u.s. open

U.S. Open 2024: Patrick Cantlay’s 65 is the lowest score he’s shot in 4 months

June 13, 2024

Jared C. Tilton

PINEHURST, N.C. — Would it be too much to suggest that Patrick Cantlay has taken some atmospheric inspiration from his friend Xander Schauffele, winner of the PGA Championship? That watching his pal break through on the biggest stage after several close calls has infused him with a sense of purpose, and a deeper desire to seize his own major title?

Maybe, maybe not, but you can forgive us for looking for some explanation for what we saw on Thursday, when Cantlay seized the early lead at the 2024 U.S. Open with a 65 on a course, Pinehurst No. 2, that was supposed to be showing its teeth to all and sundry. It's not that Cantlay has struggled at this major championship in the past—he's made the cut in all eight appearances. However, he's got no Wikipedia yellow, having never cracked the top 10 either. Not only that, but his form of late hasn't given much indication that this was in the ether; if you're looking for the last time he shot a 65, you have to go all the way back to the Genesis Invitational at Riviera in February, when he finished in a tie for fourth. He managed a T-3 at the RBC Heritage, but aside from that, results have been middling to fair.

On Thursday, though, he was spectacular, making just one bogey to six birdies, and surging in particular on the front nine, which were his last holes of the day. He turned in 31, and three of his birdies on that side looked basically the same—an approach to five feet on 1, an approach to 19 inches on 5, an approach to four feet on 8. The odd man out was the 20-footer he poured in for birdie on 6, a feat he almost repeated on 9, with a chance to shoot the lowest U.S. Open round in Pinehurst history:

Cantlay was almost cagey in his post-round remarks, noting that he "played pretty solid most of the way," and that "usually when you make just a couple changes and you're working really hard, it's just a matter of time."

"I think around this golf course, you're going to leave yourself putts inside eight feet," he said, later telling television that he showed up this week testing four different putters. "That four- to eight-foot range. It's important that you hole out. I did that well today."

Despite the excellent scoring, he knows it's not going to be a picnic the rest of the week.

"I knew going off at 7:40 in the morning, it's going to play maybe the easiest it will play all week, with the lack of wind and probably the softest we will see it," he said. "With the Bermuda greens and no rain in the forecast, I expect the golf course to play very difficult in the next few days."

In 2011 at Congressional, Cantlay was the low amateur at the U.S. Open, and three players have managed to win that honor and go on to win the tournament later: Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm and Matt Fitzpatrick. The bad news for Cantlay is that if his score holds up, it would be the sixth time in his PGA Tour career that he led or co-led after 18 holes, and to date he's 0-for-5 converting those chances, including at this year's Genesis Invitational.

But maybe the Schauffele inspiration will override that statistic; on a course that promises to play extremely hard over the next three days, a fast start is paramount, and nobody so far has broken out of the gates quite like Cantlay.