In winning the Zozo Championship by one stroke Sunday ahead of Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas – as formidable a duo as there may be at the moment – Patrick Cantlay did more than pick up his third career PGA Tour victory.
With the November Masters just two weeks away, Cantlay reminded everyone putting together a list of pre-tournament possibilities that his name belongs on the short list of top picks at Augusta National.
The last time the Masters was played – you might remember that Tiger Woods won – Cantlay shared the lead with Xander Schauffele when he walked off the 15th green in the final round. Two bogeys coming in made Cantlay an afterthought in the Tiger glow, but his top-10 effort also might serve as a bit of foreshadowing as a return to Augusta National approaches.
Cantlay hasn’t yet attracted the attention of the two players he beat Sunday because he hasn’t won as often as they have and his personality is decidedly more reserved than either Thomas or Rahm.
But Cantlay is one of the game’s true grinders. And as he showed when he won the 2019 Memorial Tournament in front of Jack Nicklaus, who has served as a mentor of sorts, he can win on big stages.
Starting the final round three back at Sherwood Country Club, Cantlay raced ahead. Although he made two late bogeys after playing his first 61 holes bogey-free, he made Thomas and Rahm chase him.
Based on recent form, there was little to suggest it would be Cantlay’s week other than being ranked 14th in the world. Despite having grown up in the Los Angeles area and having played collegiately at UCLA, Cantlay had never played Sherwood Country Club until last week.
However, he liked the feel he had with a new putter he recently put into his bag (a slightly heavier, half-inch longer version of a Scotty Cameron Newport model) and knew his game was in a good place.
“It’s just validation of all the hard work,” Cantlay said. “I put in a lot of work and try to do the right things all the time. When it all does come together, it’s really rewarding.”
The shot that separated Cantlay was a 7-iron he hit into the dangerous par-3 15th hole, setting up a birdie that briefly put him ahead by three strokes.
Knowing the Masters is looming, Cantlay has adopted a simple approach to Augusta.
“I was able to win one of the tournaments Tiger won last year,” Cantlay said of the Zozo. “Now I’m going to try to win the other tournament he won last year.”
Ron Green Jr.