Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele have gone from being colleagues to becoming close friends and now appear to be inseparable on the PGA Tour; hence, the final round of the BMW Championship may have the feel of one of their numerous practise rounds.
Except for the stakes.
Cantlay shot a six-under-par 65 after missing two par putts from three feet close to the hole. He made a hole-in-one on the par-5 14th after driving the ball 106 yards from the fairway. This gave him a lead of one shot going into Sunday’s round of the second FedEx Cup playoff event, which he would maintain over Schauffele and Scott Stallings.
Schauffele opened his round with an eagle after hitting his approach shot to within five feet of the cup on the par-5 third hole, and he went the rest of the way without making a bogey to finish with a score of 67.
Sunday will mark the sixth time out of the eight FedEx Cup playoff events that they will compete against one another, and it will be the second time in this season that they will compete in the last group. At the Travelers Championship, Schauffele shot 68 to win the event and take the lead by one stroke. Cantlay had a 76.
Additionally, they were victorious in their partnership at the Zurich Classic.
Match play of some kind, with the winner taking everything, is customary for the practise round. This one might decide who has the best chance of going into the Tour Championship as the top seed and starting the race for the FedEx Cup with a two-shot lead.
The answer to that question lies with the defending champion of the Masters, Scotti Scheffler, who is tied with Adam Scott two shots back.
Cantlay, who had a score of 201 at the end of the third round, is attempting to become the first player to win the BMW Championship in consecutive years since the event became a part of the FedEx Cup playoffs in 2007.
He has been in this position before, so he is familiar with the benefits of being a high seed in the Tour Championship. Following his victory in the playoff for the BMW Championship, which took place the previous year at Caves Valley, he started the final round of the FedEx Cup with a two-shot lead. He ended up beating the field by one shot to take home the $18 million prize.
Cantlay responded by saying, “My head is not even there right now.” “I believe that the most effective way to deal with this playoff system is to just focus on doing your best in the tournament that you are currently competing in and not worry too much about the points. And with that in mind, I’m going to accomplish it.”
There is also a second explanation behind this. On the sun-baked South course at Wilmington Country Club, which is getting faster by the day, this is by no means a two-man show.
With a score of 69, Scott maintained his position and was only two strokes behind the leader. Scott’s goal was to finish in the top 30 and earn a spot in the Tour Championship. He entered the postseason at No. 77 and is coming off a tie for fifth place the week before in order to qualify for the BMW Championship.
The number one player in the world, Scheffler, finished two strokes back with a score of 68 after recovering from a string of bogeys late in his round with a birdie from four feet.
Seven players are now separated by three shots, and it was Collin Morikawa (65) and Aaron Wise (67) who did it.
Rory McIlroy got off to a bad start and was only able to shoot a 70, leaving him with five strokes to make up for it. Jordan Spieth, who started the weekend just one stroke behind, had missed par putts of three feet and two feet and didn’t have much else go right in his round of 74, which dropped him out of contention and put Justin Rose in sole possession of the lead.
Cantlay and Schauffele became close friends during the Presidents Cup in 2019, which was held at Royal Melbourne. Since then, the two have spent numerous practise rounds and vacations together. When you have a scorecard in your hand, the game plays differently, despite the obvious increase in ease.
“He understands how I hit the ball, and I know how he hits the ball. We are on the same page. If either you or I flush a toilet, that can be considered an additional piece of knowledge that we can use. The fact that we are excellent friends makes it a pretty easygoing combination, despite the fact that we are competing against each other,” Schauffele said. “I like to use that as an advantage.”
Cantlay wins this round by the slimmest of margins.
Cantlay also missed a par putt from a little closer on the 17th, and after they matched two-putt birdies on the 12th, Cantlay holed a birdie putt from 8 feet on the 13th, and then he spun back a lob wedge for eagle at the 14th. Schauffele was leading when Cantlay missed a 3-foot par putt, and he also missed one from a little closer on the 17th.
After an unexpectedly close miss for par, which put him in first place, he concluded with a lob ledge shot that masterfully exploited a backstop and rolled down to eight feet for a birdie.
Because there has never been a PGA Tour event held in Delaware, everyone is learning something new. This explains why Cantlay was carrying a wedge and went up to the front of each green so that he could examine the slopes and choose the best play. Both his eagle on the 14th and his birdie on the 18th were made possible by this strategy.
Stallings also has a lot riding on the outcome of Sunday’s game. He was ranked number 46 in the standings going into the BMW Championship, and he is now unquestionably in the running to continue competing for one more week.
According to Stallings, “that was my primary objective to begin the year.”
This is his twelfth year competing on the PGA Tour, and he has never been closer than he is right now to winning the Tour Championship.