If Patrick Cantlay is to join the elite group of players at the top of the golf world, he needs to up his game. And it needs to start this week.
The 2020 PGA Tour season should have been one where Patrick Cantlay continued to take steps toward being among the game’s elite players. Instead, it was a season that saw Cantlay stay stagnate, or maybe even take a step backward, in his progression.
In 2017, in his return from back injuries, Cantlay made 13 cuts in 13 starts, including a T2 at the Valspar Championship. He advanced to the Tour Championship and eventually finished 29th in the FedEx Cup standings.
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The next season, Cantlay got his first PGA Tour victory, claiming the title at the site of this week’s PGA Tour stop, the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. Cantlay would again advance to the Tour Championship. This time, he would finish 20th in the FedEx Cup standings.
In 2019, Cantlay earned his second tour win, claiming the title at the Memorial Tournament. He also had two runner-up finishes that season and finished 21st in the FedEx Cup standings.
So, the 2020 season seemed like the year that Cantlay would take that next step. At the Shriners, he lost to Kevin Na in a playoff, again playing well at TPC Summerlin. But that was one of just three top 10s for Cantlay last season. He finished 34th in the FedEx Cup standings and missed the Tour Championship.
To start the 2020-21 season, Cantlay finished T43 at the U.S. Open. It was a middle of the pack finish for a player who some thought could contend for the title in his home state.
Now is the time for Cantlay to get his season jump-started. And there’s no reason to think he won’t. Just look at what he has done at TPC Summerlin over the last three years. As mentioned, he lost to Na in a playoff last year. The year before, he was second to Bryson DeChambeau and the year before that, he was a winner in Las Vegas.
Cantlay is still just 28 years old, but the time is now for him to join the game’s elite. He needs to establish that he is as good as DJ, Rory and JT, but he’s not there yet. He needs a big season to do that and he could get started in the right direction with another big week in the desert this week.
If he can’t take that next step, Cantlay can still make a fine living on the tour. But he will always wonder why he couldn’t make it to the very top of the golfing world.