Planet Golf — 19 August 2022 by GW staff and news services
Cantlay goes back-to-back at BMW

WILMINGTON, Del. — One good break. One great shot. That’s what it took Sunday for Patrick Cantlay to win the BMW Championship for the second straight time with a finish that was nothing like last year except for his clutch moments.

One other difference: The victory didn’t give him the No. 1 seed going into the FedEx Cup finale next week at East Lake in Atlanta.

That was of little concern to Cantlay after his birdie-par finish for a 2-under 69, giving him a one-shot victory over Scott Stallings at Wilmington Country Club.

“I was glad not to go six holes in a playoff,” Cantlay said, referring to his unlikely playoff win last year at Caves Valley over Bryson DeChambeau.

This looked to be headed that way when Cantlay and Stallings were tied down the stretch, with Masters champion Scottie Scheffler and Xander Schauffele lurking.

Tied with two holes to play, Cantlay took an aggressive line to cut off the corner of a dogleg and figured he was headed for a cluster of bunkers. But the ball landed short of the last bunker, took a big hop over the sand, and tumbled into the first cut and rolled out to the fairway, just 64 yards from the hole.

“I thought hitting it on that line, it would for sure be in a bunker,” he said. “Got an excellent break — maybe one of the best breaks I’ve gotten coming down the stretch — and when you get a break like that you need to pay it off.”

That he did, hitting a spinner with a wedge that skipped and stopped 5 feet behind the hole for birdie and a one-shot lead. Stallings in the group ahead narrowly missed a birdie putt from just inside 10 feet on the last hole for a 69.

Cantlay needed par to win and fanned his drive into a bunker, the ball above his feet, 158 yards to pin on a steeply pitched green.

“I tried to slice an 8-iron about as hard as I could and went to about where I thought I could get it, and it was one of the best shots I hit all week,” he said.

His putt caught the lip of the cup, leaving him a tap-in, about the easiest shot he had all day.

Cantlay, who finished at 14-under 270, became the first player to win the BMW Championship in consecutive years since the FedEx Cup began in 2007. No one has ever repeated in any of the playoff events. The victory, his second of the year, moved him to No. 3 in the world.

He played all four rounds with Schauffele, and only later did he realize he could have used a little help from his best friend on tour. Schauffele (71) missed a 7-foot birdie putt on the last hole that would given him third place and moved Scheffler to fourth.

That would have made Cantlay the No. 1 seed, which comes with a two-shot lead before the Tour Championship begins. Now he will start two shots behind Scheffler, who had missed a short par putt on the last hole that ultimately didn’t cost him in the FedEx Cup.

Stallings has gone 238 starts since his last victory eight years ago at Torrey Pines, and he played like that drought might end. But he missed four birdie chances inside 18 feet at the end, the last one from just inside 10 feet.

The consolation prize is his first trip to the Tour Championship.

“That was the biggest goal of the year,” Stallings said. “Better late than never.”

Stallings wasn’t alone. Adam Scott is making his way back to East Lake. He was at No. 77 in the FedEx Cup when the postseason started and a tie for fifth last week moved him to No. 45.

Scott made eagle on the 12th hole and hit some superb lag putts on firm, crispy greens at Wilmington for a 71 to tie for fifth.

Needing a par on the last hole, Scott tugged his tee shot to the edge of a bunker, meaning he had to stand in the sand and try to hit out of a sticky first cut with the golf ball about thigh-high. He pulled that into a bunker, then hit a splendid shot to tap-in ran.

“I guess that’s the beauty of the FedEx Cup playoffs the way they are. You can scratch it around a lot for the year and have a couple good weeks and get heavily rewarded by getting to East Lake and being in that top 30 and all the perks that come with it,” Scott said.

Aaron Wise had a 73 and earned the 30th spot. He was among four players who moved into the top 30 who are eligible for the Tour Championship. The others were Stallings, Scott, Aaron Wise and K.H. Lee, who had a 65 on Sunday to tie for fifth.

