Patrick Cantlay’s journey from top amateur to PGA Tour winner has been a long and winding path that includes injury and tragedy. However, on Sunday in the shadow of the Las Vegas strip, Cantlay outdueled Whee Kim and Alex Cejka over two playoff holes to hoist the trophy.
— Titleist (@Titleist) November 6, 2017
Patrick Cantlay won the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open on Sunday in a playoff for the first victory in a PGA Tour career mostly derailed by a severe back injury.
The 25-year-old former UCLA star hit from behind a tree and got up-and-down for par from off the back of the 18th green to beat Alex Cejka and Whee Kim on the second extra hole.
“I knew that I’d be able to get to where I wanted to be if I felt healthy,” Cantlay said. “If I felt like I didn’t have pain and I could practice and prepare for tournaments. I know how to practice and prepare for tournaments, so I can do what I want. I feel like I can play well and compete with anybody.”
Cantlay bogeyed the final two holes of regulation for a 5-under 67 to get in at 9-under 275 at windy TPC Summerlin. Cejka shot a 63 more than two hours before Cantlay and Kim — playing together in the third-to-last group — finished the round.
The three played the 456-yard, par-4 18th twice in the playoff, matching bogeys the first time. On the second extra hole, Cantlay escaped the trees in the right rough, hitting a 4-iron from 185 yards.
“I felt like as long as I kept it below the tree branch that was in front of me and cut it enough, I felt like it would go in a pretty decent spot,” Cantlay said. “I maybe didn’t cut it as much as I wanted to. I think the rough stopped it from being able to spin and get any cut on it, but it ended up in a good spot. It was a good shot.”
Cantlay broke through to win after a remarkable return last season from the back problems. Out of golf since 2013, he didn’t miss a cut and made it to the Tour Championship while playing only 12 events. Part of that was due to an ankle injury that slowed him for two months.
“There’s not a lot of give up in me,” Cantlay said. “I never really thought about giving it up. I thought maybe there was a chance my back would never feel good enough to play again. But, fortunately, I feel great. I have a good program. I figured out a way to feel good all the time. It’s all good. I’m happy to be playing.”
Cantlay didn’t decide to enter Las Vegas a week ago Friday when he was at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai. He earned $1,224,000, a two-year exemption and moved into the top 50 in world.
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