Amateur Cantlay avoids bogeys for stellar round at the AT&T National

UCLA's Patrick Cantlay, the NCAA Division I player of the year and freshman of the year, shot a bogey-free, 1-under-par 69 at the AT&T National on Friday. "I felt comfortable," he said.
UCLA's Patrick Cantlay, the NCAA Division I player of the year and freshman of the year, shot a bogey-free, 1-under-par 69 at the AT&T National on Friday. "I felt comfortable," he said. (MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer)
Posted: July 02, 2011

Patrick Cantlay kept his cool while all those around him were losing theirs.

Playing a mature game, well beyond his age, Cantlay walked off, his head held high, with a 1-under-par 69 at the AT&T National at Aronimink on Friday.

He had held his own on a course that left Jim Furyk looking at his shoes and also chewed up and spit out the feel-good-story of the tourney, Erik Compton - the golfer who survived two heart transplants - who finished 12-over.

Cantlay shot a bogey-free round on a tough course, as many veterans admitted they thought that the bogeys were inevitable.

"I felt comfortable," Cantlay said, calmly describing his round. "It was pretty boring. A lot of pars. A lot of tap-in pars. One birdie on the par-5 that I two-putted on. Pretty steady golf. I played solid."

Short. Sweet. And it sounded so simple.

If you don't know Cantlay's name by now, you weren't paying attention at this year's U.S. Open or last week's Travelers Championship.

Having qualified for the Open, Cantlay finished tied for 21st with an even-par score of 284 at Congressional. And last week at the Travelers in Connecticut, Cantlay led after posting a 10-under 60 in the second round. It was a course record and a PGA Tour record for an amateur. Eventually, he finished tied for 24th (11-under).

"I've played great and I've had a lot of fun," Cantlay said. "It was cool being around the guys for the first time [at the U.S. Open]. But after that, I kind of settled down and just worried about my own stuff."

He says he's playing with blinders on, so he doesn't try to compare himself to Rory McIlroy or K.J. Choi - the winner of the U.S. Open and the man who is leading the AT&T National after two days, respectively.

"I always expect a lot of myself, but not relative to the field," said Cantlay, who shot an even-par 70 in the first round with three birdies and three bogeys. "So just how I'm going to play the golf course, I expect a lot out of myself. Then, everything will take care of itself from there."

If you look closer, there are clues that reveal the soon-to-be sophomore at UCLA as just an amateur.

His caddie is his best friend, Chris, who goes to Arizona. Not Steve Williams.

And, as the sun began to duck and hide, Cantlay admitted that he was tired after being on the road playing for five weeks straight. Before the Open, Cantlay helped the Bruins reach the NCAA golf championship, winning four tournaments during the season and then taking home the Jack Nicklaus Award, which is given to the nation's top collegiate golfer.

Then he received a sponsor's exemption for the Travelers and one for this week's AT&T National.

Five straight weeks of high-level competition is rare for any professional, let alone a college kid.

"I've enjoyed every minute of it," Cantlay added, maybe to remind everyone it's worth the exhaustion. "I was lucky enough to get some sponsor's exemptions into the tour events and I'm definitely going to take those. Wouldn't miss it."

The 2011 NCAA National Freshman of the Year, and a Los Alamitos, Calif., native, Cantlay isn't planning on ending his college years early. He says he'll stick out his last three years at UCLA, then eventually turn pro.

Since golf is a unique sport in that it pits the athlete in a struggle against the course, then winning is just comparative to your peers. As evidenced through two rounds at Aronimink, sometimes the course wins.

The definition of who constitutes one of Cantlay's "peers" seems vague at this point, especially if he keeps shooting low scores on the tour.

"Anytime you can play with the best fields in the world, it's going to help you as far as your confidence level and knowing what it takes," Cantlay said.

"My game feels good and it has felt good for a while. If I roll some putts in, I can shoot some good scores."


Contact staff writer Tim Rohan

at trohan@phillynews.com

or @timrohan on Twitter.

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