DIVOTS: The Presidents Cup qualifying ended Sunday. The six qualifiers for the U.S. team are Scheffler, Cantlay, Schauffele, Sam Burns, Justin Thomas and Tony Finau. The leading eight qualifiers for the International team are Cameron Smith, Hideki Matsuyama, Sungjae Im, Joaquin Niemann, Joohyung “Tom” Kim, Adam Scott, Corey Conners and Mito Pereira. … Collin Morikawa made a quintuple-bogey 10 on the 12th hole and shot 79, his highest score in his three years on the PGA Tour. … Viktor Hovland made an ace on the second hole. He didn’t win a car, but BMW donated a full four-year scholarship to a caddie from the Evans Scholars Foundation.

THIRD ROUND

WILMINGTON, Del. – FedExCup champion Patrick Cantlay loves routine in his life. He chases precise repetition in his golf swing. Now he seeks a new kind or repeat… the BMW Championship and FedExCup double.

Cantlay surged to the top of the BMW Championship leaderboard with a third round 6-under 65 on Saturday, leaving him 12-under at Wilmington Country Club and one clear of good friend Xander Schauffele (66) and Scott Stallings (66). Adam Scott (69) and Scottie Scheffler (68) sit just two shots off the lead.

Just as it was 12 months ago about an hour down the road at Caves Valley in Maryland, Cantlay now sits in prime position to win the BMW Championship and take the top seed into the TOUR Championship at East Lake.

History shows Cantlay won at Caves Valley in a playoff over Bryson DeChambeau in 2021 and then held off Jon Rahm at the TOUR Championship to collect golfs ultimate prize. He wants the same again but won’t put the cart before the horse.

Since becoming part of the FedExCup Playoffs in 2007 no one has defended the BMW Championship. And no one has ever won the FedExCup in consecutive years. So Cantlay won’t let his thoughts move ahead to East Lake just yet.

“My head is not even there right now. I think the best way to handle this playoff system is to just focus on doing your best in the tournament that you’re in and not worry too much about the points. So that’s what I’m going to do,” he said post round.

“Maybe in the bigger tournaments it’s easier to kind of narrow your focus, and I’ve done a good job of staying in the moment and trying to get in the right frame of mind and good attitude.

I like this golf course. I like the grasses that it’s played on. I like bentgrass, and this golf course is in really pure shape.”

Schauffele, who paired with Cantlay to win the Zurich Classic of New Orleans earlier this year, is one of the best chances to stop his friend in the first leg of his quest. But he admits it won’t be easy.

“He’s just competing at a high level, so it’s just impressive that he’s doing it again at the right time,” Schauffele said.

The San Diego native is currently projected to fourth spot in the FedExCup standings but knows if he wins on Sunday, he will take over top spot. That is particularly of interest to the man who has played brilliantly at East Lake in the past, yet not won the FedExCup.

Schauffele won the TOUR Championship in 2017 under a previous Playoff system which saw the FedExCup go to Justin Thomas. He also shot the lowest score at the 2020 TOUR Championship in relation to par over four rounds but couldn’t reel in Dustin Johnson’s seven shot advantage gained via seedings heading to East Lake.

“As important as it is to win events, it’s really putting yourself in position to give yourself a really good chance next week,” Schauffele added. “I’d be the first one to tell you if you’re not in prime position, you’re just not going to win next week. I’ve kind of been around that.”

Despite three front nine birdies Cantlay’s Saturday wasn’t going completely to plan after a bogey on the 11th hole left him two behind Schauffele’s lead mark. But birdies on 12 and 13 were followed by a 107-yard hole out eagle with his lob wedge on the par-5 15th that catapulted him into the outright lead. Prior to the shot Cantlay had walked all the way to the green to scope out the pin position.

“It was downwind and just got lucky and fed off the slope and perfect right in,” he grinned.

“I don’t know the golf course too well. Obviously it’s my first time here, so on my wedge shots I’ve been walking up to the green to see exactly where I wanted to land it, and I landed it in basically the perfect spot.”

It comes as no surprise he leads the field in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green (+8.553) and ranks second in Strokes Gained: Approach (+5.107) after a day where he hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation.

Now just to replicate it again.


NOTES: 

FedExCup leader Will Zalatoris was forced to withdraw with a back injury early in his third round leaving him all but certain to give up top spot in the standings for East Lake. The winner of the Playoff opening FedEx St. Jude Championship currently projects to third in the standings.

