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Patrick Cantlay can now add Bryson DeChambeau to his list of dragons slayed after emerging victorious from an electrifying six-hole playoff to win the BMW Championship for his third title of the season and his spot in the catbird’s seat heading into the FedExCup finale.
The 29-year-old world No. 10 displayed intense focus coming down the stretch at Caves Valley Golf Club, the Tour’s first visit to Baltimore in nearly 60 years, making a string of “must-make” putts including a clutch 8-footer for bogey at 17 and draining a 22-footer for birdie on 18 to tie DeChambeau at 27-under 261 at the end of regulation. Cantlay delivered a dazzling end to the Tour’s fourth straight week featuring a playoff with a 17-footer for birdie, while DeChambeau missed his birdie attempt from 9 feet to extend sudden death.
Cantlay credited that focus with his ability to topple some of the game’s best this season, which has included besting Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm by a shot to win the ZOZO Championship last October and beating Collin Morikawa on the first hole of a playoff at the Memorial in June.
“I felt like I tried to stay in my own little world,” said Cantlay, this season’s first three-time winner, regarding his edge. “…I’m as focused as I can be on every single shot, and I try not to let my mind get past the moment that I’m in, and maybe that’s why I come across a little sedated out there.
“But I’m locked in, and I’m as focused as I can be. Then I kind of let the chips fall where they do. Try not to get caught up in being out-driven 45 yards or whatever it is. I just try and lock in and do my absolute best in that moment, and my best is pretty good.”
Case in point: Cantlay was so focused on his own game during the playoff that he didn’t know until after hitting his approach on the fourth playoff hole that DeChambeau had hit his drive into the water hazard (the two matched pars and continued on).
But what started as a power-vs.-precision contest seemed to turn personal on the 14th hole when DeChambeau, who held a one-shot lead at the time, called out Cantlay for walking in his peripheral vision as he was about to hit his approach. If you wondered how these two will perform for the U.S. Team next month at the Ryder Cup – Cantlay locked up the sixth available automatic selection with the win — we got a good idea over the ensuing 11 holes as the battle in Baltimore turned into a match-play showdown.
Unfazed by the exchange, Cantlay drained birdie from 21 feet 6 inches to regain a share of the lead while DeChambeau made a two-putt par. Listed at +2500 via PointsBet Sportsbook coming into the week and +185 coming into Sunday, the now five-time tour winner battled DeChambeau’s brawn with his flat stick, setting a new mark in Strokes Gained: Putting since the statistic started being tracked in 2004. He gained 14.577 strokes on the field in putting and was T-1 in SG: Total at 15.812.
DeChambeau, who missed a 6-footer for 59 in the second round, was trying win his ninth career title and third this season. He could have ended it on the 72nd hole but missed from 12 feet, and then let three more chances elude him over the first three playoff holes, missing from 17, 6 and 18 feet.
DeChambeau, also listed at +2500 to start and +135 coming Sunday, declined to be interviewed after the playoff, but Cantlay described his play as “an exhibition.”
“I think he just said, ‘Congrats, nice playing,’ and I said the same,” Cantlay recounted. “He played great all week. We traded blows pretty much all day. He really did put on an exhibition with the driver.”
Cantlay will take a two-shot lead over FedExCup No. 2 Tony Finau into the season finale at East Lake, where he’ll start the week at 10 under. DeChambeau will start three shots back after moving from ninth to third in the standings. World No. 1 Jon Rahm, the betting favorite at +600 heading into the BMW and the first-round co-leader, finished T-9 at Caves Valley and will start the Tour Championship as the fourth seed at 6 under. Rory McIlroy (+2800), also a first-round co-leader, finished fourth and improved his seeding from 28th to 16th.
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Reed recovering at home, remains inside top 30 after BMW
Despite not swinging a club since before the FedExCup Playoffs began, Patrick Reed qualified for his eight straight Tour Championship after finishing the week 30th in the standings. Whether he tees it up at East Lake, however, remains to be seen: After withdrawing prior to the start of the Northern Trust with an ankle injury, Reed revealed last Monday that he had been battling bilateral pneumonia and had been hospitalized at home in Houston.
Golfweek reported on Thursday that Reed confirmed he was home but would not elaborate on a timeframe for his return to action.
“I’m doing well. I’m at home recovering and looking forward to getting back out there real soon,” said Reed via text.
“It’s great to be back home with the family, kids and Justine. It makes the recovery process so much better. I’ve been focusing on my health and my family and Justine. You don’t realize how special you have it until something like this happens and I’m so happy just to be back recovering with them. I wish everyone a safe and healthy week and can’t wait to be back at it.”
Reed, who entered the week at 22nd in the FEC standings, hasn’t missed the Tour Championship since 2013. He sits 11th in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings and will need to be one of Steve Stricker’s captain’s picks to make the team for Whistling Straits next month.
Garcia, rookie van Rooyen play their way into East Lake
Sergio Garcia and Tour rookie Erik van Rooyen played their way into the final field of 30 at East Lake thanks to strong finishes at the BMW Championship.
South Africa’s van Rooyen finished fifth on Sunday after a final-round 65 that featured birdies on two of his final three holes. He jumped from 45th to 27th in the FEC standings, the largest move of the day.
“Obviously it’s my first full year on the PGA Tour, and it was a goal of mine to get (to the Tour Championship),” said van Rooyen. “… Six weeks ago or so I wasn’t even sniffing it. Just really proud of myself. It’s probably the best of the best that make it to Atlanta, and really happy to be part of the group.”
Garcia earned his return trip to the Tour Championship for the first time since 2017 with a final-round 69 that left him tied for sixth with Dustin Johnson.
“Obviously after last week I put myself in a difficult spot, but showed a lot of guts this week,” said Garcia, who moved from 44th to 28th in the standings. “Played some great golf. To come back after what happened on 5 (three shots to get out of a bunker) and not give up and keep at it and play as hard as I did those last three holes, the two up-and-downs I made on 16 and 18, they were very nice.”
Falling out of the top 30 were Charley Hoffman and Max Homa. Hoffman, a four-time Tour winner on Tour, fell three places from 29th to 32nd after a 2-under 70 on Sunday to finish T-38. Homa, winner of this year’s Genesis Invitational, finished T-63 out of 69 at the BMW and fell to 35th in the standings.
Up next: Tour Championship
The 2020-21 season wraps with the top 30 taking their crack at the top prize of $15 million and the FedEx Cup when the Tour Championship kicks off this week at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. This year marks the third time using the “Starting Strokes” format, which sees players start between 10-under and even par depending on their position within the top 30. Cantlay earned top seeding with his win at Caves Valley.
Defending FedExCup champion Dustin Johnson, who qualified for East Lake for the 13th year in a row to mark the longest active streak, also will be defending his Tour Championship title, while veteran Stewart Cink will make his first start at East Lake since 2009.
In last year’s finale, Johnson finished at 21-under for the week to defeat Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele by three shots to win his first Tour Championship and first FedExCup.
U.S. Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker will announce his six captain’s picks for following the the conclusion of the Tour Championship.
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