DUBLIN, Ohio – There may have been more twists than a Hollywood blockbuster but ultimately Patrick Cantlay’s wild ride ended with a second Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide win and the FedExCup lead.
Cantlay picked up his fourth PGA TOUR victory and second Memorial Tournament (2019) title in the last three seasons by outlasting Collin Morikawa in a playoff, draining a crucial par putt of 11-feet, nine-inches before his opponent failed to match from 6 feet.
Both players scratched out rollercoaster 1-under 71s on Sunday to finish 13 under and force extra holes. Only two other players, Texan Scottie Scheffler (70) and South African Branden Grace (71), had realistic shots at the title throughout the day.
It was a stunning turnaround from less than 24 hours earlier when all players finished Round 3 well back of defending champion Jon Rahm. But Rahm’s six-shot lead was rendered moot when he had to withdraw following a positive COVID-19 test.
“I’ll definitely remember it slightly different. But the way it felt today, it felt no different. It is a very unfortunate situation and not anything I would wish on anybody. (Jon) played so great for the first three rounds. So there’s a little something that I can’t quite put my finger on that makes it feel a little different but I really hit a lot of clutch solid shots today and so I think I’ll remember that mostly,” Cantlay said of the circumstances.
Cantlay lost the lead three times Sunday, missing some critical putts and seemingly crucial times. But the 29-year-old stepped up big time on the 17th hole with a 23-foot birdie to join Morikawa at the top. This came after a shelter in place rain delay with a heavy downpour buffeting the course.
The Californian missed a chance from similar range to win it all on the final hole of regulation but prevailed on the first extra hole to once again share the ultimate handshake with tournament host and legend Jack Nicklaus.
From the time he won the Jack Nicklaus Award as the best collegiate player in America in 2011, the two have had a kinship. Nicklaus went as far to say Cantlay, and all of the other previous winners of the award, are “in many ways my children.”
“It’s always special coming off the 18th green and shaking his hand. We have a great connection and we are, I would say, good friends at this point, and so that makes it just a little more special,” Cantlay said. “He’s taken me under his wing and to do it at his place with the advice and encouragement that he’s given me over the years is very special for me.”
With his second win of the season (ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP @ SHERWOOD) Cantlay rocketed to the top of the FedExCup standings – amazing considering he missed four cuts in his previous seven events.
“It’s a byproduct of doing my process and playing well at tournaments and winning tournaments,” Cantlay said.
“Somehow I always feel like I badly need a win and a win will make things just a little bit better. The last few months have not been the best golf I’ve played and the interesting thing is when I think about it, I always felt maybe a little closer than the result.
“It was a shot here or a shot there, an up-and-down or a putt… There was just a stretch where the cookie kind of crumbled the wrong way a number of weeks in a row. But I’ve been putting in some good work with Jamie Mulligan my coach and I think we’re on the right path and my game feels really good right now.”
The lead pair started the round tied at the top and three clear of the nearest chasers but were instantly out of sorts. Cantlay bogeyed two of the first three holes but managed a 44-foot birdie between. Morikawa bogeyed two of his first four bringing Scheffler and Grace into contention.
But despite uncharacteristically hitting just half of the 18 greens in regulation on Sunday, Morikawa looked set for his own double down effort at Muirfield Village having won the one-off Workday Charity Open at the venue last year.
Morikawa’s birdies on 11 and 15 pulled him ahead of Cantlay, but when he failed to find the putting surface with approach shots on 17 and 18 Cantlay pounced. Despite clutch par saves on those two occasions another missed green in the playoff on 18 once again left his short game under pressure and this time the putt to extend didn’t drop.
“Obviously it sucks to lose a playoff. But today was a grind and that’s all I could focus on. I couldn’t really hit a green for my life,” Morikawa, who made an impressive 109-feet of putts in the final round said.
“To get into a playoff to make the putts I needed to make, just to keep myself in it, I’m proud of myself. I didn’t feel like I really ever played this game where I’m missing every green, chipping, making 10-footers. I like it the other way where I hit it a lot closer. But it’s going to be something I’m going to learn from a lot and just look back and see how I can grow from this.”
Despite starting Sunday three back of the lead, Scheffler had it to himself after a birdie on the fifth hole only to bogey the next. Chasing his first career win, an untimely shank on the ninth hole led to another dropped shot.
But the 24-year-old refused to quit and birdies on 14 and 15 moved him within a shot of the lead. Needing a birdie on the last Scheffler attacked the pin but came up short and couldn’t get up and down for par, falling two shots short of the playoff.
“I felt like I played pretty good. I made a few silly mistakes here and there but overall I felt pretty good about how I played,” Scheffler said after collecting his sixth top-10 of the season.
“Gave myself a chance to win down the stretch, I just wasn’t able to hit the ball close enough to the hole and then wasn’t able to make the putts I needed to.”
Grace was one back at the turn but dropped three shots in his next four holes to fall out of the mix and ultimately settle for fourth place.
DUBLIN, Ohio – Collin Morikawa and Patrick Cantlay will look to double down on their success at Muirfield Village. The two former winners here are tied atop the leaderboard, three clear of their nearest competitors, entering the final round of the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide.
Morikawa’s 6-under 66 and Cantlay’s 4-under 68 on Saturday left the pair tied at 12 under par. They’ve had success at Muirfield Village, but their position atop the leaderboard is still a surprise. Defending Memorial champion Jon Rahm had seemingly built a six-shot lead after shooting 64, but then was forced to withdraw from the tournament after testing positive for COVID-19.
Cantlay won the Memorial two years ago, while Morikawa claimed last year’s Workday Charity Open, which was also played at Muirfield Village, in a playoff with Justin Thomas.
South African Branden Grace (67) and Texan Scottie Scheffler (69) are 9 under and tied for third. Max Homa is in fifth place at 6 under after shooting 72.
Morikawa produced eight birdies and just two bogeys on Saturday with a near ace on the par-3 fourth hole the highlight of the round. His shot from 208 yards actually dipped down inside the hole briefly before popping out. Ironically, the same thing happened a year ago at the Workday Charity Open on the same hole.
“I want to go see the replay right now. It looked pretty good from my end. It landed a lot closer than I thought, but I don’t know speed-wise how hard it was going in because it was about a foot away from the hole. That would have been really cool, but what are you going to do?” Morikawa said.
“Today was really solid. The couple bogeys I had were just kind of poor bogeys. But it’s going to happen out here, especially if you’re missing the fairways. And overall, I was hitting some really quality shots.
“I stuck to my game and stuck to the game plan. Out here with these soft greens you can get a little aggressive with wedges and put yourself in bad spots, but I thought I played pretty smart and I’ve got to do that tomorrow.”
Cantlay’s round featured five birdies and just a lone bogey.
“I thought I played really well. I made a lot of clutch putts on the front and didn’t make as many as I would have liked on the back but closed with a good one. My game’s in a good spot. I hit a lot of solid shots today and played really well. So I’m pretty pleased,” Cantlay said.
“I really like this golf course and see the golf course really well, and so all the good memories I have here, it’s just easier to stand up and visualize the shot that I want to hit. It’s nice when you have that feeling around a place like I do here.”
Both players are also chasing a second victory of the season with Cantlay winning THE ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP @ SHERWOOD last fall and Morikawa saluting at the World Golf Championships-Workday Championship at The Concession. They would be the fourth multiple winner this season, joining Bryson DeChambeau, Stewart Cink and Jason Kokrak.
Cantlay is currently 10th in the FedExCup and projects to take over the lead in the standings with a victory while Morikawa sits 23rd and projects inside the Comcast Business TOUR TOP 10 should he close the deal on Sunday.