Tuesday, August 31, 2021

the greatest PGA Tour finish ever?




GOLF’s editors and writers discuss the epic six-hole playoff between Patrick Cantlay and Bryson DeChambeau, the Solheim Cup, the Ryder Cup and more.

Tour Confidential: Did we just watch the greatest PGA Tour finish ever?

Patrick Cantlay

Patrick Cantlay salutes the crowd at Caves Valley after winning the BMW Championship.


Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors as they break down the hottest topics in the sport, and join the conversation by tweeting us @golf_com. This week, we discuss the the six-hole playoff between Patrick Cantlay and Bryson DeChambeau, the Solheim Cup, the Ryder Cup and more. 

1. Patrick Cantlay edged Bryson DeChambeau on the sixth (!) hole of a sudden-death playoff at the BMW Championship to become the first player to win three times on the PGA Tour in the 2020-21 season. Lots to unpack, but we’ll start here: Given the stature of the players involved, the stakes (the top spot in the FedEx race heading into the Tour Championship) and the number of shots and putts both players needed to convert down the stretch (and did), where does this Sunday rank among PGA Tour finishes (non-major division) in the modern era?

Dylan Dethier, senior writer (@dylan_dethier): Sheesh, that is a lot to unpack. We’ve had epic fist-pumping putts from guys like Jon Rahm (this event last year) and Collin Morikawa (last year’s Memorial), but the way these guys traded blows for hours today made it the best duel in recent memory. The contrast in playing styles, the relentless runs of great shots interrupted only by occasional intriguing chinks in the armor … I’m having a hard time naming a recent showdown that was better. Tiger at the 2019 Tour championship seems like a different category, after all. This was good.

Josh Sens, senior writer (@joshsens): That was ridiculously fun entertainment, especially with the fire-and-ice contrast and the tensions that were surely there after Bryson barked at Cantlay for walking while he was in pre-shot prep. It wasn’t Reed vs. McIlroy at the Ryder Cup. Not even close. Does any fan really really care who goes to East Lake with more points? But it sure made for great Sunday TV. 

Sean Zak, senior editor (@sean_zak): I think it was the best sudden-death playoff the Tour has ever seen. Two players getting in trouble, hitting it tight, dropping putts in on top of each other. The only thing that could have made it better is if they were allowed to play other holes (though the finishing two were at least interesting). The best part was that it really wasn’t sudden death. They had been competing mostly against only each other the entire weekend. 

Michael Bamberger, senior writer: It was outstanding. So was the 1968 playoff between Lee Elder, a 34-year-old Tour rookie in his, and Jack Nicklaus, a rising god in the game. Jack won on the fifth hole. Jack was a child of privilege, and Elder learned the game as a caddie and playing on baked-out courses. But this was good on Sunday at Caves. This was way up there.

2. If there were any lingering questions about Cantlay’s Ryder Cup credentials, he put them to rest at Caves Valley, where he gained a stunning 16.431 strokes on the field in putting for the week, including a torrid stretch late on Sunday (in regulation and the playoff) where he drained five consecutive do-or-dies. What did you observe or learn about Cantlay this week that he hadn’t seen or known before?

Dethier: This week served as a reminder that Cantlay loves being under the gun. He gets plenty of grief for his inscrutable flatline persona in big spots, but it’s clear he loves having that “Patty Ice” identity. In other words: The dude loves the moment.

Sens: Exactly. That putt on 18 to get himself into the playoff conveyed everything you need to know. 

patrick cantlay
Five holes not enough! Patrick Cantlay outlasts Bryson DeChambeau in epic playoff

Zak: Definitely loves the moment. We will soon forget his three very (or even below) average approach shots — two in regulation and the first in the playoff — that made things appear like he had no chance to win. Great players rebound from bad shots with better shots. It was damn impressive.

Bamberger: I never realized how near-perfect his putting mechanics are. It gives me hope, to think that putting can be improved. I’ve seldom seen anybody make more straight putts. Other great putters — Seve, Jordan Spieth, Crenshaw — look like they’re doing some magical thing. Tiger, the best of them all, looks both like an engineer and an artist. But Cantlay on those soft Caves Valley greens looked like Vladimir Horowitz on a Steinway: every position, technical perfection.

