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Players described Wilmington Country Club in the same vein as Caves Valley, last year’s BMW Championship venue, so it should come as no surprise that Patrick Cantlay finds himself atop the leaderboard after 54 holes of play. The defending champion may not be putting the ball as he did a year ago in Baltimore, but he is getting around the golf course in an equally effective manner.
The reigning FedEx Cup champion stands alone at 12 under and one stroke clear of his good friend and playing competitor the first three days, Xander Schauffele, as well as Scott Stallings. A duel between the two men who have shared Presidents Cups, Ryder Cups, a Zurich Classic title and even vacations with their significant others feels like the lone item missing from their friendship.
Similar in demeanor and similar from a statistical perspective, the two level-headed Americans will enter the final round as the top two names on both the leaderboard and the odds board at Caesars Sportsbook.
Yet, it was not all too long ago that we saw this duo paired together in a final round. We just need to look back to the Travelers Championship in which Schauffele was victorious while Cantlay was dreadful. Victim of a 6-over 76, Cantlay took himself out of contention early on Sunday and robbed golf fans of a potential back-and-forth bout between the two.
This time is inherently different as the stakes are higher and Schauffele will serve as the chaser. Cantlay will begin the final round with the slight edge and marks his first 54-hole lead in just about a year — the last occurrence coming at last season’s Tour Championship. It was at this very tournament where Cantlay began his march to his FedEx Cup title as he defeated Bryson DeChambeau in dramatic fashion, and now he hopes to dismantle Schauffele and Co. en route to a similar run.
1. Patrick Cantlay (-12)
The wins have not racked up like 2021, but Cantlay is playing even better than he did a season ago. Without a solo victory this season, the world No. 4 has been close on numerous occasions, having lost in playoffs to Scottie Scheffler at the WM Phoenix Open and Jordan Spieth at the RBC Heritage.
Add in another runner-up result at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, and in total, Cantlay has captured top-10 finishes in half of his starts this season. Consistency is often not rewarded on the PGA Tour in the short term. Over the long run, it is a different story and there is a now real chance it will pay off for Cantlay in a big way.
Projected to move up the FedEx Cup standings with a victory at Wilmington CC, Cantlay can become the first man to not only successfully defend a postseason event but also successfully defend a FedEx Cup crown. If able to accomplish that mission, Cantlay would collect over $20 million in a two-week stretch.
“I think maybe in the bigger tournaments it’s easier to kind of narrow your focus, and I’ve done a good job of staying in the moment and trying to get in the right frame of mind and good attitude,” said Cantlay. “I like this golf course. I like the grasses that it’s played on. I like bent grass, and this golf course is in really pure shape. It was even better before they burned out the greens.”
T2. Xander Schauffele and Scott Stallings (-11)
T4. Adam Scott and Scottie Scheffler (-10)
T6. Collin Morikawa and Aaron Wise (-9)
T8. Joaquin Niemann and Corey Conners (-8)
Players within four strokes of the lead must still believe they have a chance to raise the BMW Championship trophy. While Cantlay will be a difficult player to surpass, the pursuers boast a credible résumé. Schauffele and Scheffler have touched the lead at various points throughout this championship, but it is Morikawa who made the biggest move on Saturday.
After a horrible performance on the greens in the second round, the two-time major champion was able to figure out something in his putting stroke and propel himself back into contention. Signing for a 6-under 65, Morikawa, the lone top-10 player in the Official World Golf Rankings to remain winless in the 2021-22 season, will look for his first victory in over a year. Despite this, he has elevated his game in major championships and in big moments, and spoke to what will be needed for his first title since the 2021 Open.
“I think stay patient. I think with how dry and how bouncy these greens are getting, take advantage when you are in the fairway and you do have a good angle and a good number. But just be patient,” said Morikawa of his game plan for the final round. “Obviously a lot of good rounds I think out here have gotten off to good starts at the beginning of the round, and that’s key. But if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t mean you can’t make birdies on say 8, 9, 10, 11, 12. It’s been a while since — hopefully I’ll be within a few of the lead tomorrow, and I look forward to that. I’m excited.”
Rick Gehman and Mark Immelman discuss Saturday’s action at the BMW Championship. Follow & listen to The First Cut on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
The St. Jude Championship winner entered the BMW Championship narrowly leading the FedEx Cup standings. Needing to due to a back injury, Zalatoris’ departure gives way for another player to begin the Tour Championship atop the standings. This head start has proven to be crucial in years past with the leader starting the Tour Championship at 10 under. The FedEx Cup No. 2 will begin at 8 under, and then Zalatoris – who is currently projected to drop to No. 3 in the standings – will tee off the week at 7 under.
Eyes will be drawn to the top of the leaderboard, but those hovering around the top 30 in the FedEx Cup standings will be of particular interest as well. With each shot with significant meaning, those on the bubble will be vying for a place in the field at next week’s Tour Championship where big paydays and major championship exemptions are waiting.
