It doesn’t look as easy as it did a year ago, but the drama is richer. Patrick Cantlay became the first in PGA Tour history to successfully defend his FedEx Cup Playoff event title with his victory on Sunday at the 2022 BMW Championship.
Entering the final round with a one-stroke lead over his good friend Xander Schauffele and his biggest challenger Scott Stallings, the title didn’t come easy. After making two bogeys in three holes around the turn, Cantley found himself two strokes off the lead established by Stallings and on top of another close call.
While his 2021 season brought wins and riches, 2022 brought close call after close call. A three-time runner-up, Cantlay entered the week among the most consistent in the sport, but without a single win to his credit. Breaks have gone in the direction of his playing rivals; He was one revolution away from a playoff victory at the WM Phoenix Open, and a plugged lie from extending the playoff at the RBC Heritage. Sunday at Wilmington Country Club, the golf gods finally made amends.
After battling Stallings and blocking bullet after bullet with Stallings unable to convert multiple birdie chances on the 17th tee, Cantlay found a share of the lead. For his tee shot drifting to the right, it was a bounce that eventually went his way, which eventually led him to victory.
Contley’s ball on 17 took a vague hop back onto the fairway, ending up in a fairway bunker or perhaps thick rough. While these moments happen often throughout a match, it’s what Kantle did next that defines the champions: He took advantage of it. Hitting his approach to within 6 feet, the 30-year-old held on to the lead and never looked back as he gracefully took back the BMW Championship trophy for the final time.
Contley now has 11 top-10 finishes on the season, the best of his career and the best mark of anyone on the PGA Tour. It was mentioned yesterday that persistence is not rewarded in the short term, but rather in the long term. Facing a shortened three-week FedEx Cup playoffs, Candle actually offers the luxury of benefiting from both.
He missed adding hardware to his mantle during his impressive regular season. He will enter the Tour Championship in second place behind Scotty Scheffler and start the postseason finale at 8 under.
Contley made history with his win in Delaware on Sunday, and now he has a chance to add to that in Atlanta. No man has ever won back-to-back FedEx Cup crowns, and it’s certainly on the mind of the PGA Tour Player of the Year, so there’s a realistic chance he’ll add an $18 million check to his bank account. Second year in a row. Grade: A+
Here’s a breakdown of the remaining leaderboards in the 2022 BMW Championship
2. Scott Stallings (-13): He looked the best of the title contenders on most days. Elegant from tee to green, Stallings eventually fell on the greens as he failed to convert birdie chances on his final four holes, which followed an untimely three-putt from the green on the par-3 13th. A win would mean more for Stallings, who hasn’t won in more than eight years. Despite the disappointment, there are plenty of positives to take from his performance. He enters Week 46 at the FedEx Cup and will likely exit 12th, ahead of the likes of Justin Thomas and Matt Fitzpatrick, which is somewhat mind-boggling to imagine. Grade: A+
T3. Scotty Scheffler (-11): The world No. 1 got off on the wrong foot at the St. Jude Championships, but was quick to right any wrongs in Memphis. He’s got his chances on Sunday, and even if he comes up short, he’ll head into Atlanta atop the FedEx Cup standings. Starting the week at 10 under and two sides ahead of Cantlay, he will try to follow in the footsteps of his nearest pursuer and hold off the chasing pack. Scheffler was able to turn his scorching spring into an enviable position at East Lake, but his historic season could be built on by adding a friendly putter. In his last 10 tournaments, Scheffler has lost strokes on the greens seven times — the three times he didn’t, he finished in the top three. Grade: A-
T5. Corey Connors (-10): The best player to come out of Canada these days, Connors enters Week 29 in the FedEx Cup standings. His bowling has long been his strength and it came through in a big way on Sunday. After making two bogeys midway through his back nine, Conners was reeling and something good had to happen. That happened for the 30-year-old as his iron game set up kick-in birdies on three of his final four holes to secure his place at the Tour Championship.
“It’s very exciting,” Conners said. “It’s always a goal at the beginning of the year. I feel like I’ve had a solid season. Still trying to get back in the winner’s circle, but a lot of solid play, gave me some opportunities, and really excited. Going back to East Lake.” Grade: A
T15. Sahid Thikala (-7): After opening his BMW Championship with a 1-over 72, Degala battled through three consecutive rounds to qualify for the Tour Championship in the 60s. He noted that he had televised the nerves settling during his warm-up, but they were nowhere to be seen in the home stretch. Making birdies on four of his final seven holes on Sunday, Deegala looked well beyond his years of experience and displayed the poise and determination displayed by a top 30 player on the PGA Tour.
“Ah, that’s what this is all about,” Deekala said about her nervousness. “It’s a good thing to even be in a position where you feel the nerves. I think what I tell a lot of guys is, hey, if you’re nervous, that’s a good feeling. Imagine not being nervous. , then what do you do. Obviously, intense anxiety and nervousness and comfort. There’s a fine line between and it’s hard to find that line. But yes, pressure is just a privilege, and I felt that way today.” Grade: A+
T15 Aaron Wise (-7): Last Man had a tumultuous final round that could have easily been bagged early on. Making double bogey on his second hole, Wise righted the ship midway through his round before taking to the water again. Double bogey-bogey no. At 14-15, the 26-year-old made three pars in a row to punch his second ticket to a Tour Championship. Wise has been able to move to major championships in recent years, and with his trip to East Lake, he will earn an invitation to next year’s Masters for the first time since 2019. Grade: B+
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