LAS VEGAS – Time and time again this gambling mecca proves there is no such thing as a lock.
Patrick Cantlay is putting that reality to the test.
Just as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, Cantlay is a certainty to contend in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. In his only three starts in the tournament, Cantlay won in 2017, finished runner-up to Bryson DeChambeau in 2018 and lost in a playoff to Kevin Na last year.
He’s back in a familiar spot again after Friday’s second round – atop the leaderboard. After opening with a 63, Cantlay shot a 6-under-par 65 to move to 14 under on a day where there was only a whisper of wind and plenty of sunshine.
“Obviously with the success I’ve had it’s easy to be confident around here,” Cantlay said. “I just like the golf course. I think that it sets up for a lot of draw tee shots, and if you play from the fairway you have a lot opportunities.”
Joining Cantlay at 14 under was Martin Laird, who eagled the final hole to cap an inward 6-under 29 en route to his 63. Two shots back among the early leaders were James Hahn (66), Nate Lashley (67) and Sergio Garcia (64), who won last week’s Sanderson Farms Championship.
Cantlay is in position to join some select company. In the past 60 years, only four players have finished first or second in four consecutive years in a tournament – Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Gary Player.
“That’s a good list,” Cantlay said. “That would be great (to join them). Every time I come here I feel like I have a chance to win. It doesn’t surprise me because I really like the golf course, but obviously I have to execute.
“I have so far, so I’m looking forward to the weekend.”
Cantlay has now played 14 rounds in the tournament at TPC Summerlin and has failed to break par just once. His career scoring average on this desert track is 66.28. And his competitors better beware – Cantlay’s scoring average in the third round is even lower at 65.33.
The No. 13 in the world is seeking his third PGA Tour titles. He is a perfect fit for TPC Summerlin as he hits the ball long and straight, is highly accurate with his irons and is a solid putter.
He also has the ideal mindset for the course.
“Around here you need to make so many birdies, and I’m just used to it out here,” said Cantlay, who made four consecutive red numbers around the turn. “It never feels like I’m stressing because it feels like there are so many birdie holes. It actually allows me to be patient.
“I started the day today I was even par through the first six holes and it feels like you’re way behind because you need to make so many birdies. But I knew there were plenty of opportunities the rest of the way, and I was able to capitalize coming down the last three or four holes.
“I’m in a good spot come the weekend.”
No surprise there.