Superfans of the hit 90s show Friends might have called this year’s Memorial Tournament, “The One With the Asterisk”.
Chief among those not to blame for what happened at Dublin, Ohio’s Muirfield Village Golf Club was Patrick Cantlay, who made a number of clutch putts late to win on the first playoff hole over young tour star Collin Morikawa.
It was Cantlay’s fourth career PGA Tour victory, and his second at The Memorial, having also taken the 2019 edition by two strokes. The 29-year-old winner of last October’s ZOZO Championship @ Sherwood, Cantlay became the fourth player to win multiple Tour events this year. He also became just the seventh player to win The Memorial multiple times, a tournament dating back to 1976.
Shortly after winning, Cantlay acknowledged in his post-round interview that the final day would have been different, had it not been for what happened late on Saturday at the Jack Nicklaus-hosted event.
World No. 3 Jon Rahm had just put the finishing touches on a brilliant Saturday 8-under 64 to reach 18-under for the week, and take a whopping six-stroke 54-hole lead over Cantlay and Morikawa. Tour officials approached Rahm, who won last year’s Memorial, and informed him that he had tested positive for COVID-19. Distraught, the 26-year-old Spaniard was forced to withdraw, taking him out of the running for the Memorial championship and its $1.7 million first prize.
World No. 15 Cantlay and world No. 6 Morikawa suddenly went from down six strokes to up by three. It completely changed the complexion of the tournament, which had the appearance of a blowout. Of the 68 players with a Sunday tee time, only three shot worse than 5-over, and none of them were anywhere near as accomplished as Rahm, who has won five times on Tour, and six additional times on the European Tour.
Needing to refocus, while a large number of fans and media were shocked, and some angry, at what happened to Rahm, neither Cantlay nor Morikawa were able to get off to good starts.
Cantlay bogeyed the first and third holes, while Morikawa bogeyed Nos. 1 and 4. It allowed Scottie Scheffler, who played the first five holes in 3-under, to surge right into the thick of contention, even taking the lead briefly after the fifth hole. Most of Sunday became a four-man race, with South Africa’s Branden Grace shortly behind as well. At the turn, Cantlay and Morikawa sat at 11-under, with Scheffler just one stroke back.
On the back nine, Grace fell from serious contention after bogeys on three of his first four holes. Meanwhile, Morikawa took the solo lead with a birdie on 11, which Cantlay tied with a birdie on 13. A birdie on the par-5 15th put Morikawa one up on both Cantlay and Scheffer, with just three holes to go.
That is around the time the rain picked up, causing a short downpour delay while the lead group was on 17. When play resumed, Cantlay sunk a 24-foot putt, to again tie Morikawa, who hit a clutch par putt of his own. A group ahead, Scheffler carded an inopportune bogey on 18 to end the chances of his first career Tour victory.
Cantlay sent his drive on 18 well to the right, while Morikawa drove into a fairway bunker. Cantlay found the green with his approach, while Morikawa came up short, landing in another bunker. Cantlay just narrowly missed a 25-foot birdie putt that would have locked up the victory, and both players carded a par to force a playoff, the fifth playoff in the last eight editions of The Memorial. Both finished regulation with a 1-under 71, reaching 13-under for the week.
Going back to 18, Cantlay again drove well right, but this time, Morikawa was safely in the fairway. However, despite being in the better position, mud on his ball prevented Morikawa from being able to hit the green, while Cantlay again was on the green in two, and in nearly the same spot as from regulation. This time Cantlay nailed the long putt, which gave him the victory after Morikawa failed to get up-and-down.
Cantlay and Morikawa finished two strokes ahead of Scheffler, who shot a 3-under 69, and three ahead of Grace. Patrick Reed rounded out the top 5, also shooting 3-under, to reach 8-under for the week.
Final Top 10: 2021 Memorial
1. Patrick Cantlay -13 (-1)*
2. Collin Morikawa -13 (-1)
3. Scottie Scheffler -11 (-2)
4. Branden Grace -10 (-1)
5. Patrick Reed -8 (-3)
6. Jimmy Walker -6 (-7)
6. Shane Lowry -6 (-2)
6. Max Homa -6 (E)
9. Aaron Wise -5 (-1)
9. Si Woo Kim -5 (E)
T11 – Rickie Fowler, Xander Schauffele -4
T16 – Adam Scott -2
T18 – Bryson DeChambeau, Rory McIlroy, Louis Oosthuizen, Jordan Spieth -1
T32 – Tony Finau +1
T42 – Justin Thomas +3
T47 – Viktor Hovland +4
T62 – Hideki Matsuyama +8
How Patrick Cantlay Won The Memorial Tournament
Cantlay had gotten his 2021 season off to a fine start, even taking the lead in the FedExCup standings after a T3 at February’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. However, he inexplicably fell off the map beginning in March, and came into this week in poor form, missing the cuts at THE PLAYERS Championship and The Masters along with two other events. In his most recent start, he was T23 at the PGA Championship.
But similar to Rory McIlroy at the Wells Fargo Championship last month, current form went out the window at a course Cantlay had played tremendously in the past. antlay and Rahm were the only players in the field to play the first three rounds in the 60s.
