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Cantlay does 'just enough' for first win

By Nick MentaNovember 6, 2017, 3:47 am

LAS VEGAS – With the sunlight all but gone and after 90 minutes of PGA Tour pros looking like weekend hackers, Patrick Cantlay finally – mercifully – ended the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open on Sunday.

He made a scrambling par on the second extra hole to defeat Alex Cejka and Whee Kim in a playoff for his first PGA Tour title.

As choppy as the finish was – and make no mistake, it was a gagfest – when that final putt dropped, none of it mattered. Because there was Cantlay, standing victorious, re-asserting his place in this game after three years of injury and what he termed on Sunday night as “heartbreak.”

It wasn’t all that long ago that Cantlay, now 25, was the top-ranked amateur in the world for 55 weeks, as highly touted a prospect as guys named Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas.

It just “feels like a long time ago,” he said Sunday night, seated next to his new trophy.

When he turned pro in 2012, PGA Tour victories seemed assured for the Nicklaus Award winner out of UCLA. It just took him a lot longer than expected. And when his moment came, it was far from pretty.

“The finish did not happen the way I thought it would,” he admitted, “but it was just enough.”

Shriners Hospitals for Children Open: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open

After starting the day four behind co-leaders J.J. Spaun and Beau Hossler, Cantlay took the outright lead with a birdie at 13, one of four in a row on Nos. 11-14. To that point, Sunday’s final round had looked nothing like Saturday’s third round, when wind gusts of nearly 40 miles an hour battered the field late in the day.

But one hole later, after a calm start, the wind returned to send those near the top of the leaderboard into a collective nosedive.

“It was really two different days out there,” Cantlay said. “It was really like the first 14 holes, and the last four holes. The first 14 holes were a shootout.”

The last four were anything but. At one point, with absolutely no one wanting to win this golf tournament, the Shriners appeared headed for a five-way playoff. Cantlay, who had reached 11 under par, bogeyed 17 and 18 to post 9 under. Kim, likewise, dropped a shot on the 72nd hole to get into the clubhouse at 9.

Next up, needing birdie to win and par to get into a playoff, Chesson Hadley bogeyed 18 – you may be noticing a theme here – to fall out of contention.

And in the final group, 54-hole leader J.J. Spaun finished double bogey-double bogey to drop from 10 under par to 6 under par.

That left three players to return to the 18th tee: Cantlay, Kim, and Alex Cejka, who had gone off in the morning’s second starting time and fired a 64 to reach 9 under long before it was en vogue.

“It was a little bit, a little bit, a little bit tricky. Hanging out for one and a half hours, it was a long time,” said Cejka, who had been off the course closer to two hours. “I was watching, forced to for a long, long time. And then the wind picked up. I was eating and packing up. I almost put everything in the car. But then the wind kicked up and the guys were making bogeys and doubles.”

And after all three players made – surprise – bogey on the first extra hole, they once again returned to the tee at 18, where Cantlay lost his ball to the right and encountered some tree trouble on the second playoff hole.

At that point, he had two options: chip out, or lace a punch-cut 4-iron from 185 yards that went under one tree and around another. He chose the latter option and ran his ball through the back of the green into a small collection area, 70 feet from the hole.

With Kim out of it and Cejka off the green, Cantlay very nearly holed his putt from the fringe, which burned the left edge. And when Cejka failed to get up and down, Cantlay brushed in his par putt, sending a parade of Shriners onto the putting surface.

It was a coronation long overdue for Cantlay, after back injuries forced him away from competitive golf for three years from 2014 to 2017. And it was during that time away, in 2016, that his best friend and caddie, Chris Roth, was killed crossing an intersection in a hit-and-run accident, with Cantlay standing 10 feet away.

“There were some really low times,” he said.

But Cantlay has persevered. He put his medical extension to good use last season, finishing second at the Valspar Championship and making it all the way to the Tour Championship at East Lake on only 13 starts.

And now, he’s a PGA Tour champion. Patrick Cantlay is back, and he is setting his sights on once again becoming the No. 1 player in the world – this time, as a professional.

“Having won, I hope they pile up,” he said. “I feel like getting your first one can sometimes be the toughest one to get.

“I want to be the best player in the world, and I want to win a bunch of tournaments. I feel like if that’s not what you’re out here for, you shouldn’t be out here.”