World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler can regain top spot in the standings in two ways on Sunday. A win at Wilmington Country Club will secure top spot as will a high finish provided the winner of the tournament is not one of the current top 15 seeds. Those in contention who will negate that route are Cantlay, Schauffele, Sam Burns, Rory McIlroy, Sungjae Im, Cameron Young, Jon Rahm and Hideki Matsuyama. Playing with Scheffler on Saturday was Australian Adam Scott who routinely goes by the nickname ‘Scotty’, making for a humorous dynamic as the crowds yelled out throughout the round. “I think we were both a bit confused,” Scheffler laughed. “I just pretend it’s all for me and feel like Mr. Popular,” Scott added. The Aussie is looking to burst the Playoff bubble for a second week running and make East Lake for the first time since 2019.

Rory McIlroy suffered from a rough two over front nine on Saturday to seemingly ruin his hopes of victory and a shot at top seed as he searches an unprecedented third FedExCup title. But a three under back nine allowed McIlroy fans to keep the dream alive. He will start Sunday five off the pace and projected seventh in the FedExCup standings.


TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP BUBBLE WATCH

Here are the players projected to move inside the top 30 of the FedExCup after the first round of the BMW Championship and advance to next week’s TOUR Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta:

PROJECTED IN

Scott Stallings (No. 46, projected to 16): Stallings stole the show in the marquee pairing with Rory McIlroy, carding a 5-under 66 and finished by holing a gutsy 8-foot putt on the 18th to make it in penultimate pairing for Sunday.

Aaron Wise (No. 31, projected to 25): An eagle on the par-5 14th boosted his chances of making it to East Lake for the first time since he was a rookie in 2018. He’s just three shots off the lead.

Adam Scott (No. 45, projected to 27): Playing in the final group on Saturday, Scott put together an opening nine with three birdies and one bogey to share the lead at the turn, but a back-nine 36 leaves him two-shots behind the defending FedExCup champion.

Denny McCarthy (No. 35, projected to 29): After failing to make it past the first event of the FedExCup Playoffs for the last three seasons, McCarthy is enjoying his first BMW Championship appearance signing for a 5-under 66 Saturday to crack the top 10 and jump one spot inside the bubble.

PROJECTED OUT

Davis Riley (No. 26, projected to 31): Riley the rookie sits on the edge of the bubble with 18 holes left to play in Wilmington. A 4-under 67 in the third round has him looking in on those with a shot at East Lake but he needs one more low round to have a chance.

J.J. Spaun (No. 30, projected to 32): Spaun fought back with three birdies in his final six holes giving the Valero Texas Open winner the opportunity to make it to Atlanta with a Sunday charge. He sits a projected two shots behind the pace he needs.

Joohyung Kim (No. 25, projected to 33): “Tom” made the FedExCup Playoffs with a stunning Sunday at the final event of the Regular Season and will need more of that magic to make the TOUR Championship. A third-round 74 left him with plenty of work to do some seven shots adrift of the pace he needs.

Kevin Kisner (No. 28, projected to 37): Kisner carded his first round under par for the week on Saturday, but it will need more than the 1-under 70 to have any possibility of jumping into the top 30. As it stands Kisner is eight back of the pace that would have him in the mix of retaining his place.

SECOND ROUND

WILMINGTON, Del. – For a while during this season the question was would Scottie Scheffler ever stop winning. Now he’s being asked when he will win again. Such is the world of golf where you can salute four times in a six-start stretch, including the Masters, but then find yourself trying not to be impatient after a ‘lean’ four months.

Scheffler hopes the winning answer will be this weekend after a 4-under 67 on Friday at the BMW Championship moved the World No.1 to 7-under 135 at the halfway stage at Wilmington Country Club. He sits just one shot behind leader Adam Scott but importantly now projects back to the top of the FedExCup standings.

Having taken the top spot after the second of his four wins in the hot streak earlier this year Scheffler had not only kept it but produced a sizable gap on most others. But with points quadrupled in the Playoffs his lead was swallowed up when he missed the cut at the FedEx St. Jude Championship last week and fellow Texas junior golfer Will Zalatoris won.

