GOLF

The Fedex Cup champion is now part of the game’s elite

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The legend of Patty Ice began vehemently in the gentle hills of Maryland on the last day of rest in August 2021 at a place called Caves Valley Golf Club.

Matched against Paul Bunyan’s character otherwise known as Bryson – some called him Bison – DeChambeau, calm, cool and collected Patrick Cantlay outlasted his brawny nemesis in front of thousands of fans testing the limits of their vocal cords to win the BMW Championship, the second of three rounds forming the FedEx Cup playoffs.

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In an instant classic, Cantlay and his stoic, unflappable, unhurried ways outlasted the thunderous strength of DeChambeau to win a six-hole playoff by firing a 17-footer for a birdie on the 78th hole in fading light.

But Cantlay did heroics before that, many of them including rolling in a 21-footer for a birdie on the 72nd hole to force the playoff and then avoiding defeat on the first three extra holes with par putts mid-range. On the fifth extra hole, after DeChambeau hit his tee shot 6 feet on the par-3 17th, Cantlay saw his approach come to a halt three feet from the cup.

After the two found the fairway on the sixth playoff hole, Cantlay ended things.

Throughout the final stages of settlement and the playoffs, chants of “Patty Ice” whistled through the galleries, a takeoff on “Matty Ice,” the nickname of equally composed Matt Ryan, then Falcons quarterback from ‘Atlanta.

“It was kind of the first time I heard it, and I think that’s fine with me – I think,” Cantlay said. “It rings a little bit true about my personality, and I think a nickname that sounds really – that has just a bit of truth but maybe a bigger exaggeration, or a bigger – I don’t know which is the right one word – but he tries to say almost too much but yet it just kinda rings true.

That week, Cantlay stuck to his own plan, stayed in his own quiet world and set off his own style of fireworks by knocking down his playoff playing partner. Cantlay has won 14.58 strokes from the field with his putt, the most strokes won in a 72-hole event since tracking began on the PGA Tour in 2004. He has made more than 537 feet of putts this week . And he was undeterred despite being outplayed all day — DeChambeau had 48 drives for 320+ yards for the week.

The two finished regulation at 27 under – Cantlay with rounds of 66-63-66-66, DeChambeau with rounds of 68-60-67-66. Cantlay had 31 birdies for the week while DeChambeau had 27 birdies and four eagles.

“If I look the way I do, it’s because I’m locked up and focused, and I felt that way today,” Cantlay said. “My game is really good. It’s been a while now, since Memorial, and I’m finally starting to putt like me again.

“I’m as focused as I can be on every shot, and I try not to let my mind get out of my mind when I’m in, and maybe that’s why I’m a bit sedated there. But I’m locked in, and I’m as focused as possible. Then I kind of let the tokens fall where they do. Try not to get sucked into 45 yards or anything. I just try to lock in and do my best at the time, and my best is pretty good.

Patty Ice

The following week in Atlanta, of all the places Matt Ryan played his entire NFL career before a 2022 trade sent him to Indianapolis, Cantlay received a Falcons jersey with his name and number on it. from Ryan. Then he won $15 million.

Due to the ladder scoring format used in the Tour Championship, Cantlay started the week with a two-shot lead at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.

Although he slept on a leash for seven nights, Cantlay never flinched. In the final round, where Cantlay and then world No. 1 Jon Rahm became a two-man race at the end of the day, essentially playing for $10 million (the difference between the first-place prize of $15 million and the runner-up prize $5 million), the stoic Cantlay never backed down.

He and his magic putter canned a 6-footer for a birdie on the 16th to get two clearances from Rahm, the only player to ever have a tie with Cantlay in all four days (and it happened in the third round). Then Cantlay dug deep to make another 6ft, this one to bogey on the 17th, to keep a shot ahead of Rahm. And on the 579-yard, par-5 18th, Cantlay had to step up after Rahm fired a 232-yard middle iron just 18 feet past the hole on the fringe.

Patrick Cantlay of the United States celebrates with an Atlanta Falcons “Patty Ice” jersey after winning the final round of the TOUR Championship at East Lake Golf Club on September 05, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Knowing he had to make at least one birdie, Cantlay, after making his best shot of the day which went 361 yards, snatched a 218-yard 6-iron from 11 feet. After Rahm scared the holeshot with his chip, Cantlay put six thumbs up and tapped out for the game-winning birdie and the $15 million grand prize.