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Watch: Pieters snaps club ... around his neck

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 1:19 pm

After opening in 3-over 75, Thomas Pieters was in no mood for more poor play on Friday.

Unfortunately for Pieters, he bogeyed two of his first three holes in the second round of the BMW PGA Championship and then didn't like his second shot at the par-5 fourth.

Someone - or some thing - had to pay, and an innocent iron bore the brunt of Pieters' anger.

Pieters made par on the hole, but at 5 over for the tournament, he was five shots off the cut line.

It's not the first time a club has faced Pieters' wrath. 

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Woods would 'love' to see Tour allow shorts

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 12:59 pm

Players on the European Tour are allowed to wear shorts during practices and pro-ams.

The PGA of America permitted players to show some leg while prepping for last year’s PGA Championship.

Tiger Woods would like to see the PGA Tour follow suit.

"I would love it," he said Thursday in a Facebook Live with Bridgestone Golf. "We play in some of the hottest climates on the planet. We usually travel with the sun, and a lot of our events are played in the summer, and then on top of that when we have the winter months here a lot of the guys go down to South Africa and Australia where it's summer down there.

"It would be nice to wear shorts. Even with my little chicken legs, I still would like to wear shorts."

Caddies are currently allowed to wear shorts on Tour, during events.

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Feasting again: McIlroy shoots 65 to lead BMW PGA

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 12:04 pm

Updated at 9:42 a.m. ET

Rory McIlroy made seven birdies and no bogeys on Friday for a 7-under 65 and the second-round lead at the BMW PGA Championship.

After opening in 67, McIlroy was among the early groups out on Day 2 at Wentworth Club. He made three birdies and no bogeys on the par-35 front nine on Friday, and then went on a run after the turn.

McIlroy made four consecutive birdies, beginning at the par-5 12th. That got him to 12 under, overall, and gave him a clear advantage over the field. With two closing par-5s, a very low number was in sight. But, as he did on Day 1, McIlroy finished par-par.

"I've made four pars there [on 17 and 18] when I really should be making at least two birdies, but I played the other par-5s well," McIlroy said. "It all balances itself out."

Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship

McIlroy has made 14 birdies and two bogeys through two rounds. At 12 under, he has a three-stroke lead over Sam Horsfield.

"The work has paid off, to some degree," McIlroy said of his practice with swing coach Michael Bannon. "I still feel like I'm hitting some loose shots out there. But, for the most part, it's been really good. If I can keep these swing thoughts and keep going in the right direction, hopefully this is the type of golf I'll be able to produce."

This event has been feast or famine for McIlroy. He won here in 2014, but has three missed cuts in his other three starts. This week, however, he’ll be around for the weekend and is in position for his first European Tour victory since the 2016 Irish Open and his second worldwide victory of the year (Arnold Palmer Invitational).

"I have the confidence that I'm playing well and I can go out and try to just replicate what I did the day before," McIlroy said about his weekend approach with the lead. "On the first tee box tomorrow I'll be thinking about what I did today. Trying to just keep the same thoughts, make the same swings. I went a couple better today than I did yesterday. I'm not sure I'll keep that progression going but something similiar tomorrow would be nice."

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Goat visor propels Na to Colonial lead

By Will GrayMay 25, 2018, 1:29 am

Jason Dufner officially has some company in the headwear free agency wing of the PGA Tour.

Like Dufner, Kevin Na is now open to wear whatever he wants on his head at tournaments, as his visor sponsorship with Titleist ended earlier this month. He finished T-6 at the AT&T Byron Nelson in his second tournament as a free agent, and this week at the Fort Worth Invitational he's once again wearing a simple white visor with a picture of a goat.

"I bought it at The Players Championship for $22 with the 30 percent discount that they give the Tour players," Na told reporters. "It's very nice."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Perhaps a change in headwear was just what Na needed to jumpstart his game. Last week's result in Dallas was his first top-35 finish in his last six events dating back to February, and he built upon that momentum with an 8-under 62 to take a one-shot lead over Charley Hoffman after the first round at Colonial Country Club.

While many sports fans know the "GOAT" acronym to stand for "Greatest Of All Time," it's a definition that the veteran Na only learned about earlier this year.

"I do social media, but they kept calling Tiger the GOAT. I go, 'Man, why do they keep calling Tiger the GOAT? That's just mean,'" Na said. "Then I realized it meant greatest of all time. Thinking of getting it signed by Jack (Nicklaus) next week (at the Memorial)."