Cantlay, on the wrong side of Masters history last time, aims to make some of his own – Press Enterprise
By Tuesday or Wednesday or maybe the next week, Patrick Cantlay would join the global celebration.
He would salute Tiger Woods, who, on the second Sunday of April 2019, won his fifth Masters Tournament.
But not Sunday. Not when Cantlay had stood several notches above Woods, on those white, hand-operated scoreboards at Augusta National.
Not when Cantlay had finished with 64-68, a weekend that only Johnny Miller, in 1975, has bettered.
And not when Cantlay had taken the short downhill walk from the 15th green to the 16th tee with a one-stroke lead on Sunday.
Cantley bogeyed that par-3, where the Sunday pin is basically the drain of a funnel that sends hole-in-one roars throughout the property. He also bogeyed 17. He finished ninth.
“The way it worked out, we could have parred in and not won,” said Jamie Mulligan, Cantlay’s teacher and the head pro at Virginia Country Club in Long Beach.
“At the time, I didn’t care who won,” Cantlay said Monday at Augusta, where the Masters will begin on Thursday amid spring-like rain showers and soggy shoes.
“But pretty soon I began realizing I could take a lot out of this. My problem was that I wasn’t in a good spot going into Saturday. If I can shoot 132 again, I like my chances.”
Golf Digest does, too. It ranked the players as likely winners, from 1 to 93, and put Cantlay sixth.
After the ‘19 Masters, Cantlay jumped to 18th in the world rankings and has not been out of the Top 20 since. He was 9th after he won the Zozo Championship at Sherwood Country Club, with a no-bogey 65 that ran down Jon Rahm (No. 2 in the world) and Justin Thomas (No. 3).
Cantlay has missed only one cut since the 2019 Players Championship and has 12 top-ten finishes in his past 35 events worldwide. He was in the top 30 in nearly every meaningful 2019-20 statistic, and with Brad Faxon’s help, he misses fewer accessible putts.
“Patrick can be critical of golf courses,” said Steve Cantlay, his dad. “He loves Augusta National. He prefers to draw the ball off the tee and then he can cut it into those greens.”
So Cantlay was in a foul mood on Friday night of that Masters. He had shot 73-73 and made the cut “on the number,” as they say.
That meant he would play early Saturday, and he barged into the round like a drag racer. He had eight birdies, no bogeys.
“Then they moved up the times on Sunday because of weather, so I could use that momentum,” he said. “My mindset was just to make as many birdies as I could, to come out on fire like I did Saturday, and I birdied No. 1 and 2 on Sunday.”
The world’s eyes were on Woods, trying to catch Francesco Molinari. Cantlay kept moving up. The best way to win a golf tournament is to slap a low score on the board and watch your pursuers fall on their swords. Cantlay birdied 11 and drove it long on the par-5 15th.
His second shot landed above the hole and to the right, and Mulligan, back down the fairway, watched the eagle putt come off the blade.
“This is money,” he said, and he was right. Cantlay had the Masters lead at 12-under with three holes left.
Steve Cantlay and the rest of the crew were in the bleachers at the 15th green. From there, you don’t have to move to see 16. Thomas had just aced the 16th. Mulligan remembers the tumult in the hollow, an uncontrollable howl seldom associated with golf.
Cantlay’s shot landed on the right shelf of the green and didn’t take the slope. “He missed it by maybe a degree or two,” Mulligan said.
From there Cantlay had no way to keep the putt from sliding to the edge of the green, and his comeback par putt didn’t fall. He couldn’t get up and down on 17, bogeyed again, and by then Molinari had drenched his tee ball on 12. The tournament was Tiger’s to lose, which he didn’t.
“Dane Jako, his coach at Servite, put a clock on it,” Steve said. “Patrick was in the lead for 22 minutes.”
“It was weird, because I knew I had to hit a good shot on 16 and I didn’t,” Cantlay said. “But the takeaway, eventually, was that I know I can play well here.”
How he’ll feel on Sunday night will depend on how much — a jacket, and a permanent invitation to come back for as many Aprils as he lives — he actually takes away.