Cantlay will be pursued by a competitive set on the final day of the BWM – Reading Eagle tournament

WILMINGTON, Delaware – The first three rounds of the 2022 BMW Championship have been a tasty appetizer, but what’s happened so far has set up what could very well be an extremely tasty main course for the Final 18 on Sunday.

A wide array of current stars (Patrick Cantley, Scotty Scheffler), up-and-coming young guns (Xander Schaufele, Colin Morikawa) and a few veterans looking to regain championship form (Adam Scott, Scott Stallings) are gathered together at the top of the leaderboard. And Wilmington Country Club’s South Course is now ready to host an epic shootout of the best in power golf.

“It’s a tough course … and great players win on a course like (that),” Schaufele said. “If you take all the top players, I would say it’s like a characteristic for everyone at the top to go very far. When you get down to the top 20 in the world, everybody gets pretty far into it for the most part, so maybe that’s what it is.”

In dry and windy conditions, Cantlay, the defending FedEx Cup champion, responded strongly to a couple of late mistakes to take a one-shot lead at 12-under 201 in the fourth and final round.

Immediately after bogeying the 11th, Cantley birdied 12 and 13, then drove in an eagle from 107 yards on the 14th to take the lead.

“Obviously it’s my first time here, so on my wedge shots I was going to the green to see exactly where I wanted to land it and I landed it pretty much in the perfect spot,” he said.

Cantlay then followed up a 3-putt bogey at 17 – which momentarily moved him into a four-way tie for the top spot – with a birdie on the final hole to post a superb 65 and secure the narrowest lead over Schaffele and Stallings, who are at 11-under. under 202. Scott, the second-round leader, and Scheffler are just two shots behind at 10-under.

“I think in big tournaments it’s easier to focus and I did a good job of staying in the moment and trying to be in the right frame of mind and have a good attitude,” Cantlay said. “I love this golf course. I like the grass they play on. I like the bent grass and this golf course is in really clean shape.”

Adding to the coveted PGA Tour victory is a ticket to next week’s Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, where the FedEx Cup champion will be crowned. Only the top 30 in the FedEx Points Race after Sunday’s round will advance.

Schaufele led for part of the day with an impressive bogey-free 66. His round included an eagle on the par-5 3rd, his second eagle in two days. He is looking forward to Atlanta.

“As important as it is to win events, it’s really putting yourself in a position to give yourself a really good chance next week,” Schaufele said. “I’d be the first to tell you that if you’re not in first place, you’re just not going to win next week. I’ve kind of been around it. Yes, day after day.”

Stallings, 37, also registered a 66 that featured just one buzzer beater. He hasn’t won on tour since 2014.

“I’ve done a lot of good things to get to this point,” Stallings said. “And the way I handled myself (Saturday) with all the things we’re dealing with: the playoffs and (playing with) Rory (McIlroy) and the crazy fans and all of that, I feel like coped with himself.”

Scheffler dodged through the first 15 holes but shot two pars in the final three to settle for a 68. Scott, 42, shot a 69.

“The greens have gotten really firm on the back nine and when you play late in the day there’s a lot of spike marks, there’s a lot of activity around the cups and when they get that hard and fast, it’s really hard to hit,” Scheffler said.

“I think I can get everything and lose nothing,” Scott added. “I’ve kind of done quite a bit, and I’ve been in those positions a lot. All eyes are on the world number 1 (Scheffler), who is playing with me and all the young stars, and I am the old man who is being dragged. I feel that all this is a bonus for me.”

Previous major champion Morikawa leads the small group at 9-under 204, tied for fifth. The real dark horse is another: 26-year-old Aaron Wise, who shot a 67.

Morikawa birdied seven holes and bogeyed just one for a solid 65.

“I think with how dry and springy these greens get, (you need to) take advantage when you’re on the fairway and you have a good angle and a good score (to the green),” Morikawa said. “But just be patient.”

FedEx Cup pre-BMW Championship points leader Will Zalotris retired suddenly after injuring his left hip early in Saturday’s round. He bogeyed four holes in the third round and was at even par through 40 holes, but is expected to be able to qualify for the Tour Championship if healthy.

A total of 16 players are within six shots of the leader, including Chile’s Joaquin Niemann (68) and Canada’s Corey Conners (70), who are tied for eighth at 8-under 205. Four are at 7-under, including McIlroy (70) and Danny McCarthy (66), who hails from Rockville, Maryland.

“Unless someone is playing really, really well, it’s difficult,” said Spain’s John Rahm, who is 5-under after a 65. – You can make birdies there, but you need to hit a few accurate shots. You could easily get a 40-foot car going up and down multiple slopes.”

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