ATLANTA — With a lead, Patrick Cantlay proved invincible in the season-closing Tour Championship.
Cantlay started the week with 10 under par and reached 21 under, never behind 72 consecutive holes to beat Spain’s No. 1 world No. 1 by one stroke in the Tour Championship to win the FedEx Cup at East Lake Golf Club. to win. Cantlay and Rahm have been dueling for the past three days as Rahm continued to work his initial four-shot deficit but was never able to draw even with Cantlay.
Cantlay’s lead was just one stroke after Rahm converted a par after missing a 10-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole and Cantlay saved a 6-foot bogey. With $15 million and the FedEx Cup at stake, both players aimed for the flag on the par-5 18th hole.
Rahm’s approach from 238 meters jumped within an inch of the flagpole and rolled just over the platform 18 feet past the hole.
Cantlay stepped up and delivered a 6-iron 218 meters that rolled 3 meters in front of the hole – the closest eagle opportunity of the day. When Rahm’s eagle ship attempt slipped past the cup, Cantlay only had to slow down to 6 inches to make a birdie and secure his win.
“It was the longest lead I’ve ever had, but I just tried to stay in the present day after day, and I’ve done a great job this week because I’ve made mistakes in the last few days that I didn’t. . I usually shoot and I was able to really center myself and get a lot of good shots when I needed to,” Cantlay said.
“It’s such a great honor because it’s all year round and I played so consistently all year and just caught fire for the past few weeks.”
In the 18 events in which Cantlay and Rahm both played this season, Rahm finished in strokes for Cantlay 14 times, including this week. But Rahm’s 14-down effort wasn’t enough to overcome the four-shot cushion Cantlay started Thursday. Third place Rahm and Kevin Na shared the lowest gross scores, but neither was enough to fully catch up with Cantlay. Justin Thomas finished fourth.
Cantlay started two on Rahm on Sunday and quickly extended his lead to three with a birdie on the second hole. But his advantage was due to a lean shot as the players made the turn after Cantlay bogeyed on the par-3 ninth hole.
Cantlay had a good chance to go back with two on the 13th, but his 4-foot birdie putt made a 90-degree turn around the lip and stayed out. It was a surprise miss for Cantlay, who set a PGA Tour record for strokes scored (14.68) at the BMW Championship in Maryland last week when he made 537 feet of putts, including all the putts that mattered.
That hiccup didn’t last as he buried putts of 4, 6 and 6 feet for par, birdie and bogey on 15, 16 and 17 to take his one-shot lead to the par-5 18th tee.
“We had moved away from the field and it was like a one-on-one match play feeling,” Cantlay said.
Cantlay has finally manifested himself as the force he seemed destined to tour. Ten years ago, as a freshman at UCLA, Cantlay rose to the top of the amateur and collegiate ranks, winning four tournaments and taking home all the prestigious awards. He was the No. 1 amateur in the world, a record 54 consecutive weeks and 55 overall – a standard that held until he was broken by Rahm in 2016 – before choosing to forgo his last two years of his career. study and become professional in 2012 immediately afterwards. claiming the low amateur silver medal at the Masters.
It seemed a cautious move given his first four tour starts, as an amateur Cantlay finished no worse than 24th, including a tie for 21st at the 2011 US Open, and set an amateur record for lowest score on the PGA Tour when he shot 60. at the Traveler Championship.
Cantlay was considered unmissable.
But neither golf nor life is that simple. A combination of physical and emotional trauma shaped Cantlay’s early development. A stress fracture in his lower back derailed his transition almost from the start, affecting his progress for four years, two of which (2015 and 2016) were completely out of order. During that time, his best friend and caddy, Chris Roth, died in his arms after a hit-and-run while crossing the street in Newport Beach, California, in 2016.
“I think as tough as the hard times were, they made me who I am,” Cantlay said. “It has made me a better person and I thank all the people who really helped me through that time and helped me get to the other side.”
Since returning to the league in 2017 and reclaiming his card, Cantlay has been a constant presence. He won his first PGA Tour event in Las Vegas in late 2017 and has never dropped out of the top 50 in the world since. He has always been in the top 10 before last week’s playoff win in the BMW Championship over Bryson DeChambeau took him to the best No. 4 of his career.
On the other side of the field, Joaquín Niemann played alone after Brooks Koepka withdrew mid-round on Saturday with an injury. Niemann decided to try and break Na’s record of playing 18 holes in 1 hour 59 minutes at a Tour Championship at East Lake. Running with his caddy, Niemann shot 72 in 1:54 and finished 29th.
“When I was a kid, I ran a lot in high school and loved track and field and stuff, but now I hate it,” he said. “I don’t like running. I just did it for fun and it was quite fun.”