The 2019 version of The Memorial Tournament, the brainchild of golf legend Jack Nicklaus, was appropriately won by Patrick Cantlay, the 2011 winner of the Jack Nicklaus Award, given annually to the best player in collegiate golf.
Cantlay (who was also the No. 1 ranked player on PGW’s weekly power rankings) shot an absurd 8-under 64 at Muirfield Village Golf Club, to reach 19-under-par for the week and come from four strokes back and win the event by two strokes over former World No. 1 Adam Scott.
This was Cantlay’s second victory on the PGA Tour, and anyone closely following the career of former amateur superstar knew that career win No. 2 was likely to come very soon. He led The Masters late and was in the mix at the PGA Championship (among non-Koepka’s anyway) for a while as well, but going THIS low at Jack’s Place on Sunday? That would have been an optimistic prediction, even for those most high on the potential of the man who once shot a 60 in a PGA Tour event an an amateur.
Starting the day in a tie for third place, four strokes behind two-time major champion Martin Kaymer, Cantlay exploded out of the gate with five birdies on the front nine to become Kaymer’s primary challenger. After a Kaymer bogey on the 12th hole, Cantlay tied for the lead for the first time, and then after another Kaymer bogey on the very next hold, Cantlay acquired a solo lead he would never let go.
Scott went on a late birdie binge to make things sort of interesting, but, really, there was little doubt down the stretch. Cantlay proved himself a worthy winner and looked dominant in the process, something that should scare the rest of the Tour as the U.S. Open approaches in less than two weeks.
As for Kaymer, it was a very disappointing even-par 72 for the former world No. 1 who has seen ridiculous highs and lows in his PGA Tour career. A victory for the 34-year-old German was 198th in the FedExCup Standings coming into the week would have been his first since the 2014 season, a year where he followed up a victory at THE PLAYERS Championship with an 8-stroke romp at the U.S. Open.
Sunday was also a great day for fan favorite Tiger Woods, who like Cantlay, went gangbusters on the front nine, also making the turn at 5-under and reaching 7-under by the 12th hole. The five-time event winner was too far back to stay in serious contention, but he was in the top five for a while before a poor finish dropped him into a share of ninth place.
Final Top-10 Leaderboard
Pos-Player-To Par (Final Rd)
1. Patrick Cantlay -19 (-8)
2. Adam Scott -17 (-4)
3. Martin Kaymer -15 (E)
4. Kevin Streelman -13 (-6)
5. Marc Leishman -12 (-3)
6. Hideki Matsuyama -11 (-E)
7. Jordan Spieth -10 (+1)
7. Jason Dufner -10 (-3)
9. Tiger Woods -9 (-5)
9. Billy Horschel -9 (-4)
9. Emiliano Grillo -9 (-1)
9. Bud Cauley -9 (E)
13. Justin Rose -8
14. Xander Schauffele, Rickie Fowler -7
17. Byeong Hun An, Troy Merritt -6
22. Bryson DeChambeau, Steve Stricker -5
27. Danny Willett, Joaquin Niemann -4
33. Jim Furyk, Ryan Moore -3
37. Henrik Stenson, Kyoung-Hoon Lee -2
41. Rafa Cabrera Bello, Kevin Kisner -1
52. Gary Woodland, Lucas Glover +1
57. Louis Oosthuizen, Luke Donald +2
How Patrick Cantlay Won The Memorial
Cantlay has been having a season that well-reflects his prodigious talent, and he came into the The Memorial hot, with two T3s and a T9 among his last three individual PGA Tour events. By shooting rounds of 68, 69, 68 over his first three rounds in central Ohio, Cantlay had gotten himself into the championship mix, but he knew he would need an excellent Sunday to better Kaymer, who had looked his best in five years over the first three rounds.
An excellent Sunday was exactly what Cantlay put together. He failed to post a single bogey, and his 64 was the best score in the field by two strokes. Only a second-round 63 by Justin Rose, the highest-ranked player in the field was lower for the entire week.
Cantlay’s 25 birdies for the week led the field, and he only cancelled out six with bogeys, which ranked fourth. He showed an extremely well-rounded game, as his 8th place finish in strokes gained: off-the-tee was his worst statistic among the six strokes gained categories.
A year ago, Cantlay actually reached the Sunday lead in this event, but just when it looked like he might run away with the victory, he fell off the pace with an awful back-nine. He was determined to not let something like that happen again.
By the Numbers
Driving: 298.4 yards (4th)
Fairways: 38/56, 67.9% (57th)
Greens: 50/72, 69.4% (11th)
SG: Putting: 2.980 (2nd)
Par-3: -2 (4 Birdies, 10 Pars, 2 Bogeys)
Par-4: -5 (9 Birdies, 27 Pars, 4 Bogeys)
Par-5: -12 (12 Birdie, 4 Pars)
Total: -19 (25 Birdies, 41 Pars, 6 Bogeys)
What It Means For Cantlay
Cantlay’s second career PGA Tour victory moves him to No. 8 in the Official World Golf Rankings, the first time he has reached the world’s top 10. It is somewhat familiar for Cantlay, as he holds the all-time record for most weeks at No. 1 in the amateur rankings, but after his career had been derailed for years by injury and personal tragedy, it was unknown if he would ever see these heights again.
