Patrick Cantlay may have found the ideal time to put everything together.
With his one-stroke victory over Scott Stallings on Sunday in the BMW Championship, Cantlay did more than elevate his already outstanding season with his first individual title.
The victory jumped Cantlay into second place in the FedEx Cup playoffs heading to the Tour Championship this week in Atlanta, where he will start the 30-player event two strokes behind points leader Scottie Scheffler at East Lake.
Cantlay, who shared the Zurich Classic team event title with his friend Xander Schauffele, has the chance to become the first player to win consecutive FedEx Cups after using a birdie on the 17th hole to edge Stallings by one stroke. With three runner-up finishes and one third-place before getting his first solo win this year, Cantlay also became the first player to successfully defend his title in a playoff event.
“I’m very competitive, and always have been,” said Cantlay, who closed with a 2-under 69 for a 14-under 270 at Wilmington (Delaware) Country Club for his eighth career victory. “It definitely grinds my gears if I don’t win, and I’ll do everything I possibly can to win. I’ve had a bunch of close Sundays, and not all of them have gone my way, unlike last year where most of those Sundays went my way.”
Under the Tour Championship’s special scoring rules, Scheffler will start the tournament at 10-under par by virtue of his No. 1 spot in the points race. Cantlay will begin at 8-under par. Will Zalatoris, who had to withdraw from the BMW Championship because of a back issue, will begin in third, three strokes behind Scheffler.
Scheffler, who has led the points race most of this year, said he intends to approach the Tour Championship like any other event despite the unique scoring.
“Just the same as every other week: just go out there and try and do my best,” said Scheffler, who tied for third with Schauffele in the BMW, two strokes behind Cantlay. “This is the only week of the year where you actually get strokes on the field, but I think I'll be best-suited if I just ignore that and just go out there and play my game and do my best.”
Cantlay won the FedEx Cup last year while starting in front at East Lake. This year, he will be chasing Scheffler from the outset.
“Last year I was just trying to stay really in the moment day after day,” Cantlay said. “With that couple-shot advantage, I was just trying to shoot under par each day and not lose sight of that. I’ll definitely draw on those memories from last year.”
Players who made it to the Tour Championship earned exemptions into next year’s major championships. The biggest move was made by Adam Scott, who jumped from 45th to 29th after starting the playoffs in 77th position. Tour rookie Sahith Theegala earned his first start in the Masters by hanging on to 28th.
Stallings, Aaron Wise and K.H. Lee also moved into the top 30 while Kevin Kisner, Joohyung “Tom” Kim, J.J. Spaun and Davis Riley fell out.
Ron Green Jr.