Who Is This Kid?

You may recall that when I posted the Dartboard picks for the U.S. Open last week, I reduced the field from 156 to 144 to eliminate the possibility that any of the twelve amateurs would be picked. It was in the name of guarding the purpose of the exercise in the first place: testing the depth of the fields in PGA Tour tournaments.

And while I protected the purity of the experiment, much to my delight, three of the amateurs actually went on to make the cut And in the Dartboard wrap-up, I acknowledged all three individually. The low amateur was Patrick Cantlay who just finished his freshman year at UCLA and finished T21.

I don’t know if it was a result of his Open performance or not, but he was granted a sponsor’s exemption for this week’s Travelers in Hartford. So lo and behold, as the Dartboard was going through its completely random, method-to-its-madness for Hartford, who does it pick as one of its ten players? Yup, Cantlay.

So my first reaction was, “Oh, no. Amateurs again!” But then I decided that he’d acquitted himself well enough in the Open that I should just leave him in and see how he did. I figured that he earned it.

And guess who’s leading the tournament in Hartford at the 36-hole mark? Yup again, Patrick Cantlay. That would have been enough, but he also had a 4-shot lead overnight until the last of Friday’s rounds finished this morning. And not only that, he shot a flawless, 10-under par 60—a 60!—to do it. He was the first amateur to shoot a 60 on the PGA Tour and only the 24th player in the history of the Tour to shoot 60. And his card was flawless with 8 birdies and an eagle. From a 19-year-old kid. Think he has a future? You think UCLA is going to have a good year this year?

What made it more possible was the rain that pelted the area all day Thursday softening the course up. Since he had a late tee time Thursday, he didn’t even get to play because of the rain delay. So Friday he had to play 36 holes. Or I guess I should say, he got to play 36 holes. When you get going on a roll, you never want to come off the course. He shot 3-under in his first round and then got himself to his 13-under lead in the afternoon. By the time he finally got to play, the greens were still pure, but slower, so you didn’t have to be so careful. Just see the line, stroke it on the line and it would go in. In Cantlay’s case, a lot.

Q. You said you were comfortable on the greens. The greens are rolling at speeds that are less than what you’re used to, especially from the Open. Can you talk about that?

Yeah. I struggled this morning with it. I like really fast greens, to be honest. The faster the better, and these are kind of slow. But you know, once I started getting the pace down, the putts started to fall. And the more putts I made, I felt more and more comfortable.

One of the things that he did to facilitate his performance was to not have any expectations about it. Expectations just take you out of the present.

Q. What were your expectations on Wednesday for this week?

I tried to have no expectations, just so I didn’t limit myself. And you know, you can’t expect to win, but I just was going to have no expectations, try and play the golf course as best I could, and I knew if I played to my capability I’d have a good finish.

His formula for his good play strikes a familiar refrain. And it turns out, this isn’t the first 60 he’s shot, so this was no fluke.

Q. When did you realize sort of what you were doing out there? Did you have any idea? What was your mindset as you were going along out there? And two, have you ever played a round as close to what you shot out there today?

I was just trying to stay in the moment. So as far as realizing what I was doing, I was just, you know, trying to make good swings and put a good stroke on every putt.

I actually, I shot 60 maybe three, four months ago at my home course, Virginia Country Club in Long Beach. That was 11-under. No 59. Not yet.

To give you an idea of just how extraordinary this would be if he can keep this going, there have only been four amateurs in modern history to win a PGA Tour event: Phil Mickelson, Tucson Open, 1991; Scott Verplank, Western Open, 1985; Doug Sanders, Canadian Open, 1956; and Gene Littler, San Diego Open, 1954. Plus, if he does pull this off, he’ll be the youngest winner in PGA Tour history by about six months.

So congratulations to him again, I know I’ll be watching. They have to finish the second round before the players can be re-paired for the third round. But we should be able to see him in the CBS broadcast window.

Diana D’Alessio Update

On Thursday, Diana D’Alessio shot a flawless, 4-under 68 in the LPGA Championship to wind up tied for 3rd, one stroke behind Paula Creamer and another one behind the leader, Yani Tseng.

It was quite an accomplishment because her game has been in the doldrums for a couple of years now. So could she follow that up yesterday? As you know from yesterday’s post, by the time dawn arrived on the West Coast, she had finished her front nine and was already 4-over on the day with a double bogey.

But she sucked it up and birdied her 11th and 12th holes to get it back to 2-under. But she tripped within sight of the finish line with a double on 17 and a bogey on 18.

But her tenacity pushed her across the line and she made the cut by one. It’s a truly great thing to watch a Tour pro fight to the death. And for her effort, she now has two more days of life.

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