Patrick Cantlay can take some solace from his solo second-place finish at the Valspar Championship, his $680,400 check securing him a PGA Tour card for the remainder of the 2016-’17 season. Still, that wasn’t what was in his voice on Sunday at Innisbrook Resort outside Tampa. Try anger, or at least frustration, at letting an opportunity to claim his first tour title slip away.
Tied for the lead with eventual winner Adam Hadwin on the 18th hole Sunday, Cantlay flared his approach on the par 4 into a green-side bunker. He then hit a poor third shot, leaving him 18 feet to save par. When Cantlay’s putt failed to fall, it allowed Hadwin to win when he rolled in his par putt.
Still, by virtue of the money earned for finishing alone in second after shooting a Sunday 68, Cantlay no longer has to seek sponsor’s exemptions into events while playing on a medical exemption after suffering a stress fracture in his L5 vertebrae that kept him sidelined for more than two years. Needing to earn approximately $620,000 in 10 events, he managed to do it in two after returning to the tour for his first start since November 2014 at last month’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
“It’s the one positive for this week,” Cantlay said on Sunday evening, the disappointment over what might have been evident in short answers to reporters’ questions.
The stumble on 18 was a surprising mistake given Cantlay’s solid play on the day. The former college player of the year at UCLA made five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the Copperhead Course to put pressure on Hadwin and turn the tournament into a two-player competition.
When Hadwin made a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 16th, Cantlay looked as if the momentum had turned his way.
Instead of securing his tour card for two more seasons and guaranteeing a spot in next month’s Masters, Cantlay now moves forward with a likely start at the Puerto Rico Open in two weeks.
“I’m playing really well,” Cantlay said. “My health is good. I feel good. And you know, that’s what I love doing out there. So as many times as I can put myself in that situation today.”