“I’m just coming out and trying to win a golf tournament,” said Denny McCarthy who is currently T10 at 7 under. “I’ve been close for a while now. I think that mindset has worked well for me. I know I need to have a good finish. But winning is a pretty good finish, too.”
Fairways will be crucial on Sunday, and among those listed above, Morikawa and Conners lead the way in terms of driving accuracy. Morikawa was finally able to show something with the putter on Saturday and is only three strokes off the lead of Cantlay. While Cantlay is my choice to win the BMW Championship, I would not be shocked if Morikawa is able to post the clubhouse lead and give him something to think about down the stretch.
Leaderboard after Round 3 @BMWChamps ⛳️
1. @Patrick_Cantlay (-12)
T2. @XSchauffele (-11)
T4. Adam Scott (-10)
T4. Scottie Scheffler
T6. @Collin_Morikawa (-9)
T8. @JoacoNiemann (-8)
Sam Bennett now 2-up through 12. Players who lead 2-up through 12 at the U.S. Amateur since 2015 have gone on to win 95% of the time.
Don’t count out Dylan Menante – 9 times this week a player has trailed through 12 holes and won their match. Dylan has 2 of those wins.
Incredible touch from Adam Scott ???? pic.twitter.com/11x9EOw2KN
Have a day, @Patrick_Cantlay ????
Up and down round for @McIlroyRory. pic.twitter.com/btZSPX0aYa
The reigning FedEx Cup champion will all but likely head into the final round with the solo lead. Scottie Scheffler and Adam Scott are still on the golf course at 10 under, but are unlikely to catch Cantlay. This marks the defending champion’s first 54-hole lead since last season’s Tour Championship.
Patrick Cantlay: 2nd player all season on the @PGATOUR to shoot 65 or lower despite missing 3 putts inside 5 feet
Scott Brown shot 64 doing that earlier this season at the 3M Open.
.@Patrick_Cantlay back on top @BMWChamps at 12-under. pic.twitter.com/ss4goRM74z
Back-to-back birdies has @McIlroyRory only 3-shots back ???? pic.twitter.com/XoY6XgwT8V
Hitting only two fairways through 17 holes, Rory McIlroy has reached 8 under for the tournament and is still in this thing. With Patrick Cantlay missing yet another short putt, he is only three strokes off the lead and may still have a chance to win this tournament with another birdie on the last hole.
Tough way to lose the solo lead. pic.twitter.com/LiKu5fOiAh
Patrick Cantlay was 523-for-524 putting from 3 feet and in this season before that miss at 17.
Great approach by Sam Bennett at 6 gives him a 1-up lead in his semifinal #USAmateur match.
Players to lead through 6 holes this week have gone on to win the match 73% of the time.
Adam Scott is now two strokes off the lead after a bogey on the par-3 13th and if not careful could drop out of Tour Championship contention. He is now projected to move to 28th in the FedEx Cup standings and will need to balance the desire to win the BMW Championship with that of qualifying for East Lake.
Textbook use of the slope @TyrrellHatton ???? pic.twitter.com/uj4DRWfwBT
Adam Scott is dialed in ???? pic.twitter.com/3SUQCZB2A0
It’s been that kind of day. pic.twitter.com/UbzXse2fJ5
Holing out for eagle on the par-5 14th, the defending champion finds his name alone at the top of the leaderboard. Sitting at 12 under, he stands one clear of his playing competitor Xander Schauffele and world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler. He would become the first person to successfully defend a postseason event.
CANTLAY TAKES THE LEAD ????????
???? NBC pic.twitter.com/AZNOfcFSQ7
CANTLAY TAKES THE LEAD ????????
???? Golf Channel pic.twitter.com/XAcxa4ovWB
WHAT A SHOT❗️@Patrick_Cantlay holes out from 105 yards to take the solo lead at -12. pic.twitter.com/U1N4j1P63N
Xander Schauffele and Scottie Scheffler have gotten to 11 under and command a one stroke lead over the likes of Patrick Cantlay, Adam Scott and Scott Stallings. However, past them, the closest man is Collin Morikawa who tied for the round of the day and is in the clubhouse at 9 under. If the leaders are able to extend this lead, they will eliminate the potential number of winners.
One back thru 9.
Adam Scott is heating up. pic.twitter.com/HM4awZwvP9
Bubble-watch: Sahith Theegala currently projected 30th in the FedExCup standings after a Saturday round of 69.
It was his 53rd round in the 60s this season, most of any player on the PGA Tour.
Working on the sock tan @BMWChamps. pic.twitter.com/dw5QMzUBy5
Semifinals of the #USAmateur now underway. Players to take the first lead in matches this week have gone on to win 65% of the time.
.@collin_morikawa putting last 2 days
32 putts, none made over 5 feet, -3.35 strokes gained
25 putts, 6 made over 5 feet, +3.02 strokes gained
65 ties the low round of the day so far.
Another birdie ????
Sungjae now has 102 rounds of 67 or lower on the PGA Tour since the beginning of 2019, most of any player in that span.
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