Cantlay's heater continues, the tour's road warrior is on top and a celebrity hits the shot of the day
Patrick Cantlay, as he is known to do, is near the top of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am leader board thanks to a six-under 65 at Monterey Peninsula Thursday. He shook off a pair of bogeys on the front to string together five birdies on the back, highlighted by red figures over the final three holes. It is the ninth round for Cantlay in 2022, and he’s shot 68 or better in eight of them.
“Yeah, I started off strong and had a weird middle of the round, definitely gave a few away. And then closed really strong,” Cantlay said Thursday afternoon. “So finishing with three in a row on this golf course is a really nice finish, and I'm happy with my start for the week.”
It’s well established that Cantlay has been a tour de force over the past two years. So we’re here not to talk about performance, but invitations. Specifically, Cantlay’s revelation that he’s never played in a member-guest.
Following his round, the reigning FedEx Cup champ was asked if the tournament’s pro-am format is akin to competing in a member-guest. Cantlay could not reply in the affirmative simply because he has no such experience.
“I haven't played very many member-guests, maybe not even one, to be honest,” Cantlay replied.
Against the fraternal backdrop of the PGA Tour, Cantlay operates as a lone wolf. He has no stomach for ceremony and formality, so there is a 99.99 percent chance this is of his own volition. However, on the fluke that Cantlay has never played because, well, he’s never been invited, nothing can bring the sport together in these trying times like a campaign to get the man to a member-guest this summer. After all, this is a guy who shot 60 at a tour event as an amateur; think of the damage he could do at your 6,300-yard goat track?
Besides, the team aspect clearly speaks to him, evident by tying the Pebble Beach course record (62) during last year’s tournament.
“I'm definitely more engaged, yeah, with my partner than I am with maybe some competition,” Cantlay said about adjusting to the pro-am dynamic. “But other than that, it's a normal week, except the rounds take 45 minutes to an hour longer.”
We don’t ask for much. But we do ask this: Someone convince this cat to tee it up at their M-G this summer. And please, take video.
Here is what you missed from Day 1 at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Hoge up top
Tom Hoge’s profile says he plays out of Fargo, N.D., but really he plays out of his suitcase.
Hoge has already played in a tour-high 11 events this season (out of 13 total events). Suppose that’s not too surprising; only Sungjae Im and Brian Stuard made more starts on tour last season, and Hoge finished second to Sungjae in appearances three years back. But the 32-year-old is beginning to be known for more than just being a road warrior. Hoge turned in a lights-out display at Pebble Beach, racking up nine birdies—including six straight—against zero bogeys for a Thursday-best 63.
“I mean, it's hard to be in a bad mood out here,” Hoge said. “Pebble Beach and perfect weather is about as good as it gets. So it was a lot of fun. I feel like I've been playing well. I've been excited to get out here on the golf course and feel like at Pebble Beach is a golf course that suits me well. So I was excited to get out here this week.”
A solid second-shot game has fueled Hoge’s rise this season (he entered the week sixth in strokes gained/approach), but it was his flatstick that was crucial Thursday, gaining him nearly four shots on the field on the greens. Interestingly, the short game has historically been Hoge’s weakness; he ranks 157th in SG/putting this year and was 130th last season. He attributed Thursday’s reversal to a new putter.
“Yeah, I made some putts,” Hoge said. “To see one go in right off the bat today on the first hole was huge for me. I felt like I made a lot of good putts there today, but I felt like I was very close last week, just a very hard golf course out there. I drove it in the rough a few too many times and just didn't make enough putts.”
There’s a lot of golf left, and Hoge—whose last win came on the Mackenzie Tour in 2011—knows all too well the thin line between competing on Sunday and making it to Sunday. “The margins are so small between missing a cut and being in contention so you just try to keep a positive attitude and just keep plugging away,” he said. But mostly a rank-and-file player over his first seven seasons on tour, Hoge entered the week 12th in the FedEx Cup thanks to a runner-up finish at The American Express and a T-4 at the RSM Classic, and he’s well on his way to padding that résumé with Thursday’s start. And it’s easy to romanticize what a win would mean and what doors it would open.
Including, maybe, to his own home for some time off.
Eclectic leader board
It’s no secret this year’s has been depleted of starpower thanks to a coinciding event overseas, with the Pebble field taking additional hits earlier in the week with Will Zalatoris (COVID-19) and Daniel Berger (back injury) withdrawing. But the players that are here delivered, and delivered with vigor.
Alongside Hoge and Cantlay as Round 1 stars are Seamus Power at eight under with Jonas Blixt and Austin Smotherman at seven. Smotherman, a recent Korn Ferry Tour graduate and college teammate of Bryson DeChambeau, had two eagles on the day while playing Pebble Beach, including at the famed par-5 18th.
“I only played the front nine this week, so the back nine at Pebble is my first time seeing it and so first time playing 18 at all this week,” Smotherman said. “And to make a 35-footer there for eagle there was huge. But I putted so well, I would say that was the key.”
Jason Day, fresh off contending at last week’s Farmers Insurance Open, kept the good vibes going with a four-under opening round. Right behind sits Jordan Spieth. The three-time major winner, who captured this event in 2017, signed for a respectable three-under 68 at Monterey Peninsula. Joining Spieth at three under is two-time Ryder Cupper Matt Fitzpatrick. Other notables include Kevin Kisner, Maverick McNealy and rookie sensation Sahith Theegala are at two under.
Owen’s big drive
We are well aware that this event’s celebrity component is not universally embraced, with most of the criticism aimed at the Saturday broadcast. But this is Thursday, it is a pro-am, and, well, when in Rome, as they say. Which is why we are embracing the following gem from Jake Owen as the shot of Round 1.
Paired with Spieth, the county-music star drove the green at Monterey Peninsula’s par-4 fifth. Before you ask, yes, the amateurs play from a different set of tees than the pros. Still, you drive a par 4 during a PGA Tour event, that is getting it done, son.
Better yet, Owen didn’t waste the opportunity:
We briefly looked for an Owen lyric to accompany this moment, but that required delving into country music and that’s not our jam. Instead, we nod to the Clambake’s original host, Bing Crosby, and remember that the last time we heard Owen was mentioned in these parts was when he came out on the business end of a Korn Ferry Tour exemption. Owen’s highlight Thursday was a reminder no matter how much this beautiful, stupid game beats us down, it always does something to bring us back. As Bing once sang, “Oh, I should hate you; But I guess I love you … You've got me in between; The devil and the deep blue sea.”