3. We’ve seen (and discussed!) plenty of DeChambeau this year, but not so much in a match-play environment, which is, in effect, what the BMW became on Sunday with playing partners DeChambeau and Cantlay taking a commanding lead on the field. What jumped out at you about how DeChambeau managed his game in the decisive moments against his soon-to-be Ryder Cup teammate?

Bryson DeChambeau
‘Patrick, can you stop walking?’ Did a bizarre sequence doom Bryson DeChambeau?

Dethier: (First, it’s easy to fall into the “match play” line of thinking and/or commentating, but it was truly still stroke play until the playoff, which can be an important difference.) DeChambeau obviously played spectacularly well all week, but his chipping — which had been middling — and his putting — which had been excellent — each faltered once the lights shone brightest. The good news is he’s clearly driving the ball very well. The intrigue will come when his short game is under pressure in front of the watchful eyes of rabid fans at Whistling Straits. …

Bamberger: I agree through 72 and then some. Cantlay had to maintain a stroke-play mindset because at match play it wasn’t a fair fight. So Cantlay had to keep doing his thing, knowing that his thing was good enough to stand right in there and maybe win. Meanwhile. Bryson showed, as Azinger said and said well, that he can bully the course. Especially when he has the honor. It takes a very strong mind not to be put off by that. Few have it.

Sens: Bryson’s power was a spectacle, per usual. But it was hard not to notice how wildly off he was on some of his distances. That 6-iron approach on 16 in regulation came up amateur-distance short. That’s obviously nitpicking the performance of a guy who shot 27-under for the week. But it will be something worth watching at Whistling Straits. 

Zak: The driving was so good, it makes you wonder if Steve Stricker can get Kerry Haigh to set up the Ryder Cup to play to DeChambeau’s strength, literally, which seemingly cannot be matched by anyone in the world. Caves Valley in the rainy heat is not windy Whistling Straits in September in Wisconsin, but it sure makes you think about the thin margins that lead to matches won. 

4. In the second round of the BMW, DeChambeau shot a 12-under 60 — but missed a chance at a magical 59 when he missed a 6-footer left of the hole on 18. On the third-round broadcast, analyst Justin Leonard described how he had never felt more nerves than he did while once putting for that score. To most players, how do you suppose the pressure of a 59 putt stacks up against other big-pressure moments?

bryson dechambeau putts
Exclusive: Inside Bryson DeChambeau’s bid for 59 at BMW Championship

Dethier: Uniquely difficult because you’re thinking about your score — like, the actual number — rather than merely trying to beat the rest of the field and post a low number. So I can see how you’d get out of sequence there. My approach is to stay far, far away from putts for 59 to avoid the potential embarrassment of missing them.

Sens: If it’s anything like the pressure I’ve felt putting for a 79, then it must be paralyzing. 

Zak: It has to be pretty darn high. You probably don’t think about 59 until about 3-4 hours into your round. And you tell yourself not to think about it until you reach the 18th hole. And then probably not until you’re on the green … and suddenly that moment hits you. It has to. No other putt, for most pros, has ever felt uniquely like a putt for 59. So I get it … I think?

Bamberger: It’s not just the putt, it’s the two or three shots leading to the putt. I caddied some for Al Geiberger, years after he became the first player to break 60 on Tour. First of all, what a gent and what a swing. As he described the round, typically to pro-am playing partners, all 59 shots came out of a dream. Like he was on auto-pilot. Like the ball was 12 feet from the hole, hook putt, easy read, before he got over the approach shot. I never had the feeling, listening to Al, that he felt pressure, per se. He was going low and whatever it would be it would be. I’d like to ask him that exact question sometime.

5. This week, the Solheim Cup kicks off at Inverness in Ohio. The U.S. side will feature eight of the top 30 players in the world, headlined by No. 1 Nelly Korda, and are the betting favorites (-200, according to BetMGM). But if we’ve learned anything from Solheim and Ryder Cups past, the odds don’t mean much. Two questions: Who ya got, and who is primed to be the breakout star of the event?

lexi thompson jessica korda
Here’s who will be playing for Team USA and Team Europe in the 2021 Solheim Cup

Dethier: Team USA is going to roll. On paper, they’re a top-heavy squad, but I like young stars like Yealimi Noh to introduce herself to the team golf world. And watch out for Leona Maguire on Team Europe — she’s coming in with a hot hand.

