It didn’t look as simple as a year ago, but the drama was just as rich. Patrick Cantlay has achieved a first in PGA Tour history by successfully defending a FedEx Cup playoff event title with his Sunday victory in the 2022 BMW Championship.
Going into the final round with a one-stroke lead over his good friend, Xander Schauffele, and his biggest challenger, Scott Stallings, this title didn’t come easily. After making two bogeys in a three-hole stretch around the bend, Cantlay was two strokes from Stallings’ lead and on the cusp of another close call.
While his 2021 season brought wins and riches, 2022 brought close call after close call. Cantlay finished second three times and went into the week as one of the most consistent in the game, but without a solo win to his name. The breaks have gone in the direction of his playing competitors; he was one revolution away from a playoff win at the WM Phoenix Open and a hidden lie from a playoff extension at the RBC Heritage. On Sunday at Wilmington Country Club, the golf gods finally made amends.
Cantlay battled Stallings on the stretch and found himself in a share of the lead on the 17th tee after dodging bullet after bullet, with Stallings unable to convert countless birdie opportunities. With his tee shot drifting to the right, it was a bounce that eventually went his way that ultimately propelled him to victory.
Destined to end up in the fairway bunker or perhaps the thick rough, Cantlay’s ball took an obscure bounce back into the fairway at 17. While these moments are common during a tournament, it’s what Cantlay did next that defined champion: he took advantage of it. The 30-year-old hit his approach within 6 feet, grabbed the lead himself and didn’t look back like a clean par on the last time he got his hands on the BMW Championship trophy.
Cantlay now has 11 top-10 finishes of the season, the best of his career and the best grade of anyone on the PGA Tour. It was mentioned yesterday that consistency is not often rewarded in the short term, but rather in the long term. Faced with the shortened three-week FedEx Cup playoffs, Cantlay is actually getting the luxury of taking advantage of both.
During his fantastic regular season, he missed adding hardware to his mantle, but what it did do was set him up for this moment. He will enter the Tour Championship in second position behind Scottie Scheffler and start the postseason final with two strokes off the lead at 8 under.
Cantlay made history in Delaware on Sunday with his triumph and now has a chance to add to that in Atlanta. No one has won back-to-back FedEx Cup crowns, and while this will certainly be on the mind of the reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year, the $18 million check he has a realistic chance of adding to his bank account for the second consecutive year. Quality: A+
Here’s the breakdown of the rest of the standings at the 2022 BMW Championship
2. Scott Stallings (-13): He looked like the best player of those who battled for the title for most of the day. Excellent from tee to green, Stallings eventually fell short on the greens as he was unable to convert birdie opportunities on his final four holes, which followed an untimely three-putt from just off the green on the par-3 13th. A win would have meant so much to Stallings, who has been winless for over eight years. Despite the disappointment, there are plenty of positives to take from his performance. He entered the 46th week in the FedEx Cup and will start in 12th position ahead of Justin Thomas and Matt Fitzpatrick, which is somewhat baffling to imagine. Quality: A+
T3. Scottie Scheffler (-11): The world No. 1 went off the rails at the St. Jude Championship, but quickly corrected any mistakes in Memphis. On Sunday, he got his chances and although he came up short, he heads to Atlanta as the top man in the FedEx Cup standings. Starting the week with 10 under and two strokes ahead of Cantlay, he will try to follow in the footsteps of his closest pursuer and fend off the chasing pack. Scheffler has been able to turn his scorching spring into an enviable position at East Lake, but his historic season could be made with the addition of a friendly putter. In his last 10 tournaments, Scheffler has lost seven strokes on the greens — the three times he didn’t, he finished in the top three. Class A-
T5. Corey Conners (-10): Canada’s best player today, Conners entered its 29th week in the FedEx Cup standings. His ball attacks have been a strength of his for a long time and that was clearly reflected on Sunday. After making two bogeys in the middle of his back nine, Conners was reeling and something good had to happen. Well, that happened for the 30-year-old when his iron game kicked-in birdies on three of his last four holes to secure his spot in the Tour Championship.
“It’s really exciting,” Conners said. “It’s always a goal at the start of the year. I feel like I’ve had a solid season. I’m still trying to get back into the winners circle, but a lot of really solid play, giving myself chances and very excited to go back to East Lake.” Class A
T15. Sahith Theegala (-7): After opening his BMW Championship with a 1-over 72, Theegala fought back three consecutive rounds in the 1960s to qualify for the Tour Championship. He mentioned on the televised broadcast that the nerves set in during his warm-up, but they were nowhere to be seen in the home game. Birdied four of his last seven holes on Sunday, Theegala looked well beyond his years of experience and showed the courage and determination of a top 30 player on the PGA Tour.
“Oh, that’s what it’s all about,” Theegala said of his nervousness. “The fact that you’re even in that position to feel nerves is a good thing. I think that’s something I say to a lot of guys is, hey, when you’re nervous, that’s such a good feeling. Imagine if you are not nervous than what you are doing Obviously there is a fine line between severe nervousness and anxiety and comfort and finding that line is difficult But then only pressure is a privilege, and I certainly felt that way today.’ Quality: A+
T15 Aaron Wise (-7): The last man in had a turbulent last lap and could have easily wrapped it up early. Wise made a double bogey on his second hole and straightened the ship in the middle of his round before taking water again. With a double bogey bogey on numbers 14-15, the 26-year-old was able to make three pars in a row to earn his second ever ticket to the Tour Championship. While Wise has made his way to major championships in recent years, his trip to East Lake will see him get an invite to next year’s Masters for the first time since 2019. Rank: B+