What Has Happened to Patrick Cantlay?
The growth of Patrick Cantlay is particularly interesting. A three-time PGA Tour champion who has demonstrated that he has the mettle to challenge on the grandest stage, Cantlay has previously been heavily tipped to pick up his first major title. However, it just hasn’t happened yet. Still, at the age of 29, there is ample time for greatness to be achieved. Unfortunately, the last couple of months have veered away from the script, which prompts the question: what has happened to Patrick Cantlay?
Born in Long Beach, California, Cantlay was so good at golf that he opted to turn professional with two years yet to study at college. He earned his first paycheque at the 2012 AT&T National before securing his first professional win at the 2013 Colombia Championship on the Web.com Tour. He subsequently finished 11th in the Money List and was awarded a PGA Tour card for the following season. It would appear that the decision to leave college was the correct one.
The following season was problematic from the outset. He sustained an injury to his back that kept him out for a long, long time. He failed to attend a single event during the 2015 and ’16 season and it was during the latter where tragedy struck. His friend and caddie, Chris Roth, was killed in a hit-and-run incident while the pair were out on the town in California. Roth was a high school teammate of Cantlay and caddied for him throughout both his amateur and professional career.
With more than two seasons away from professional golf and the loss of a dear friend, it was no certainty that Cantlay would resurrect his career. Fortunately, Cantlay isn’t just anybody. With only his second start of the season, he secured his touring card for the following campaign. With restricted appearances, he would record three top 10s.
The following season brought immediate success, winning the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. Although another win would not feature that year, 2019 brought further success. After placing second at the Shriners, Cantlay won the Memorial Tournament and finished third in the PGA Championship – a sign that his golf game was steadily improving.
In 2020, he would miss out on a second Shriners title in a playoff to Kevin Na before being selected for the American Presidents Cup Team – besting Joaquin Niemann during the Sunday singles in the process. This was Cantlay’s greatest year on Tour without a victory.
As the 2020/21 campaign had scheduled in six majors, it was a huge opportunity for tour members to engrave their name in history. The US Open, the first of the season, saw Cantlay underperform. Yes, he made the cut, but T43 was wide of his standards. Unsurprisingly, a fourth successive top-10 was recorded at the Shriners, but the following week’s outing saw the Californian far away from the leaders, placing T38.
Winless since 2019, Cantlay entered the Zozo Championship desperate for victory. Typically, this event is held in Japan, but due to ongoing difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the tournament was restructured to take place in California – a certain somebody’s home state. A blistering final round of 65 snatched victory from Justin Thomas as Cantlay secured his third and most recent PGA Tour title.
The final event on the 2020 calendar year was the biggest of them all – The Masters. A second round outing of 66 propelled the American up the leaderboard but two substandard rounds would follow, ensuring he would finish inside the top-20 at T17.
The following four events were fantastic, even by Cantlay’s standards. Sentry Tournament of Champions (T13), The American Express (2nd), AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am (T3) and the Genesis Invitational (T15) all told a similar story – Cantlay’s form was among the best in world golf. Currently, only two men on the PGA Tour – Bryson DeChambeau and Stewart Cink – have won multiple times this season, but Cantlay has come awfully close to not just joining, but surpassing them.
The Players Championship is the flagship event for the PGA Tour and is also commonly known as the unofficial ‘fifth major’. To add this prestigious tournament to your CV is welcomed by everybody and anybody. Unfortunately, he would miss the cut for the first time this season. He finished T18 at the World Golf Championship Match Play event before heading back to Georgia for the second time in six months.
His last three stroke play events, including the recent Masters, ended in Cantlay missing the cut for all three. The only tournament where he continued into the weekend was the team-based Zurich Classic of New Orleans. Last week, when Rory McIlroy picked up his first victory since 2019, Cantlay had his feet up back home as the Northern Irishman lifted the trophy.
In total, Cantlay has played in 14 events this season. He has secured victory once, finished runner-up once, placed in the top-10 on four occasions and the top-25 11 times. He has also missed four cuts this season. Those are not poor stats by any means, but it’s the timing that needs to be addressed. The four cuts missed have all taken place in the last six events. Moreover, every cut missed – The Players, Masters, RBC Heritage, Wells Fargo Championship – have been singular stroke-play events. Relying on his own game, Cantlay hasn’t made a cut since February.
His performance statistics are not overly worrying, either. He averages 301 yards off the tee (56th) and hits 69.18% Greens in Regulation (26th). His birdie average of 4.50 is fantastic (8th) and his overall scoring average of 70.328 (25th) isn’t poor either. This year, his driving accuracy of 61.05% (90th) has resulted in strokes lost but considering he is still ranked 13th in the world and 7th in the FedEx Cup standings, the damage hasn’t truly been inflicted yet.
While Cantlay may be enduring a difficult spell, his standings should provide sufficient confidence to lift him out of his rut. It should worry him that he hasn’t made a cut since February and that he was so ordinary in North Carolina during his last outing. He has opted not to play at the AT&T Byron Nelson this week. Hopefully, a week away from competition can help shift his game back into gear and ready for the PGA Championship that will get underway on May 20.
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