Cantlay conquers DeChambeau - Finally

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Putting prowess prevails over power
Posted on
August 31, 2021
M. James Ward in
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes


OWINGS MILLS, MD. There's a long-time golf truism axiom that speaks to the core issue of what makes for a successful golfer. You drive for show but putt for dough. In this age where distance is celebrated mightily, it's crucial to remember that the essence of the game is getting the ball into the hole -- when it counts.

If you can't chip and putt when it matters most -- you don't score -- ergo you don't win.

That was proven again with the final round tussle at the BMW Championship between golf's goliath Bryson DeChambeau and his dogged opponent Patrick Cantlay in the role of the Biblical David -- slaying the giant with a vintage putting display of unimaginable prowess in a magical six-hole playoff.



Cantlay showcased "Patty ice" -- a tagline ascribed to him by members of his gallery saluting his outwardly stoic demeanor in delivering one fantastic clutch putt after another. Utterly machine like in its deadly precision. 

Cantlay claimed the second leg of the FedEx Cup Playoffs by staying within his own zone -- playing his game even when being consistently outdriven by 30 or more yards by Bryson. When the final trio of holes were played in regulation it was the 29-year-old who kept his cool. At the par-5 16th after DeChambeau sunk a birdie putt it was Cantlay needing an 8-foot putt to remain within one shot of Bryson's lead and sinking it.

At the 17th it appeared Cantlay was doomed -- finding water on his approach to the par-3 hole. DeChambeau was short with his approach and after a dreadful chip that barely advanced the ball onto the green was unable to secure par with a missed putt. Cantlay then faced a must sink effort from 8-feet to keep him within one shot of Bryson. Again, the ball found the bottom of the cup. Many players after hitting into the water would have simply mailed the result in and accepted the inevitable. To Cantlay's considerable credit he did not and his putter was the weapon that kept him going.

At the 18th, Cantlay played his approach shot 30 yards behind DeChambeau's mighty blast from the tee. Patrick's approach was 21 feet from the cup. With Bryson no more than 12 feet away it was clear that for Cantlay to have any hope he would need to make his putt and have DeChambeau miss his. The effort from Cantlay was a putt that split the hole in half. DeChambeau missed his and the players then engaged in an epic chess match for six holes.


Throughout the five holes it was DeChambeau seemingly on the verge of winning but time after time Cantlay provided the final word in keeping matters going via his flatstick.

At the 6th playoff hole -- playing the 18th for the fourth time -- both men reached the green in regulation with Cantlay 21 feet from the hole and DeChambeau no more than 7 feet away. Amazingly, Cantlay's putt was unerringly true and for the first time he showed a bit of emotion with a fist pump. DeChambeau had to make his downhill putt to extend the playoff but, as had happened in earlier instances, the putter failed him and the epic mano-a-mano dogfight ended.

The playoff was the 14th this season and the fourth in a row but this one will be remembered for quite some time because the golf was that riveting and the contrasting styles of the two combatants could not be more differently pronounced.


The PGA Tour said it was the best statistical performance of putting in a tournament since the "Strokes Gained" category became available in 2014. How amazing? Picking up 14.5 shots on the field with his putter Cantlay simply outdistanced the finest 70 players in the world. Mindboggling.

In terms of the total putting distance, Cantlay made just over 537 feet of putts in the 72-holes -- becoming only the 3rd winner since 2003 to sink over 500 feet of putts. More importantly, it was his putting prowess during the various playoff holes that only accentuated his accomplishment given how each putt was an absolute must make.

"I played really well all week. At the beginning of the week, I didn't realize it would take that many under par to just force a playoff. But I hit a lot of good shots today, and it was just enough," said Cantlay.



How good has Cantlay been this PGA Tour season? He won in late 2020 at the Zozo at Sherwood -- taking down the likes of Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas. His second win came at the Memorial. His victim that time -- Collin Morikawa. Now for his 3rd win he takes down DeChambeau. That's heady stuff indeed. Pressure pack moments do not seem to faze Cantlay and it now appears he is developing a form of consistency that will ratchet him up the world rankings. In the past it was the issue of consistency that dogged him but now he seems to be rounding into form.

Winning the BMW was his 5th PGA Tour title and Patrick now has an opportunity at this week's Tour Championship to not only claim the FedEx Cup but push himself to the front of the line for Tour Player of the Year honors.

USA Ryder Cup Captain Steve Stricker needs team members capable in being able to handle the most pressure packed moments with the matches coming up in late September. Cantlay showed everyone he's fully capable in doing that -- even as a Ryder Cup rookie.


Cantlay was asked in the post press conference how the putter felt in his hands and his message was as clear as the putts he made.

"Yeah, it felt great. I actually switched to that putter through two rounds last week, so I think I took it out on Saturday last week, and I have been working with the guys over at Scotty Cameron all year since I got into this new putter around maybe Wells Fargo was the first week I put this model in.

Finally have one that feels absolutely perfect, and I can't thank those guys over at Scotty Cameron, Paul Vizanko and José, enough. They just sent me a ton of putters, and I got the magic one now."

The magic one -- indeed. DeChambeau's frustration mounted as his efforts to close out the persistent Cantlay just grew and grew. Cantlay was like the junkyard dog who grabs on and does not let go. DeChambeau has plenty of teeth marks on his muscular legs to prove that point.

Cantlay showed a bit of emotion with the stirring putt he made on the 6th playoff hole accentuated by a demonstrative fist pump. He also made it a point to highlight how important the raucous fans were at Caves Valley and the central role they played in his success. 

"It's so nice to be back with fans, and they were just so supportive all day. They've been supportive for the last four days. Just the chants of Paddy or "Paddy Ice," I'm hearing it all week, and it's fun. It's great to have them back, and they were awesome today."


In this age when power is celebrated to the point of exhaustion. It's central to remember putting dexterity has been and continues to be the great equalizer. All of the greats in the game demonstrated the ability to not only get into position with shotmaking from tee-to-green, but making crucial putts when the situation demands it.

"Patty ice" reinforced the central aspect of golf -- getting the ball into the hole is the separation factor. Power alone can carry a player a long way -- no pun intended -- but failure to finish matters off allows opponents to stick around.

How well both DeChambeau and Cantlay know that. The performance at Caves was golf at its finest and the best thus far. 

Onward to East Lake.

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About M. James Ward

A GWAA and MGWA member, the 66-year-old from the USA has covered golf in all facets since 1980, notably the major championships and other high level events. He has played over 2,000 courses globally and has competed in USGA Championships.

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