It left Scheffler 124.116 points behind Zalatoris in the standings as they chase top spot, and a 10-under starting position, at the season ending TOUR Championship where the winner collects the FedExCup and $18million.

Paired together over the opening two rounds Scheffler managed to put a four-shot gap on his junior buddy, a space big enough to see him projecting back on top. Both shared plenty of smiles Friday after they came to the tee dressed in near identical colors but the will to win remained the focus for both. The usual banter between the two gets saved for practice rounds.

“Fortunately, we were wearing different colored pants but there was definitely a few good jokes out there about the color schemes,” Scheffler smiled post round.

“It was definitely fun. Out here you’re really competing and you work really hard to get to a certain point, and where we’re at being No. 1 and 2 in the FedExCup, we’ve worked really hard for many years to get to this point so any sort of needling on the golf course I don’t think would be in the greatest of taste for both of us. I don’t want to hurt his feelings and he doesn’t want to hurt mine.”

Instead Scheffler was putting a hurt on his golf ball as he opened his round with three straight birdies to rocket into the mix. Now he can smell another win. Or two.

“I definitely want to win again for sure. I want to win every week I tee it up, so this week is definitely no different,” Scheffler said. “I’ve put myself in a decent position and I’ll definitely have a good chance going into the weekend.”

The ultimate goal is to win at East Lake and become just the sixth FedExCup winner to claim it all despite scoring zero points in the Playoffs opener.

Scheffler lost nearly five strokes on the greens a week ago but so far through two rounds in Wilmington he’s gaining over three shots in Strokes Gained: Putting and ranks fourth in the field.

“Thursday last week I just had an out-of-body experience. Other than that, I haven’t really played too many bad rounds of golf so far this year other than I think first round at the Scottish and first round in Memphis are really the two that stick out to me as just bad rounds. Outside of that I’ve been really patient and just played solid golf,” he said.


NOTES: 

Adam Scott was firing on all cylinders and reached double digits under par on his 12th hole on Friday before a late double bogey on the 17th cut his 36-hole lead to just one shot. He still projects from 45th in the FedExCup standings all the way up to third as he looks to burst the Playoffs bubble for the second week running. “Overall, I felt really in control today. When you’re playing that way, it always could be a couple better, and a poor shot on 17 was quite costly,” Scott said. “It’s a good reminder for the weekend that I’ve really got to keep it under control and don’t want to have too many get off the map and get out of position around here.

But I’m in great shape going into the weekend. I don’t even know when the last time I led a tournament was.” For the record the last 36-hole lead Scott held was a share during the 2019 Masters (T18). He led after 54-holes at the 2020 Genesis Invitational, the last of his 14 TOUR wins.

Jordan Spieth sparked the local crowds when he rolled in his fifth birdie of the day on the 17th hole to join the lead and they still provided a warm reception on 18 despite a closing bogey. Spieth, the 2015 FedExCup champion, now projects to 10th up from 17th.

Xander Schauffele was playing in the shadow of Zurich Classic of New Orleans winning partner Patrick Cantlay for most of Friday before a sensational hole out eagle from 75 yards on the 17th hole thrust him into a tie for sixth at 6-under. Cantlay went four under on his first eight holes Friday but was one over from that point on. The good friends now project to seventh and eighth in the Cup. Schauffele is a previous winner at East Lake while Cantlay is the FedExCup defending champion.

Cameron Young backed up his 68 with a 67 to sit just one back of the lead. He projects to fifth in the FedExCup despite failing to win this season. Young is the prime candidate for the Arnold Palmer Award as Rookie of the Year thanks to his five runner up and two third place finishes this season. But he’s far from content. “I have a list of goals. Probably eight or nine. I think I’ve checked off about one. Still got some work to do,” he said. One of them is make it to the TOUR Championship… if I keep playing the way I am, I’ll check off most of them.”

