Pat Cantlay seems the polar opposite of a wild and crazy guy. He’s methodical, thoughtful, considered. A planner. And yes, a thinker.
He has a signature you can mostly read, something Arnold Palmer insisted was important. And he calls himself Pat. Not Patrick.
This week, he’s in the WM Phoenix Open, only the second time he has played in what is known as the greatest show on grass. The WM Phoenix Open is raucous. It’s loud. And a person almost needs ear protection to play the 16th hole, an unremarkable par three made crazy by three tiers of hospitality suites and thousands of beer-ed up fans that surround it.
"“I recently up went up in weight in my shafts and my woods,” said Cantlay about his equipment."
Cantlay seems the least likely to enjoy the tournament, but nothing could be farther from the truth.
"“This week is a party for everyone except us,” he said. “It would be weird if every event was like this, but it’s great that we have events like this and there’s so many people in the area that come out and support the event and have a good time and watch just a little golf.”"
As he has grown more successful on the PGA Tour, Cantlay’s taken a new approach to a lot of things. Right now, most likely as a result of winning the FedEx Cup in 2021, he’s taken a step back to consider future sponsors. That means he doesn’t have a clothing deal or a club deal, both of which are considered bread-and-butter sponsorships for nearly every golfer.
Not Cantlay. He’s looking for the right fit.
“Wearing B. Draddy at the moment, and I like it. It’s good,” he said about his wardrobe.
He gave up Hugo Boss and Titleist deals to spend some time to find exactly what he wanted. He is still using a Titleist ball, however. According to the Sports Business Journal, Ping and Callaway have approached him, but there is no deal signed yet. His website lists Goldman Sachs, ADP, Titleist, and FootJoy as sponsors.
What he is doing proactively is experimenting with his equipment in an unusual way.
"“I recently up went up in weight in my shafts and my woods,” he said. “I’ve been swinging the golf club just a little bit faster, and so trying to make sure I have a little bit more stable club that I can swing faster.”"
Cantlay said the added weight tightened up his shot pattern.
"“When I was swinging my best and swinging my fastest, I had a little too much right to left on the golf ball,” he explained, “but I stayed in the same shaft, just went up 10 grams in weight, and it seems to have really taken that left shot out of play.”"
Avoiding left is the big goal of 99 percent of professional golfers. Avoiding right is the goal of most amateur golfers.
As one who led the PGA Tour in par five scoring in 2022, Cantlay has certain things he does now when playing those longer holes. His strategy for them has changed in recent years.
He noted that there are a lot of golfers who hit farther than he does, which should be a distinct advantage on the par fives. However, he’s not short by any means with an average driving distance of just over 312 yards. He’s 32nd in driving accuracy hitting 65.70 percent of fairways, but importantly, he’s second in greens in regulation with a stat of 78.24 percent.
“I think driving the golf ball in the fairway is huge,” he said.
The other thing Cantlay focuses on is leaving the ball in the right spot to be able to access the hole.
"“A lot of times on par-5s, I’m not necessarily trying to get it as close as I possibly can to the hole, but I’m trying to get up as far as I can, even if I’m not going to get to the green, and then also leave myself the proper angle.”"
He said it comes down to studying the golf course and hole locations, which he said anybody can do with ShotTracker.
Then he tries to figure out where he would get up and down from most often.
“If I can hit the fairway quite a bit, then I can move my golf ball into the right general area, and I should have a good look at getting up-and-down,” he explained.
In other words, he wants to be able to score even if he misses the green.
Cantlay believes that with ShotTracker and strokes gained, all players have been surprised at how much better they are when they get closer to the hole.
Years ago, he would have approached par fives differently.
"“I almost don’t ever think of laying up to a number, which is how I learned how to do it from John Cook and the guys that mentored me,” he noted. “Now it’s can I get the right angle to whatever hole location it is, and can I get it up there as far as possible and then hopefully in the fairway so I can get some spin on it.”"
Cantlay’s success has not come without trials and tribulations. In fact, his success is amazing considering he suffered a spinal fracture in the 2013-14 season. He barely played for three years.
The fracture occurred when he was warming up for a tournament. The treatment was rest. Then he had to remake his swing in order to play golf without re-injuring himself.
With eight PGA Tour victories, a FedExCup title, and a PGA Tour Player of the Year award, Cantlay returned to golf apparently more determined than ever.
Cantlay’s bag currently:
According to Golf Monthly, as of 23 days ago, Cantlay has a Titleist 917D2 driver with 9.5 degrees of loft and a Fujikura Ventus Blue 6X shaft, weighted according to his specifications. His other woods are Titleist 915F, which is just called a fairway wood, and a 21-degree loft Titleist TS2 five-wood. Both fairway clubs have a Mitsubishi Diamana ZF shaft.
He’s currently using the 718 AP2 irons from 4-iron to pitching wedge. He had four other wedges including SM7’s, 46 and 52 degrees of loft; a 56-degree Titleist Vokey SM9 which has been bent to 57 degrees, and a Titleist Vokey SM8, prototype, with 61 degrees loft.