The Tour Championship will tee off at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia with Patrick Cantlay atop the leaderboard. Cantlay will begin the round at 10-under-par for the PGA Tour‘s final event of the season.
The 29-year-old earned his spot after beating Bryson DeChambeau in an epic, six-round playoff at the BMW Championship at Caves Valley Golf Club near Baltimore. After forcing the playoff, Cantlay delivered the knockout blow in the sixth playoff round with an 18-foot birdie on the 18th green.
Golfers like DeChambeau, Rory McIlroy, and Jon Rahm have often overshadowed the quiet Cantlay. But while he is not as popular, his story makes him impossible to forget.
Patrick Cantlay’s career got off to a fast start before a back injury forced him to step away
Long before the days of becoming the fourth-ranked golfer in the world, Cantlay was the top-ranked amateur in golf.
While at UCLA, Cantlay spent 55 weeks at the top of the World Amateur Golf Rankings. He was the low amateur at the 2011 U.S. Open and the 2012 Masters Tournament, and also set the record for the lowest round by an amateur in PGA Tour history with a 60 at the 2011 Travelers Championship. Soon after, the Southern California native won his first tournament in 2013 on the Web.com Tour.
But while his career got off to a seemingly perfect start, a devastating back injury altered his plans.
Cantlay injured his back during a swing on the driving range at the Colonial National Invitation in 2013. It was a stress fracture in his L5 vertebrae that would force him to miss all but nine tournaments over the next three years.
“It happened in an instant. I hadn’t known pain like that before,” Cantlay told Golf Digest in 2018. “This was a stress fracture in my spine, and the only cure was a whole lot of rest … I had no idea one moment could have such a lasting effect.”
The suffering only grew when Chris Roth, Cantlay’s caddie and high school teammate, was killed in a hit-and-run in February 2016.
As tough as it was to see a future in golf before Chris was killed, it was even tougher to see anything after he was gone. And not having golf to turn to made it 10 times worse.Patrick Cantlay
Roughly four years after the swing that changed his life, Cantlay managed to regain his PGA Tour card in 2017. Then in November 2017, he claimed his first PGA Tour victory with a win at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
Cantlay has now become one of golf’s best, and wealthiest, players
Following his full-time return to the sport, Cantlay has become one of the top players on the PGA Tour.
Since his first victory, Cantlay has won four more times. His victories include the Memorial Tournament in 2019, Zozo Championship in 2020, this year’s Memorial Tournament, and the recent BMW Championship.
Cantlay has also made more money than nearly everyone else in the last year. The 29-year-old has earned just over $7.6 million from tournaments alone, trailing the leader Rahm by roughly $70,000.
For his career, Cantlay ranks 76th in career earnings with $22.2 million. However, a victory at the Tour Championship — and the $15 million that comes with it — would vault him well inside the top 30.
Patrick Cantlay is a superstar in his own way
Rather, Cantlay is a quiet player who has had golf and then lost it. His story is one not often seen in golf; a young man whose career was brought to a halt before it could truly begin, only for him to persevere and become one of the sport’s best players.
“When something really bad or life-altering happens, you want to acknowledge that it has affected you. You don’t want to shy away from it or pretend like it never happened,” Cantlay told Golf Digest. “Walking the fine line of having something bad happen to you, taking your time to mourn and letting it affect you without letting it beat you down so hard that it takes you away from what you want to accomplish is very difficult. Accepting it and realizing it happened and dealing with it as best you can — that’s kind of the art of life.”
Cantlay is one tournament away from ending the PGA Tour season on top. But in the battle for his career, his health, and his happiness, he has already won.
All statistics courtesy of PGA Tour.