Late heroics help Cantley successfully defend BMW championship – Daily Local

WILMINGTON, Delaware >> Patrick Cantlay has created many memorable moments since bursting onto the scene a year ago and winning four PGA Tour events and earning Player of the Year honors. But the 30-year-old Californian added to the big score on Sunday by winning the BMW Championship on Wilmington Country Club’s South Course.

With a lucky birdie on the 71st hole and a clutch par at the finish, Cantlay became the first player in the 16-year history of the tournament – the middle stage of the three-event FedEx Cup playoffs – to successfully defend his crown. He is also the only player to win any two FedEx Cup tournaments in consecutive years.

“I think it’s a nice pat on the back or a carrot at the end, but never anything I ever think too seriously about when I’m out there doing it,” Cantlay said.

“I think every time I tried to defend, I don’t think I was able to do it, but it’s something that you definitely circle in your calendar as something you want to do.”

Cantley finished one stroke ahead of 37-year-old Scott Stallings and two over top rivals Scotty Scheffler and Xander Schaufele. Trying to get a look at the big boys, Stallings fell short of his first Tour win in eight and a half years. However, he did enough to qualify for his first Tour Championship appearance.

“That was the biggest goal of the year,” Stallings said. “I had a very deep conversation with all the guys I work with … to figure out what it’s going to take, some changes in my game to do what I need to do to play at that level to compete with the best players in the world and to get to East Lake, I think it’s better late than never.”

In a tense final battle with Stallings, Cantlay gained a share of the lead with birdies on Nos. 11 and 14. Then Cantlay got a big break when his putt on the 17th bounced in front of the fairway bunker, then just beyond, and wound into the fairway.

Taking advantage of his luck, Cantlay hit a good approach shot and buried the birdie putt to take the lead all by himself.

“(I) had a great vacation,” he admitted. “It’s probably one of the best breaks I’ve had and when you get a break like that you have to pay for it and luckily I did.”

There was even more drama on 18 when his drive snagged another bunker. And despite the hook-lie, Cantlay made a fade to the green and then narrowly missed a long birdie.

“It wasn’t the place I wanted to be,” Cantley explained. “The ball was above my feet. I had about 160 to the hole and I tried to slice the 8-iron as hard as I could and go where I thought I could get it and it was one of the best shots I hit all week.”

His tap-in was good for a final-round 69 and the winning score was 14-under 270. Now he has a chance to do what no one else has done: successfully defend his Tour title.

A native of Worcester, Mass., Stallings grabbed the lead midway through the round and held it for at least part of the finish. But with pars on the final four holes, he had to settle for 69 and 72 for a 13-under 271 total.

“I had a lot of good birdies and a lot of really good shots in a situation that I really haven’t been at in a long time, and I was thrilled with how I handled everything,” Stallings said.

The highest-ranked golfer in the world, Scheffler made a late run with birdies at Nos. 13, 14 and 16, but a bogey at 18 ended his hopes. He shot a final-round 70 to tie for third place with Schaufele at 11-under 273.

“I would have liked to get some shots back today, but I ended up not playing my best golf today, and I was still able to give myself a chance there going down,” Scheffler said.

Schaufele started to hit back in the first round, but managed just one birdie on his way to a nondescript 71.

“I didn’t look at myself too much,” Schaufele added. “I felt like the par-5s really got away from me.”

After Sunday’s finish, the top 30 in FedEx Cup points will qualify for next week’s Tour Championship in Atlanta. The three notables who played the spot at East Lake Golf Club are Australia’s Adam Scott (71), Aaron Wise (73) and Sahit Tegala (68).

Scott, 42, finished tied for 5th at 10-under 274 with KH Lee of South Korea and Corey Conners of Canada (69). Lee made seven birdies – including four in a row at the start and two in the final three holes – to finish 65.

“I felt like I played some really high quality golf this week,” Scott said. “I felt like I was playing at such a high, high level again, and I haven’t been in that many situations this year. But I felt like my game came together and I felt like a better player.”

Spain’s Jon Rahm headlined a four-man field of 9-under 275 along with Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy. Ram bogeyed the first four holes Thursday and never recovered. He didn’t hit a single bogey when he went 65-67 over the weekend and still finished in a tie for eighth. McIlroy birdied the final three holes for a 69.

“(I) shot 10-under again on the weekend. This time I was too far. I keep thinking about what could have been,” Ram said.

NOTES: Norway’s Viktor Howland didn’t have a great week in Wilmington, but he wowed the crowd on the par-3 2nd hole with an ace to spark a 6-under round of 65. “(I) made a perfect 6-iron … that hit the him, so it was a good start to the day,” he said. “It’s a bit bittersweet because I played so poorly this week.” However, it resulted in Evans’ sixth Hole-in-One scholarship donation at the BMW Championship. A full, four-year, $125,000 tuition and housing scholarship will be awarded to an Evans Scholar in Howland’s name later this year…Colin Morikawa, a two-time major champion, started the day in fifth place but plummeted to 44th on Sunday with a 79 , which included a 10 – yes, a 10 – on the par-5 12th… Tour officials reportedly watered the greens heavily on Sunday morning, so conditions were a little softer early on. But with no rain since Wednesday, it didn’t help the leaders much in the afternoon. In total, 47 of the 67 finishers exceeded the level.

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