LOS ANGELES • Patrick Cantlay has always been one to fly under the radar.
In 2011, he was ranked the top-ranked amateur golfer in the world, spending a then record 55 weeks on top, but was still overshadowed by his more high-profile peers like Xander Schauffele, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas.
On Sunday, Cantlay clinched just his third PGA Tour victory since turning pro in 2012, claiming a one-shot win at the Zozo Championship in Thousand Oaks, California.
The 28-year-old staged a back-nine charge to speed past world No. 2 Rahm and third-ranked Thomas, ensuring his return to the top 10 yesterday.
The new world No. 9 carded a final-round seven-under 65 at the Sherwood Country Club to top the leaderboard on 23-under 265.
His round included a career-high nine birdies, four of those coming over a five hole stretch from the 11th on the back nine to fend off Spain’s Rahm (68) and fellow American Thomas (69) – both of whom ended the day joint-second.
Cantlay finished the week with just two bogeys, coming during the final round and including one at the 16th that cut his advantage to a single stroke. It nearly opened the door for Rahm to force a play-off if he birdied the final hole but his 19-foot attempt stopped just short of the cup.
On his first victory since the Memorial in June last year, Cantlay, a native Californian, said: “It means a lot. I’m really happy to have won this week. I was hitting a lot of good shots. I really felt comfortable with my swing.
“I’ve been playing really well the last little stretch. I just hadn’t put it together four days in a row. This week was different. It was nice to get off to a good start. It went pretty well.”
“It’s really great to win at home. I look forward to hopefully winning at Riviera (next year), and any time you win close to home it just feels a little sweeter.
“I felt comfortable all week. I like this cloudy California weather, I’m used to it, it’s what I grew up with. It was just a nice week.”
The question now is whether he can find consistency to his game and start challenging for the biggest honours, starting with next month’s Masters.
His best finish at Augusta was tied for ninth last year, while his best result at a Major was joint-third at last year’s PGA Championship but Cantlay is hopeful he can take the same route as one of his idols, Tiger Woods.
The 15-time Major champion, back in action for the first time since missing the cut at the US Open, saw his Zozo title defence go up in smoke after the first round and he closed out a frustrating week with a 74, ending 22 strokes behind the winner.
The former world No. 1 said the only consolation he took away after what is likely to be his final warmup event before his Masters defence was that he “rolled it great”.
Cantlay, however, feels he is moving into contention at Augusta, saying: “I was able to win one of the tournaments Tiger won last year.
“So now I’m just going to go try and win the other event that Tiger won last year.”