One of the best California kids on Tour has finally secured a win in his home state.
Just two weeks after a stunning Sunday collapse in a Vegas-hosted event where he had finished either first or second in the three previous editions, UCLA product Patrick Cantlay was able to put that failure behind him to win the ZOZO Championship @ Sherwood, for his third career victory, and first in his native California.
The 28-year-old former amateur phenom chased down two of the Tour’s best players: world No. 2 Jon Rahm and world No. 3 Justin Thomas in the process, shooting a Sunday 7-under 65 to clip Rahm and Thomas by a single stroke.
In just its second year of existence, the ZOZO Championship already needed a replacement venue, as the COVID-19 pandemic prevented a return to Japan, the intended event location, where Tiger Woods won his record-tying 82 career victory just one season ago.
At Sherwood Country, not far from Los Angeles, Cantlay began the final day in fourth place, three back of 13-time Tour winner Thomas. He showed amazingly little scar tissue for what happened at the Shriners Hospitals For Children Open by exploding out of the gate with four birdies over his first six holes.
Thomas and Rahm held up in front of him, with both going bogey-free on the front nine, but after back-nine troubles for the superstar duo, Cantlay was able to take advantage and was left standing in the end.
The world No. 14 to begin the week, Cantlay stayed hot after the turn, carding birdies on 11, 13, 14, and 15. The par-5 13th ended up being the crucial hole, as a birdie, combined with a surprising bogey from Rahm, put Cantlay into the lead for the first time.
However, Cantlay was less spectacular on the next par-5, the 16th hole, where a botched approach led to his only bogey of the day, keeping both Thomas and Rahm well into the chase. Cantlay rebounded with a par-par finish in the trio ahead of Thomas and Rahm. Meanwhile, Thomas saw his hopes evaporate when he was unable to convert a desperately-needed 18-foot birdie putt on the par-3 17th.
Rahm, a 25-year-old Spaniard who has already won 11 times between the PGA and the European Tours, needed just one birdie over the final two holes to force a playoff, but like Cantlay, finished par-par.
In the second event of last month’s FedExCup Playoffs, Rahm converted a ridiculous 66-foot birdie putt to knock out world No. 1 Dustin Johnson in a playoff, but this time his 20-foot birdie putt on the final hole skidded just right of the hole.
The victory was Cantlay’s first since he took the 2019 Memorial Tournament. His 2020 season was not horrendous, with a runner-up and three top-10s among 12 starts, but it was a mild disappointment after his marquee 2019, where nine top 10s in 21 starts included the win at Muirfield Village, two runner-ups, and two third place finishes.
After Brooks Koepka, who battled knee issues last season, Cantlay might have been the most surprising player to NOT make the final round of the FedExCup playoffs, finishing 34th for the year in points. With this win, combined with a T8 at the Shriners, he is unlikely to be watching East Lake from his couch again.
Thomas and Rahm tied for second place at 22-under for the week, the only players within three strokes of Cantlay, who jumped to ninth in the world rankings. After injuries kept him off the links entirely in 2015 and 2016, Cantlay continues to validate the promise he showed when he posted a 60 as an amateur at the Travelers Championship.
Final Top 10 Leaders
Pos-Player-To Par (Final Rd)
1. Patrick Cantlay -23 (-7)
2. Justin Thomas -22 (-3)
2. Jon Rahm -22 (-4)
4. Russell Henley -19 (-6)
4. Cameron Smith -19 (-5)
4. Bubba Watson -19 (-4)
4. Ryan Palmer -19 (-3
8. Corey Conners -18 (-6)
8. Joel Dahmen -18 (-5)
8. Cameron Champ -18 (-5)
11. Tony Finau -17
14. Kevin Kisner, Patrick Reed -16
17. Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Daniel Berger, Xander Schaffele, Scottie Scheffler, Webb Simpson -15
26. Matthew Fitzpatrick -14
28. Hideki Matsuyama, Tyrrell Hatton -13
35. Paul Casey, Abraham Ancer -12
41. Sungjae Im, Jordan Spieth -11
47. Brendon Todd, Viktor Hovland -10
50. Collin Morikawa, Matthew Wolff -9
54. Matt Kuchar -8
57. Rickie Fowler, Tommy Fleetwood -7
60. Jason Day -6
69. Billy Horschel -3
72. Tiger Woods -1
76. Phil Mickelson +3
Final Stat Leaders
Driving: 315.4 yards – Cameron Champ (T8)
Fairways: 92.3% – Webb Simpson (T17)
Greens: 83.3% – Jon Rahm (T2)
Putts/GIR: 1.500- Matthew Wolff (T50)
Birdies: 29 – Rory McIlroy (T17)
How Patrick Cantlay Won The ZOZO Championship @ Sherwood
In his first start following his Sunday collapse in Vegas, Patrick Cantlay got off to a poor start in last week’s CJ Cup, with rounds of 71, 72, and 74 respectively, before his game clicked again with a Sunday 67 that led to a T38 finish.
The Southern Cal native was able to keep that momentum going at Sherwood, with a 67-65 start. A 68 on Saturday got him to within three strokes of Justin Thomas with 18 holes to go.
Cantlay played those first three rounds bogey-free, and with just two on Sunday led the field for the entire week. He carded nine Sunday birdies, in addition, and his 25 for the week tied for fifth in the field.
His accuracy numbers were not outstanding for a winning player, but he did lead the field in scrambling and was third in strokes gained: tee-to-green. Cantlay as finished 15th or better in that latter stat in each of the past four seasons.
