in the Sunday field at Caves Valley, with the most notable coming from Phil Mickelson, who had just a single birdie in a 1-over 73.
Mickelson’s final round dropped him 12 spots from T54 to T66, tying three others for last place. Mickelson finished the FedExCup season at 70th, but was still a resounding success in 2021, winning May’s PGA Championship at the age of 51.
A Nickname is Born
“It’s so nice to be back with fans, and they were just so supportive all day. Just the chants of “Patty” or “Patty Ice”… I’m hearing it all week, and it’s fun. It’s great to have them back and they were awesome today.”
– Patrick Cantlay, BMW Champion