His 20 birdies were the third-lowest in the field for the week, and he led the field in strokes gained: tee to green and co-led in greens in regulation. Shotmaking is typically a premium at Muirfield Village. He was third in strokes gained: off-the-tee and strokes gained: around-the-green.
Patrick Cantlay’s Winning Numbers
Driving: 302.5 yards (11th)
Fairways: 37/56, 66.07% (T43)
Greens: 54/72, 75.0% (T1)
Putts/GIR: 1.667 (27th)
SG-Off the Tee: 3.695 (3rd)
SG-Approach the Green: 6.064 (5th)
SG-Around the Green: 4.522 (3rd)
SG-Putting: 2.836 (19th)
SG-Tee to Green: 14.284 (1st)
SG-Total: 17.119 (T1)
What It Means For Cantlay
Cantlay re-took the lead in the FedExCup standings, which he had lost after THE PLAYERS. He also moves from 15th in the world rankings, back into the top 10, where he has spent most of the past three seasons.
Unlike Rory McIlroy after the Wells Fargo Championship, Cantlay will be hoping this victory can keep him in elite form as the U.S. Open approaches in less than two weeks. He has only truly contended at one major, when he finished T9 at the 2019 Masters, which was won by Tiger Woods. He has just two top-10s in 17 career major starts.
Patrick Cantlay’s 2021 PGA Tour Season
Cuts Made: 12
Wins: 2 (ZOZO, Memorial)
Additional Top 10: 3
Earnings: $5,310,167 (3rd)
FedExCup Pts: 1,902 (1st)
World Rank Before/After: 15/7
The low round in Sunday’s field, by far, came from a man who had probably forgotten what it felt like. Jimmy Walker shot a bogey-free 7-under 65 to jump 32 spots from T38 to T6, his first top 10 in his last 68 starts.
The 42-year-old had basically fallen off the face of the earth after his victory at the 2016 PGA Championship, a fall largely imputed to Lyme Disease and injury, and in the current season had made just eight of 20 cuts with a T29 at the Valspar Championship being one of just two results inside the top 55 (the other was a T46 in October).
His 65 tied Rahm’s Friday for the second-lowest round of the week, just one stroke short of the 64 Rahm shot on Saturday.
Among those to shoot 4-under 68, three more strokes than Walker, was surprise PGA Championship contender Kevin Streelman.
After a bogey on the second hole, Streelman did what he often does, and went on a run, carding four birdies over his next five holes. The result bumped him up 25 spots from T48 to T13, his fourth straight finish of T26 or better.
Make that two straight excellent performances from fan favorite Rickie Fowler. After the 32-year-old five-time Tour winner failed to record a single top 10 in his first 17 starts of the season, Fowler finished T8 at the PGA Championship two weeks ago.
In his first start since, he carded five front-nine birdies on his Sunday round, shaking off a late double-bogey to shoot a 2-under 70, moving him eight spots on the final leaderboard from T19 to T8.
Fowler finished 10th in the field for the week in strokes gained: putting, which has to be encouraging given he ranks 154th on Tour for the season in that statistic.
Hideki Matsuyama won the first of his six career PGA Tour victories at The Memorial, taking the 2014 edition in a playoff over Kevin Na. It was one of four times that Matsuyama has finished double-digits under par in this event.
His course history, combined with his shot prowess, and the fact that he won a little event called The Masters three starts ago had expectations high this week for the 29-year-old Japan native.
A second-round 68 allowed him to make the cut, but his weekend was a disaster, as he shot a 7-over 79 on Saturday, and he opened his front nine on Sunday with four bogeys and no birdies. The final tally was a 4-over 76 and 8-over for the week, which dropped him from T55 to T62.
His awful week in Columbus came in spite of leading the field in strokes gained: off-the-tee.
The recent struggles of world No. 2 Justin Thomas continued this week at Muirfield Village. The highest-ranked player in this week’s field shot a 3-over 75 in his final round, matching his Saturday 75, which dropped him from T30 to T42.
Thomas was 2-under on his round before losing momentum. Similar to Matsuyama, he was great with his tee shots, finishing second in the field (to Matsuyama) in shots gained: off-the-tee, but he lost a staggering 5.8 shots to the field on Sunday with his putter.
In seven starts since his March victory at THE PLAYERS Championship, a T13 at the Valspar Championship is Thomas’ only finish inside the top 20, and in his last three starts, he has now gone CUT, T40, T42.
Jimmy Walker’s Sunday was the best round by far. Similarly, but completely opposite, one player had the worst round by far. That was a 12-over 84 courtesy of Harry Higgs, who finished in 68th place, last among those who made the cut.
The likable 29-year-old had five bogeys, three doubles, and a triple bogey in his final round, his third round of the week of 76 or worse. Among his last eight starts on Tour, Higgs has five missed cuts, this solo-68th, and a T59. His other start? He finished T4 at the PGA Championship, where he was bogey-free in the final round.
“It was such a weird situation, so unfortunate, because, me included, everyone knows it would be a totally different day today had that not happened, but there’s nothing I can do about it, and I just tried as hard as I could to reset, and really get focused.
“I started off a little shaky today, but I really hit a lot of quality shots coming in, and it felt the same as when I won a couple of years ago. I felt calm and collected, and it worked out”. –
Patrick Cantlay, Memorial Tournament Winner, on the Jon Rahm situation.