Cantlay’s Winning Stats
Driving: 290.1 yards (20th)
Fairways: 75.0% (42/56) (28th)
Greens: 75.0 (54/72) (13th)
Putting: 1.611 (15th)
Birdies: 22 (15th)
Scores: 25 Birdies, 45 Pars, 2 Bogeys (-23)
What It Means For Patrick Cantlay
With his mini-funk over, Patrick Cantlay will be expected to rack up wins, but needs a major championship breakthrough for legacy sake. Both of his top 10s in majors occurred during the 2019 season, where he held a late lead at The Masters before difficulties in the closing stretch dropped him to a tie for ninth. His other top 10 was a T3 at the PGA Championship, which was still six strokes behind winner Brooks Koepka.
Cantlay appears to be in good shape for his next major try, which will be at The Masters next month.
Cantlay’s 2021 Season
Wins: 1 (ZOZO Championship)
Money: $1,710,585 (4th)
FedExCup: 604 (2nd)
OWGR Start/Now: 14/9
The Dream Group: Tiger, Phil, and Some Other Guy
Typically, the only way to get a tee time with both Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson is to be a Make-A-Wish kid. However, Adam Long was able to score the dream trio by playing poorly over the first 54 holes of the tournament.
Largely due to an opening 77, the 33-year-old Duke product was in 72nd place in the 77-man field, which paced him to how poorly the two Hall of Famers were playing at Sherwood.
Yet, Long absolutely obliterated the two golf legends in their Sunday pairing. With three birdies over the first five holes on both nines, Long shot a 3-under 69, which allowed him to finish T66.
Tiger meanwhile, shot a 2-over 72 (he finished T72), and Mickelson had the worst Sunday score in the field by two strokes with a 6-over 78. Phil shockingly had five bogeys and three double bogeys, and finished the week 76th, better than only recent Tour winner Michael Thompson.
It was not all negative for Tiger and Phil, though. Tiger looked fantastic during a second-round 66, and Phil, fresh off his second Champions Tour victory in only two starts, birdied nine of his first 11 holes in a Saturday 67.
Despite the tremendous stretch, Phil did finish last in the field in strokes gained: off-the-tee, strokes gained: tee-to-green, driving accuracy, and scrambling. His myriad fans will be hoping he can turn the clock back at some point, but there is increasing worry that he will never again contend in a PGA Tour event, let alone a major.
It was a good news, bad news week at Sherwood for world No. 5 Rory McIlroy. A final-round 66, which followed 67s on both Friday and Saturday, was bettered by only a handful of players in the field.
In addition, despite how ridiculously pristine the four-time major winner is at his best, his 29 birdies for the week both led the field and were the most he has had at any event in his career.
Unfortunately, due to his absurd inconsistency since the Tour restart from the COVID layoff, he only finished T17. Further illustrating how up-and-down the longtime No. 1 was, he had a round where he lost 2.6 strokes to the field on approaches and another where he gained 3.6, a round where he lost 5.8 strokes tee-to-green and one where he gained 4.4 and 3.3, and rounds where he both gained and lost two strokes to the field with his putter.
Shooting one stroke better than Rory on Sunday was Xander Schauffele, who played his first five holes in 5-under to shoot a 7-under 65 and jump 22 spots from T39 to T17.
Despite it being his worst finish of the new season by 12 positions, it had to feel nice to play so well after a disastrous Saturday a week ago caused him to plummet out of contention at the CJ Cup @ Shadow Creek.
Sunday’s low round came from Kevin Streelman, who shot a bogey-free 8-under 64. It allowed Streelman to jump a field-high 34 spots and finish T28. He hit 21 of 26 fairways over the weekend.
Lanto Griffin is an excellent golfer in his own rights, coming off a career season with a win and four top 10s among 14 finishes in the top 25, but even with his success, the 32-year-old California native looked out of place being in a Sunday trio with Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm. He has more than held his own in the past year, but he was not quite able to keep it together on Sunday.
A double-bogey on the par-3 third halted his title hopes early, and despite playing Nos. 4 through 11 in 4-under par, several late bogeys meant just a pedestrian even-par 72.
Just two back to start the final round, Griffin dropped from third to T11 after his worst round of the week by four strokes. He did lead the field in strokes gained: putting, though.
Consistency and stability have become the expected for former U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson, but the man with the best scoring average on Tour in the 2020 season had a surprising roller coaster-like round on Sunday. The world No. 8 had seven birdies in round 4 and STILL did not finish in red figures for that day. That was due to a double-bogey on the par-5 second, and the five bogeys he would later add, to shoot an even-par 72.
The 35-year-old dropped ten spots down the final leaderboard from T7 to T17. He was absurdly good with his driver, however, leading the field in driving accuracy by hitting 48 of 52 for the week, including three rounds where he missed just one or fewer.
Simpson had two wins among eight top 10s a season ago.
Sunday’s biggest dropper was recent Tour winner Richy Werenski. The Friday 61 posted by the 28-year-old was the lowest round of the week by two strokes, but he was even-par or worse in his other three rounds, and on Sunday his 4-over 76 was better than only one player in the field. Werenski managed just a single bogey and plummeted from T25 to T57.
“Eye On The Tiger
“I was able to win one of the tournaments (ZOZO) Tiger won last year, so now I’m going to try to win the other event (Masters) Tiger won last year.”
– Patrick Cantlay
Final Payouts, Points, Scores
Sherwood CC . Thousand Oaks, CA . Oct 25, 2020