Ugly finish

'Worth the risk': Here's what Patrick Cantlay was thinking while making a disastrous closing triple bogey to lose the Shriners Children’s Open

October 09, 2022

Jed Jacobsohn

The 2022-23 PGA Tour season is just three events old, but a theme has already started to emerge: proceed with caution on the 72nd hole.

Three weeks ago at the Fortinet Championship in Napa, Calif., it was Danny Willett three-putting from inside five feet on the final hole that cost him the title at Silverado Resort (credit Max Homa for a chip-in birdie that made the three-putt matter). On Sunday at the Shriners Children’s Open in Las Vegas, it was Patrick Cantlay stumbling at the finish at TPC Summerlin to allow Tom Kim to walk off with the win.

Cantlay, who made the event his first of eight PGA Tour titles when he won in 2017, had struggled early in the final round after sharing the 54-hole lead with Kim, making two bogeys offset by two birdies over the first eight holes. But with five birdies in his next eight, Cantlay found himself tied again with Kim at 24 under heading to the par-4 finishing hole at TPC Summerlin.

Using a 3-wood off the tee after having hit nine of 13 fairways during the round, Cantlay saw his good fortune run out when the ball turned harder to the left than he hoped. It eventually found an ugly place underneath a desert bush 162 yards from the hole, leaving a lie that on-course reporter Arron Oberholser quickly reported was too bad to play a recovery shot from back to the fairway.

Yet given the circumstances—Kim’s ball was safely in the fairway 123 yards from the green—Cantlay decided he needed to take the gamble. When in Vegas!

“I figured the only chance I had to stay in the tournament was to try to get it back in the fairway,” Cantlay said. “Obviously I couldn't get it back in the fairway.”

Indeed, he couldn’t. Have a look for yourselves:

Cantlay now faced an even worse circumstance with his third shot. This time he had no choice but declare his lie unplayable, take a drop and somehow tried to hit the green with his fourth shot. But after the drop, his ball appeared to come to rest in a rut in the desert hardpan, leaving Cantlay with a particularly tricky recovery play. So tricky that it wound up finding the water guarding the green.

Of course, winning the tournament was now out of the question; Kim hit his approach shot safely to the center of the green, 52 feet from the hole, meaning a three-putt bogey was the absolute worst score he’d post (and considering he hadn’t bogeyed a hole all week, even that was unlikely).

Cantlay managed to reach the green in six and faced a 35-footer to try to now hang on to a share of second place with Matthew NeSmith. Sure enough, this happened:

After signing for a closing 69 and officially finishing three shots back of Kim (who for the record did two-putt for par), Cantlay talked to the media and explained his thought process. While Oberholser might have had a point that the odds of getting that second shot out of the bush and back to the fairway were slim, Cantlay thought the alternative wasn’t much better.

“I figured it was worth the risk because I didn't think I'd have too much of a chance of getting it up-and-down from the brush there,” he said.

Given the way Cantlay’s fourth shot played out, he might have been on to something. And considering how much he’d been grinding all day, there might not have been any other real choice than to try to go for the hero shot. At least he went down swinging, figuratively and literally.

“You know, I had a chance coming down the back nine,” Cantlay said. “I hit a lot of good shots, made a lot of good swings, so yeah, like I said, all in all, it was a good week and I played a lot of solid shots this week. Obviously, the last hole makes the whole week kind of sour.”

And as for the rest of the PGA Tour, don’t say we haven’t warned you about that 72nd hole.