Sens: Maguire is a great call for a break-out star. But yeah — on paper, the U.S. is rightly the big favorite. 

Zak: Team USA is NOT going to roll. Don’t be silly, Dylan. Team Europe has shown better form of late, so they’ll keep it close. I think Madelene Sagstrom is the breakout star. She’s been really, really good of late. Ultimately, the Americans win from one of the final three singles matches.

Bamberger: Completely agree, Sean. Don’t see either team winning by much over a point. As for Sagstrom, she looks to be a star on the rise. She looks strong and athletic and confident through the bag. 

6. We haven’t seen much of Tiger Woods since his car accident six months ago, but this week — which marks the 25th anniversary of Woods turning pro at the Greater Milwaukee Open — will bring reminders of where his professional greatness began. From that quarter-century stretch of mind-bending golf from Woods, which single shot/putt most sticks with you?

tiger woods putter cameron
Tiger Woods’ famed Scotty Cameron putter sells for mind-blowing price tag

Dethier: The putt to force the playoff at Torrey Pines in the ‘08 U.S. Open. It nearly missed. It was so close to missing. And yet there was never any chance that it would. Tiger became a myth. And then he kept becoming one again, over and over.

Sens: It’s a bit like trying to pick a favorite Beatles tune. Torrey, of course. That hang-on-the-lip chip-in on 16 Augusta. His point at the putt as it dropped for birdie against Bob May at Valhalla. Or maybe that iron from the fairway bunker at the Canadian Open. And on. And on. 

Zak: I think it’s the chip on 16 at Augusta. I struggle to imagine a more famous golf shot. TV viewing at its zenith. And cable TV at that. The most famous athlete on the planet getting himself into trouble and creating a freaking commercial out of one shot. The millions of dollars of supposed ad revenue on a Masters broadcast. A 50-foot chip that lasts 16 seconds? It’s Hollywood fiction type stuff!

Bamberger: I’m not holding myself to this forever because I have a 100 in mind, but for sheer talent and audacity, try out this. Mexico, 2019.


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Monday Finish: Cantlay vs. Bryson...


Monday Finish: Cantlay vs. Bryson and one big Ryder Cup mystery

Monday FInish Patrick Cantlay Bryson DeChambeau

What's next for the U.S. Ryder Cup team?


Welcome to the Monday Finish, where we don’t putt like Patrick Cantlay…yet. Let’s get to it.



I watched Sunday’s epic playoff across a medley of media, as I was returning from a wedding in Chicago to home in Seattle. So I did some streaming (shoutout YouTube TV) some ShotLink (when the stream went down) and some refreshing of Twitter (for snarky analysis of the ShotLink data). It was enthralling, and not just because streaming live television on a plane still feels like literal magic. But two things stuck with me from the BMW’s incredible finish.

(Heads up: For a breakdown of all this week’s action, listen to this week’s Drop Zone here or on Apple Podcasts!)

First, this felt like a turning point for Patrick Cantlay in the public eye. Fans have dinged Cantlay in the past for his glacial pre-shot routine and his dour disposition on course. But on Sunday he served as perfect foil to Bryson DeChambeau; in contrast to the bomb-and-gouge Long Drive star, Cantlay’s plod-and-putt style gained a certain panache. Plus, when Cantlay makes putts he does this little shuffle-slide thing towards the hole just as the ball is about to drop. It’s about the most expressive he gets, but it’s cool and subtle. When you’re making a boatload of 20-foot putts, cool and subtle gets far cooler.

