BETHESDA, Maryland (June 17, 2011) -- Patrick Cantlay's excellent adventure continues.
The 19-year-old amateur from Los Alamitos, Calif., has been on quite a roll of late, and he kept on rolling Friday at the U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club. Propelled by three birdies to begin his inward nine, Cantlay fired a 4-under-par 67, and not only made the cut in the U.S. Open, but also positioned himself high on the leaderboard.
A semifinalist in last year's U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay, where he lost to eventual champion Peter Uihlein, Cantlay is well on his way to scoring low-amateur honors. His level-par total of 142 lifted him into a tie for 14th through at the midway point of his first Open appearance. He is currently tied for low-amateur honors with Russell Henley of Macon, Ga., at 142. Henley shared low-amateur honors with Scott Langley at last year's U.S. Open.
"[It would mean] so much," Cantlay said when asked about his chance to be low amateur. "All the history that's behind the U.S. Open, and to play well would be great."
He's been playing well for a considerable stretch now.
After finishing second in the NCAA Division I Championship, Cantlay headed to Dublin, Ohio, on June 5 to receive the Jack Nicklaus Award as Collegiate Player of the Year. The Golden Bear presented the award to Cantlay before the final round of the Memorial Tournament.
The next day, he earned one of 16 Open berths in the Columbus sectional, populated with Memorial competitors and other touring professionals, by shooting 65-70--135.
Next Cantlay was off to the Palmer Cup at The Stanwich Club in Greenwich, Conn., and while in the midst of the competition he completed two exams that he faxed back to UCLA to close out his freshman year.
"Yeah, I had some confidence before I came here this week," he said. "It makes you feel good about the future, and hopefully one day I can be playing as a pro."
Also the winner of the Phil Mickelson Award as the nation's top freshman golfer, Cantlay, who won four collegiate events this season, has no plans to turn pro soon. "I want to earn my degree first," he said simply when asked if his Open play warranted him considering a change in status. He also would like to play on the USA Walker Cup Team this September when the Match is contested at Royal Aberdeen in Scotland.
So far, though, he's acing just about every test he encounters.
Evidence was in his performance Friday, when he found himself six over par after a double bogey at the par-4 fourth. He responded with birdies on six of his last 10 holes.
The key stretch was the start of the inward nine, a difficult sequence of holes. Cantlay rolled in a 24-footer at the par-3 10th, and then holed a 45-footer from off the front of the green at the long par-4 11th. A 4-footer at 12 completed the run. He tacked on birdies at 16 and 17.
"It's easier playing from the fairway," Cantlay said with a big smile. "I drove it better today, and I really felt comfortable on the greens and started rolling some putts in.
"I'm just going to try and play the golf course as best I can. It's a great experience. It's a lot of fun, and I'm going to try and learn from the other guys and learn from the experience."
Cantlay admitted to a strong dose of nerves affecting his play in the opening round. Those jitters dissipated on Friday, except at the very end.
"This," he said, looking at the media surrounding him, "is when I get the most nervous."
- story by Dave Shedloski, an Ohio-based freelance writer on assignment for the USGA