In a way, his Memorial triumph brings things full-circle, but it would mean even more if/when he wins a major championship, something that seemed inevitable eight years ago.
Cantlay’s 2019 Season
Missed Cuts: 2
Wins: 1 (The Memorial)
Addtl Top 10s/20s: 7/2
Money Earned: $4,533,390 (6th)
FedExCup Pts: 1,565 (6th)
World Rank Before/After: 15/8
*Stroke Play (Does not include Zurich Team Even)
Tiger’s Sunday Tear
Tiger has had enormous ups and downs at The Memorial tournament. While his five victories are the most all time and are more than double what tournament founder Jack Nicklaus has, since his last victory in 2012, Tiger has a T65 finish (2013), a year where he shot a third round 85 and had to play the final round alone (he finished solo-71st), and a year where he putted so pathetically that he finished T23 despite leading the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (T23).
However, with a great final round this year, Tiger again qualifies as a Muirfield master.
This year, nobody who finished inside the top 10 came from further back to do it. Starting Sunday in a share of 25th place, Tiger birdied seven of his first 12 holes to surge into semi-contention. He sort of limped to the finish by playing his final six holes in 2-over (four pars, two bogeys), but he still shot 5-under 67 to reach 9-under for the week, allowing him to finish T9; his third top-10 in just seven starts on the season.
For the week, Tiger’s 20 birdies were fifth in the field, and he had just nine holes of bogey-or-worse, which is excellent at Muirfield. He is not in the field for next week’s RBC Canadian Open, meaning this is it for him until the U.S. Open, but he is going to be heading to Pebble Beach in very good form.
Cantlay had the low round of the day, exactly when he needed the low round of the day, but he was not the only one to shine at Jack’s Place on Sunday.
Adam Scott had fallen to some decent depths in recent year, and needed to go through sections to even qualify for the U.S. Open last year, but now he keeps finding ways to show up in the big events.
The 38-year-old former No. 1 birdied three consecutive holes on the back nine to shoot a 4-under 68, and by reaching 17-under, he finished the closest to Cantlay. In nine starts dating back to late January, Scott has seven finishes of 18th or better, including two runner-ups. He has also gotten himself into contention at at least one point of the past three majors.
A year ago, Bryson DeChambeau broke through with his second career victory by emerging from a three-man playoff. It ended up being the first of four wins in the 2018 season for the then 24-year-old technician. 2019 has been nowhere near as good, and he came into the week off three consecutive missed cuts, but DeChambeau was fantastic on this Sunday, shooting a bogey-free 6-under 66 to rise a field-high 37 spots up the final leaderboard into a share of 22nd place, his best finish in an event in two and a half months.
The second-highest riser on the final leaderboard was one of the two players DeChambeau knocked out in the playoff a year ago. Byeong Hun An got off to a slow start on the week with consecutive even-par 72s on Thursday and Friday, but a Saturday 70, combined with a Sunday 4-under 68 got him to 6-under for the week, good for a share of 17th place.
Like DeChambeau, An came in on poor form, with two missed cut, a third-round withdraw, and a 68th place finish among his last four starts. The 27-year-old from South Korea is still looking for career win No. 1, but at least at Muirfield, he gives the appearance that he is not far away.
Another week, another top-10 for Jordan Spieth that included one very poor weekend round. The 25-year-old three-time major champion seems to have emerged from a year-long slump, but while he is posting consistently great results as of late, he is struggling badly to put together four good rounds.
It happened again at Muirfield, as a birdie-free 2-over back nine led to a 1-over 73, which dropped him T3 to T7, and tied for the worst final round of anyone who finished inside the top 25.
Spieth’s past three tournaments have resulted in finishes of T3, T8, T7 respectively, but in each he dropped considerably on the weekend after getting himself into contention. Spieth has made the weekend 12 times this season, and only once has his final round been better than a 71. He ranks fifth on Tour in first-round scoring average, third in round two scoring average, but 201st in 4th round scoring average.
It feels like forever ago that Kyoung Hoon-Lee was at 13-under for the week and held a four-stroke lead, even though it was just during the third round. After fizzling starting from hole No. 7 on Saturday to fall well back of the lead, the 27-year-old Korean plummeted further on Sunday, shooting a 7-over 79 to drop 31 spots down the final leaderboard into a share of 37th place. He will likely learn from his first time in serious contention, as many do, but he cannot be thrilled with the way he finished at Muirfield.
One of the two players who finished a stroke worse than Lee on Sunday does not have the inexperience excuse. Former world No. 1 Luke Donald, who once finished first on the PGA and European Tour money lists in the same season, has been trying hard to get that game he once had back, but it just was not there on Sunday, as the 41-year-old Brit shot an 8-over 80 to drop 42 spots down the leaderboard into a share of 57th place. Donald needed 15 more shot to complete his Sunday round than his Saturday round.
“The relationship I have with Mr. Nicklaus is extremely special to me, and I appreciate all the time he’s spent giving me advice and trying to help me in any way that he can. He’s definitely always had that inviting presence. If I wanted some advice, all I had to do was call and ask. And I can’t thank him enough for that.
“And being able to close it out, especially after him really encouraging me to do that, it feels great. It feels like validation of everything I’ve been working on.”
– Patrick Cantlay, The Memorial Tournament Champion