Second, this seems like another test for DeChambeau’s public image as well as his self-image. Thinking rationally, this should be a week DeChambeau’s game is celebrated. The man shot 12 under in one round and 27 under for the tournament. He drove it better than anyone and, if you could just vaporize Cantlay, DeChambeau putted it better than anyone, too, and beat the field by at least four shots.

patrick cantlay
Five holes not enough! Patrick Cantlay outlasts Bryson DeChambeau in epic playoff

But because of the way things finished, the anti-Bryson army will come away with plenty of fodder. For telling Cantlay to stop walking as he hit his approach at No. 14. For missing short birdie putts, both for 59 (on Friday) and to seal the deal on Sunday (on the second playoff hole). For turning down the media and for a tense exchange with a fan, reported by ESPN’s Kevin van Valkenberg, that suggested his frustration at “Brooksy” heckling has reached a boiling point. DeChambeau played spectacular golf this week. I’m curious if he sees it that way.


Who won the week?

Patrick Cantlay‘s BMW victory catapulted him to No. 4 in the world, leapfrogging Tony Finau, Louis Oosthuizen, Bryson DeChambeau, Justin Thomas and frequent sparring partner Xander Schauffele. It’s the highest ranking of his career and also opens the door to his Player of the Year candidacy.

It looked like Bernd Wiesberger was going to win the Omega European Masters when he stepped onto the 72nd tee but he found a fairway bunker and then the water and walked off with a double-bogey 6. As a result 20-year-old Rasmus Hojgaard‘s final-round 63 was handsomely rewarded as he claimed the third European Tour title of his young career.

rasmus hojgaard adidas
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Adam Svensson won the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship, the next leg of the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, ensuring we’ll see another talented Canadian on Tour plenty next season.

On the Ladies European Tour, Pauline Roussin-Bouchard earned her first professional title in just her second professional start at the Didriksons Skafto Open. Her tournament was highlighted by a 60 on Saturday which featured a back-nine six-under 26 (eight 3s and a 2) on the par-69 layout. Buying all the stock we can.

And Trish Johnson took home the Senior LPGA title at French Lick. The Englishwoman also won the event in 2017 and finished off a final-round 69 to edge Welsh pro Becky Morgan by a single shot.


So close, and yet…

Nobody has ever shot 27 under par for four rounds on the PGA Tour and lost…until now. Sorry, Mr. DeChambeau.

Rory McIlroy‘s fourth-place finish seemed like a step in the right direction, as did Sungjae Im‘s solo third, his best result since a T2 at the 2020 Masters.

wall to wall rory mcilroy
Wall-to-Wall Equipment: Rory McIlroy found 3 game-changing clubs in the unlikeliest spot

In Europe Henrik Stenson logged his second consecutive top-four finish, causing faint rumblings about a longshot Ryder Cup pick. But in reality the Swede only moved to No. 49 in Europe’s rankings, which means he’d still have plenty of work to do to get Captain Harrington’s attention. Speaking of which…


Top 30 szn.

K.H. Lee bogeyed 18 to claim the unfortunate position of No. 31 in the FedEx Cup standings, leaving him one precious shot shy of East Lake. Charley Hoffman also came tantalizingly close and finished No. 32. Alex Noren‘s BMW rally left him at No. 33, Si Woo Kim finished No. 34 and Max Homa fell from the edge of the bubble (No. 30 to begin the week) to No. 35.

There’s no concern for the long-term career prospects of those BMW participants who didn’t crack the top 30, but there was plenty of intrigue anyway. The coveted top 30 earn a bonus paycheck, a chance at another massive paycheck and exemptions into nearly everything, including the Masters. It’s also a final chance to prove strong form in advance of the Ryder Cup, but hopefuls like Kevin Kisner (No. 38) Webb Simpson (No. 40) and Phil Mickelson (No. 70) won’t have that option.

As for who’s in? Well, there’s Stewart Cink, making his first appearance since 2009 on the strength of a two-win season. There’s Dustin Johnson, making his record 13th consecutive appearance. There’s the duo of Erik van Rooyen and Sergio Garcia, who leapt from 45th and 44th to 27th and 28th, respectively, after top-10s at the BMW.

Then there’s the final spot, No. 30, which goes to Patrick Reed. More on that in a moment…in the meantime, here are the starting scores for next week’s Grand Prix.

