For seven nights Cantlay slept on the lead for the Tour Championship, the season-ending tournament at East Lake Golf Club that doubled as the FedEx Cup Playoffs finale, and never succumbed to the weight of pressure.
On Monday he’ll wake up $15 million richer.
By way of his six-hole playoff win against Bryson DeChambeau in the BMW Championship a week ago, where he earned his new nickname for his cool and collected ways, Cantlay was armed with a two-stroke lead to start the first round due to the staggered scoring system used for the final event of the playoffs.
And no one got past him a Sunday later.
In the final round, where Cantlay and world No. 1 Jon Rahm became a two-man race late in the day, basically playing for $10 million (the difference between the first-place prize money of $15 million and the second-place prize money of $5 million), the stoic Cantlay never buckled.
He and his magical putter canned a 6-footer for birdie on the 16th to get two clear of Rahm, the only player to ever get into a tie with Cantlay over the four days (and that came in the third round). Then Cantlay dug deep to make another 6-footer, this one for bogey on the 17th, to stay one shot ahead of Rahm. And on the 579-yard, par-5 18th, Cantlay had to step up after Rahm rifled a mid-iron from 232 yards to just 18-feet past the hole in the fringe. Knowing he needed to make at least a birdie, Cantlay, after he hit his best drive of the day which went 361 yards, ripped a 6-iron form 218 yards to 11 feet. After Rahm scared the hole with his chip, Cantlay putted to six inches and tapped in for the winning birdie and the $15 million grand prize.
“I played great today,” said Cantlay, who went T11-W-W in the three playoff events. “It hasn’t even sunk in yet. I just kept telling myself to focus and lock in and I did a great job of that today. It was tough (sleeping on the lead). It was the longest lead I’ve ever held. But I just tried to stay, day after day, in the present, and I did an amazing job of that this week because the last couple days I made some mistakes I don’t usually make and I was able to really center myself and hit a lot of good shots when I needed to.”
Cantlay closed with a 69 to finish at 21 under.
Rahm shot 68 to finish at 20 under. Rahm started the first round four shots back and his 266 total tied for the lowest this week with Kevin Na. Cantlay shot 269.
But Cantlay earned his starting position and didn’t relinquish it en route to his sixth PGA Tour title. When asked if he felt he won the tournament because he tied for the lowest total, Rahm was emphatic in his response.
“No, because I didn’t,” he said. “That’s the reason why we have this system we have. In scoring when they show you the sheets and points, it felt really weird to have this feeling of disappointment of not winning on a day you are making $5 million. I gave it my all. It wasn’t enough.
“I shot my lowest score ever for four days on this golf course, which has usually been a challenge for me. And Patrick played great golf, and he was four shots ahead of me, and even though I might have been the better man over the week, he earned it. He played amazing. That up-and-down after missing the green on 17, the second shot on 18 to almost make it is even more impressive.
“I think you can say he won this. He played amazing golf.”