Cameron Davis of Australia has tried to keep pace with a childhood idol of his in Adam Scott with rounds of 69-67 pushing him to 6-under-136 and just two back in a tie for sixth. Starting 51st in the standings Davis wants to break through two barriers this week. Get to his first TOUR Championship after coming close (37th) last season and also find his way onto the International Presidents Cup team. At the end of play he projected to 32nd in the standings, within striking distance of East Lake’s top 30 mark. “That would be goal achieved for this year. Last year I got to BMW and didn’t quite get to East Lake. This year I wanted to make it one step further forward,” Davis said. “All I could do is get myself here and have a chance, and I guess I’ve still got a chance, so I’ve just got to keep playing well.”

Canadian Corey Conners came into this week under the pump in the 29th seed but currently projects to 18th after rounds of 68-67 put him just one shot off the lead. He’s looking to get to East Lake for the third time in five attempts.


FIRST ROUND

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — Keegan Bradley hasn’t been to the FedEx Cup finale in four years, and he started the BMW Championship on Thursday like he was in a hurry to get back.

Bradley matched a career low with a 29 on the front nine at Wilmington Country Club and finished with a 7-under 64 to take a one-shot lead over Adam Scott.

Bradley is at No. 44 in the FedEx Cup and likely needs a top 10 — he hasn’t had one since the U.S. Open — to be among the 30 players who advance to the Tour Championship in Atlanta to chase the $18 million prize.

He isn’t willing to consider the scenarios until it matters, which is Sunday. Until then, it’s all about try to do win a tournament, just like any week.

“My plan is I’m going to go home and see my kids no matter what on Sunday night,” Bradley said. “I’d love to go to Atlanta. That’s everyone’s goal to start the year.”

Scott started the postseason at No. 77 and tied for fifth in the playoff opener last week just to make it to the second stage. Now he’s at No. 45, giving him a chance. It also meant being paired with Bradley, and they put on quite a show. They combined for 15 birdies.

“He played beautifully today, and I was really just trying to follow his lead,” Scott said. “He kind of had everything going the way he wanted, and most of the time he was teeing off first and I was just trying to follow.”

PGA champion Justin Thomas put a different putter in the bag and responded with a 66 to leave him in the group with former British Open champion Shane Lowry and Harold Varner III.

Xander Schauffele and Collin Morikawa led the group at 67.

Rory McIlroy was the only player from the afternoon who looked to challenge Bradley, and he was doing just that at 6 under with four holes to play. But then he was between clubs on the par-3 15th, tried to hit a soft cut with a 5-iron and put his tee shot into he water. He took three putts from just short of the green, missing a 3-footer, and made triple bogey.

McIlroy was in the group at 68 that included Jordan Spieth and Patrick Cantlay, who won the BMW Championship last year an hour down the road at Caves Valley on his way to capturing the FedEx Cup.

McIlroy was able to accept one bad swing that cost him three shots, especially having missed the cut last week in the FedEx St. Jude Championship.

“Overall the rest of it was pretty good,” he said. “I knew once I got here last weekend, I knew it was a golf course that was going to suit me better than last week. … Pleased with my game. Disappointed with how I finished, but encouraged with the rest of it.”

The course is new to everyone — Delaware has never hosted a PGA Tour event — though Bradley has reason to feel right at home. He won the BMW Championship in 2018 some 20 miles away at Aronimink when he was No. 52 in the FedEx Cup, sending him to Atlanta.

The courses are nothing alike. If anything, Wilmington reminds several players of a “big brother” to Caves Valley, about the same length (7,534 yards) except playing to a par 71.

Find the fairway, fire at the flag. Miss the fairway, and it’s all about trying to get into position. It doesn’t always work out that way, and Schauffele is thankful for that.

He pulled his tee shot so far left on the par-5 14th that he was in shaggy round just in front of the on No. 3. He could see a portion of the green between a television tower, some video equipment and the trees. Schauffele got line-of-sight relief, and his drop happened to be on one of the forward tees. He belted a 3-wood onto the green for birdie.

Will Zalatoris won his first PGA Tour title last week at an ideal time, moving to the top of the FedEx Cup standings. Three holes into the BMW Championship, he went bunker to rough to bunker and then three-putted for a double bogey.

He rallied with four birdies on the back and escaped with a 70. Scottie Scheffler, the No. 1 player in the world coming off a missed cut, still felt scrappy but holed enough putts for a 69.

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