Lightning has struck twice for Patrick Cantlay as the American won the BMW Championship for the second successive year to leave him in a strong position to defend his FedEx Cup title.
Cantlay went into the final round at Wilmington Country Club with a one-shot lead over Scott Stallings and Xander Schauffele, and got off to a solid if unspectacular start with three pars. The 30-year-old’s first birdie came at the fourth as he looked to stamp his authority on proceedings – particularly with Schauffele suffering an indifferent start that featured a bogey at the second as he slipped further behind.
It wasn’t all plain sailing, with Stallings catching Cantlay and then opening up a two-shot lead thanks to the defending champion's wobble around the turn as he bogeyed the eighth and 10th. Cantlay hit back with a birdie at the 11th and then held his nerve to hole a tricky putt at the 12th for par as the pair went neck-and-neck into the remaining holes.
At the same time, World No.1 Scottie Scheffler was making his own bid for the title, with three birdies in four holes taking him to within two of the lead with three to play. His surge threatened to come unstuck on the 17th when he landed in a bunker, but his recovery shot made the green and he eventually saved par. On the 18th, a delicate chip left Scheffler close – but not close enough – to a birdie. While a par would have still left him in with a chance of victory with a one-shot deficit heading back to the clubhouse, his dreams were dashed when his attempt stayed out, leaving him two behind the leaders.
Meanwhile, Stallings and Cantlay were finally about to be separated once and for all. Stallings had a chance to take the outright lead on the 18th. However, his birdie putt rolled agonisingly wide as he finished on 13 under. One hole behind, Cantlay had a birdie chance of his own, which he duly took to give him a one-shot lead with one to play.
Needing a par to win, Cantlay found a bunker from his tee shot on the 18th. However, he held his nerve to reach the green with his second shot. There was still work to do, though, with Cantlay facing a 46ft putt to get near the hole. He didn’t disappoint, with his effort lipping out to leave him a tap-in for victory.
With only the top 30 in the FedEx Cup standings making it to next week’s Tour Championship, there was plenty of interest further down the leaderboard. Halfway leader Adam Scott was walking a tightrope as his challenge began to fade, while KH Lee had a hugely impressive final round to give him a great chance of reaching East Lake Golf Club. The South Korean’s 65 featured seven birdies and just one bogey to finish 10 under.
Another who benefitted from a strong final round was Sahith Theegala, whose back nine featured four birdies to leave him hopeful as the players ahead of him completed their rounds.
In the end, all three did enough to make the top 30 in the projected standings, but one player who misses out is Shane Lowry. His final round 68 to leave him tied for 12th wasn't quite enough, with the Irishman finishing 31st.
Scheffler begins next week in first, two shots ahead of a resurgent Cantlay to promise a fascinating conclusion to the PGA Tour season.
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Mike has over 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on a range of sports throughout that time, such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance staff writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the game's most newsworthy stories.
He has written hundreds of articles on the game, from features offering insights into how members of the public can play some of the world's most revered courses, to breaking news stories affecting everything from the PGA Tour and LIV Golf to developmental Tours and the amateur game.
Mike grew up in East Yorkshire and began his career in journalism in 1997. He then moved to London in 2003 as his career flourished, and nowadays resides in New Brunswick, Canada, where he and his wife raise their young family less than a mile from his local course.
Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.
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