All it takes is a glance at Patrick Cantlay’s performance statistics on the PGA Tour in 2019 to know what kind of year he’s having: scoring average (69.1, first), scrambling (67.3 percent, first) strokes gained/total (second), overall putting average (seventh).
We could go on, but you get it. Any way you measure Cantlay’s game, you come up with positive results—and that includes wins. The California native earned his second career victory, in June, at the Memorial Tournament, and moved into the top 10 in the World Golf Ranking.
“He’s in a great place now,” says his longtime coach, Jamie Mulligan. “We’ve built his game over the last 20 years on the notion that he doesn’t need to think about a lot on the course. He can just go out and play. The results speak for themselves.”
They have to speak for themselves, because you won’t get much out of Cantlay on what he’s doing to routinely get on the leader board (eight top 10s in his first 16 events in 2019).
“I don’t have too many swings thoughts,” he says. “I let Jamie worry about the position of the club.”
Cantlay’s swing has been refined since his early days on tour to be useful on any course, says his coach, Jamie Mulligan, of Virginia Country Club in Long Beach, Calif. “We wanted him to be able to work the ball, change trajectory, and generally handle any situation he faces on tour courses.”
A good start
Keeping the club in front of his torso as he takes it back is a key move for Cantlay. “I want to see good extension in the upper body, but a quiet lower body,” Mulligan says. “I’m looking at this position on a daily basis to make sure he’s begun to load and wind, using his legs to create resistance.”
Cantlay’s backswing used to be shorter, and he created power with a snap rotation of his hips toward the target to start the downswing. It was effective for distance, but not as reliable for accuracy, Mulligan says. Now Cantlay creates and stores power by making a deeper backswing. His swing is more fluid.
Cantlay keeps turning back until his whole body is behind the ball and fully wound at the top. Mulligan says the kinetic energy Cantlay stores is like pulling the plunger back on a pinball machine: “It’s a backswing game, and he does a great job of getting the swing loaded in the backswing.”
If there’s one thing Cantlay focuses on, it’s rhythm. “I want to make sure everything moves in the right sequence, especially starting down,” he says. Although it might look explosive, a hallmark of Cantlay’s swing is that it’s unhurried. “I try to give myself a little more time, not rush down.”
Return to address
When Cantlay was younger and not as muscular, he relied on a strong grip and an in-to-out swing path to draw it for distance, Mulligan says. Now his grip and swing shape are neutral. “He’s on plane, and the angle of the shaft at impact is the same as it was at address. We don’t want it upright at impact.”
Shots to spots
Rather than getting wrapped up in swing mechanics, Cantlay thinks about targets. “I’m just putting all my focus into the shot I want to hit, where I want to leave the golf ball,” he says. Adds Mulligan: “He’s an athlete, and he moves his body in whatever way is needed to execute the shot.”
Age: 27 / Height: 6 feet / Weight: 190 pounds / Hometown: Los Alamitos, Calif.
Driver: Titleist 917D2 (9.5 degrees)
Distance (Rank): 307.3 yards (16th)
Strokes Gained / Off The Tee: .645 (10th)