“I kept telling myself to focus and lock in and I did a great job today,” Cantlay said. “It was hard (to sleep in the lead). It’s the longest lead I’ve ever had. But I just tried to stay, day after day, in the present, and I did an incredible job this week because the last two days I made mistakes that I don’t usually make and I I was able to really center myself and hit a lot of good shots when I needed to.

It was Cantlay’s fourth victory out of 50 events in the “super season” caused by COVID-19. In a campaign that included six major championships and 43 different winners, Cantlay was the only player to win more than two tournaments.

And his victories were significant. He held off Rahm and Justin Thomas to win the Zozo Championship in the fall by one shot, beat Collin Morikawa on the first playoff hole to win the Memorial, edged DeChambeau in the BMW Championship and stayed ahead to improve Rahm. in the Tour championship.

“I play golf so I can be in those moments against the best players in the world. That’s why I train so hard. That’s why I’m in love with the game because it’s a great vehicle for competition. It maybe makes it a little nicer to know that the guys I played against are the best players in the world,” Cantlay said.

Ten days later, Cantlay received the Jack Nicklaus Award as PGA Tour Player of the Year (as voted on by his peers).

“I think having it voted for by my fellow PGA Tour players, I think means a lot to me and I’m very grateful,” Cantlay said. “I think it wasn’t something I necessarily thought was on the radar midway through the year, but then I closed out really well and played a lot of really good golf towards the end.”

Long way back

Before Cantlay won $20m in a three-month blitz to end his 2021 campaign, before he was part of America’s rout of Europe in his maiden Ryder Cup last fall , and long before people started shouting Patty Ice, Cantlay was among the game’s best players. He was a decorated amateur who spent nearly 60 weeks as the No. 1 amateur in the game. In 2011, the 19-year-old UCLA star shot 60 in the Travelers Championship, the lowest number ever recorded by an amateur in PGA Tour history. After turning professional in 2012, he won twice ahead of his monster 2020-21 season despite a shaky back that repeatedly sent him to the sidelines.

It was also a time when Cantlay was dealing with personal grief and recovery.

Just weeks after learning he had to take nearly a year off to rest, Cantlay was in Newport Beach on Feb. 13, 2016, when his best friend and caddy, Chris Roth, was killed crossing an intersection. Cantlay was within 10 feet of the crash and was covered in blood when he spoke to officers after the crash.

With the help of his family and a few close friends, Cantlay worked through this unimaginable trauma while healing his back.

“There’s no question that I’m a different person than I was then, having gone through those experiences,” Cantlay said in 2020. “It definitely wasn’t easy. And I try not to not think back to those days. It changed me and I love who I am now.

This implies opening up a little more to the media. While Cantlay, who turned 30 in March, still prefers to let his clubs do the talking, his press conferences and scrums with the media leave reporters with their notebooks full and eager to get to a laptop to start pecking.

He can talk comfortably and astutely about music, politics, world affairs, gin rummy, math, the inner workings of the PGA Tour and more. He is studious, prepared and does not miss a word. His discussions are educational.

“I’m only talking about something I know,” he said. “Or if I try to learn.”

He is by no means a nerd. He can give and take the needle, is nice and polite, and never lets anyone think he thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room.

“People probably don’t see it, but Pat can chill with the best of them,” said Xander Schauffele, who has bonded closely with Cantlay since the two successfully teamed up at the 2019 Presidents Cup. , then to the 2021 Ryder Cup. . The two and their loved ones vacationed together in Napa, Calif., after the Ryder Cup. “It’s not easy to become friends here on the PGA Tour because we want to beat everyone all the time. Yes, we are competitive and we push each other, but we love each other. We like to talk and spend time together.

“And he has this incredible ability to focus. He won the Ryder Cup and walked away unscathed. And it’s the most stressful golf we play.

Since winning the Tour Championship, Cantlay hasn’t been able to produce the magic of that three-month blitz where he was the best player in the world. While he started 2022 with four top 10 finishes in as many starts, he has yet to add to his total wins in 13 starts in the Travelers Championship. It’s not that he’s played badly — he has six top 10 finishes, including playoff losses to world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler and Jordan Spieth. And it still resides in the top 10 of the Official World Golf Rankings. Unlike 2020-21, it just didn’t close the door.

But just like he did walking alongside DeChambeau in the BMW Championship, he won’t panic. He is Patty Ice, after all, just ready to close the door on more wins.

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