Patrick Cantlay -10
Tony Finau -8
Bryson DeChambeau -7
Jon Rahm -6
Cameron Smith -5
Justin Thomas -4
Harris English -4
Abraham Ancer -4
Jordan Spieth -4
Sam Burns -4
Collin Morikawa -3
Sungjae Im -3
Viktor Hovland -3
Louis Oosthuizen -3
Dustin Johnson -3
Rory McIlroy -2
Xander Schauffele -2
Jason Kokrak -2
Kevin Na -2
Brooks Koepka -2
Corey Conners -1
Hideki Matsuyama -1
Stewart Cink -1
Joaquinn Niemann -1
Scottie Scheffler -1
Daniel Berger E
Erik van Rooyen E
Sergio Garcia E
Billy Horschel E
Patrick Reed E


Ryder Cup picture.

On the U.S. side, we now have a very clear picture of the likely Ryder Cup team. Five automatic spots were locked up entering the week, belonging to:

Collin Morikawa

Dustin Johnson

Bryson DeChambeau

Brooks Koepka

Justin Thomas

It came down to the wire as to who’d earn the final automatic spot between last week’s winner and this week’s winner, but there was no doubt they’d both be on the team regardless:

Patrick Cantlay

Tony Finau

Two more golfers — No. 8 and No. 9 in the rankings — were guaranteed locks regardless of their middling finishes at the BMW.

Xander Schauffele

Jordan Spieth

Now, with nine players locked in, is where things start to get interesting. And the 10th-ranked player is the biggest mystery of all. Patrick Reed is now ranked No. 30 in the FedEx Cup, which means he’s into East Lake. But he was also in a hospital bed as recently as last week with double pneumonia, which means playing competitive golf this week would seem out of the question.

That remains the biggest mystery of this U.S. Team. Reed is THE story. He was the story leaving the Ryder Cup in Paris, when he lined the team room with kerosene and lit a match on his way out. He was the story before, during and after Royal Melbourne, when shoveling and shoving from within Team Reed took over the Presidents Cup. Determining his physical health post-pneumonia is slightly outside my area of expertise, but when it comes to Reed and U.S. team golf, we shouldn’t so quickly discount anything. In other words — if Reed is healthy enough to suit up play, will Captain Stricker leave Captain America at home?

Harris English isn’t a brand-name Ryder Cupper, but he has kept up his strong play and has proven he can do it on the big stage with two top-four U.S. Open finishes in the last 12 months. I think he’s in.

Daniel Berger, No. 12 in the ranking, continues to fly under the radar but seems like a fitting final pick. He’ll be jockeying with Nos. 13 and 14, Webb Simpson and Scottie Scheffler — and I think, as of now, that’s it. Kevin Kisner and Phil Mickelson ended their seasons by tying for last at the BMW, so they’re out as X-Factor picks. But something could definitely still change this week when Jason Kokrak rallies from two under to win $15 million and that 12th spot.

In other words, the most likely scenario to me still seems the least interesting of all: Complete chalk, top-to-bottom, 1-12 in the Ryder Cup rankings. I’m curious to see how I’ll be wrong.


Monday Finish HQ.

En route back to Seattle I got upgraded to first class (which happens occasionally because I fly quite a bit for this job) and was served the greatest airplane snack of all time, the Chocolate Chip Cookie “Pie in the Sky” made by Eli’s Cheesecake.


Three things to watch.

1. Solheim Cup!

Our nation’s eyes now turn to another Monday Finish when the best American and European female golfers show down in Ohio this coming weekend. I’ve got Team USA by a healthy margin, buoyed by a strong showing from team rookie Yealimi Noh.

2. Tour Championship!

A whole truckload of money is up for grabs, and I’m weirdly coming around on the Tour Championship’s format. Yes, it’s awkward and imperfect. No doubt. But at least we’ll end the week with a dramatic conclusion…

3. Bryson!

He’s golf’s must-watch figure at the moment. What will we see this week?

Dylan Dethier

Dylan Dethier


Dylan Dethier is a senior writer for GOLF Magazine/GOLF.com, The Williamstown, Mass. native joined GOLF in 2017 after two years scuffling on the mini-tours. Dethier is a 2014 graduate of Williams College, where he majored in English, and he’s the author of 18 in America, which details the year he spent as an 18-year-old living from his car and playing a round of golf in every state.