Dublin, OH — In 2017, Patrick Cantlay figured the best person to ask for advise about taming Muirfield Village Golf Club was Memorial Tournament Host and Founder Jack Nicklaus, the man who envisioned this course through his career accomplishments and the pair sat down for 90 minutes breaking down each hole.
Two years later, the pair met at the course’s grill with Nicklaus advising Cantlay who entered the week with eight top-10 finishes on the season, to finish the job.
Even Cantlay could not help but agree.
As the two embraced beside the 18th green after Cantlay’s two-shot victory at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide victory Adam Scott, Nicklaus could not help himself.
“You did it,” he said.
“I finished,” replied Cantlay.
Shortly after, Nicklaus admitted that he had tears in his eyes as Cantlay a 2011 Nicklaus Award winner followed in Tiger Woods’s footsteps and won the Memorial Tournament, his second career PGA TOUR victory.
“He (Nicklaus) told me to relax and go have fun and go win the golf tournament,” Cantlay said. “I definitely said that to myself down the stretch today on the back nine. It put me a little more at ease, and I hit a lot of really nice quality shots with the lead, coming down the stretch, and being able to get that ball up-and-down on 18, I really did want to just close it out and have it be done right there. Being able to make that putt on the last hole is just a lot of confirmation of a lot of hard work I’ve been doing.”
It would have been easy for Cantlay to be down on himself after contending so much and not being able to finish the job, but instead he applied pressure to the point that no one could respond.
Cantlay’s 64 is the lowest-ever Memorial Tournament final round eclipsing K.J. Choi (2007), Jim Furyk (2002) and Tiger Woods (2009), all of whom shot 65, and he needed every bit of it as he was down four shots entering the final round.
By completing the comeback it is the second-largest deficit overcome in ths event behind David Edwards, Jim Furyk and K.J. Choi, all of whom were five shots back.
“I definitely feel like I’ve had a lot of close calls since my last win,” said Cantlay. “I’m a little surprised it’s taken me this long. It feels really, really good to finish it off how I did today. I knew I had a little bit of a mountain to climb to start the day. A couple of guys ahead of me, two and four shots ahead of me, and guys that have played really well and closed out golf tournaments. I knew I needed to come out firing and make a bunch of birdies, and I did.”
Cantlay also had plenty of fuel, after all he did finish a shot out of a playoff in last year’s event.
This time, Cantlay was second in the field in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green (14.566), fifth in Strokes Gained: Approach the Green (7.376), seventh in Strokes Gained: Putting 4.657 and eighth in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee (3.016), all of which helped earn a win.
“I was looking for a little redemption this week,” he said. “That has to do with me feeling really comfortable on the golf course and liking it a lot. Not to mention I’ve been playing really well, so it feels like a win has been coming. I’ve been knocking on the door a lot. That’s what you need to do.”
Adam Scott proved to be Cantlay’s closest pursuer, firing a 4-under par 68, earning his 13th runner-up finish on the PGA TOUR.
“It’s one of those things, it’s disappointing not to win, for sure,” said Scott. “I really played good golf this week, and it just wasn’t good enough. So I’ve just got to be a little bit better. And I think if I can somehow find that over the next ten days, you know, I’ve got a sense of how good it needs to be to hold up down the stretch at a major, especially there. You’re going to have to hit some golf shots, I think, coming down that back nine there. So if I can do just a little bit better, I feel like I’ll be right there.”
Scott got off to a fast start recording birdie on the first hole from three feet, but after a bogey on the par-4 third hole, his game went a bit stagnant until he birdied the par-5 seventh and then drilled a birdie from 28 feet which seemed to get him going.
Though he bogeyed the 10th hole, he recorded birdie on holes 14-through-16 but could not help looking at the leaderboard at the 11th hole and it was clear that Cantlay was going to be hard to catch.
“Adam was very patient,” Nicklaus said. “Adam played a good round of golf today. He said to me on the 18th green ‘I ran into a 64’, which is exactly what he did. He played well enough to win the golf tournament.”
After Scott missed a 15-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole and Cantlay converted an 8-foot par putt, the win was essentially wrapped up.
Martin Kaymer was the leader after three rounds and for most of the front nine avoided the big mistake.
His shot on the third hole hit a slope and settled to within tap-in range but on the very next hole, he missed his first putt inside of 10 feet all week.
It appeared that ship was righted when he made a 5-foot-9-inch birdie putt which led to a fist pump, a rare show of emotion from the German, but Kaymer started to unravel a bit when his third shot found the rough and he recorded bogey.
“My goal was to shoot 18-, 19-under par,” he said. I didn’t really see someone shooting 7 or 8-under par from the 11-under group. It’s not like where we could get used to the golf course and the way it played. It was different again. All credit to (Patrick). He did a good job.”
Kaymer believes the most vital time were the 12-through-15 holes were he had two crucial bogeys and on the par-5 15th, he found the water and was forced to accept par.
“Martin Kaymer played fantastic until he played a second shot at 9 he probably shouldn’t have played,” said Nicklaus. “He didn’t hit a very good tee shot, probably should have pitched it out. He really put himself out of the tournament with the second shot at 15. When you haven’t won for a while, you have a tendency to want to press, press, press. Martin, made some mistakes that he’ll look back on them and say, ‘I really didn’t need to do that. ‘”
Tiger Woods made a Sunday charge and was at -11 at one point, but backed off with bogeys on 14 and 18, but still improved 16 spots to a tie for ninth place.
“The goal today was to get to double digits and get something positive, outside of yesterday, get something positive going into The Open,” Woods said. “I got to double digits, I just didn’t stay there. But overall it was a great day. I hit the ball really well and made some nice putts.”
DeChambeau sees some positives
DeChambeau was looking to be the second-ever golfer to defend his Memorial Tournament title but instead finished tied for 22nd.
“Everybody talking about the repeat, go repeat, and unfortunately I didn’t,” he said. “There’s technical reasons of why that happened and unfortunately I just didn’t have my game for the first three days. I have to figure it out, have it for four days, and I’m getting close to that.”
What will make DeChambeau happy is that he made 116-feet worth of putts Sunday including a 29-foot-10-inch birdie putt on the par-3 16th hole.
DeChambeau finished the round third in Strokes Gained: Putting and was ninth overall for the week.
“It was a learning process for me,” said DeChambeau. “I’ve been working really hard trying to figure some stuff out, and I haven’t had my best for quite a while now, and trying to get the train rolling again and getting ready for Pebble Beach.”
The Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide final leaderboard
1. Patrick Cantlay -19
2. Adam Scott -17
3. Martin Kaymer -15
4. Kevin Streelman -13
5. Marc Leishman -12
6. Hideki Matsuyama -11
T7. Jason Dufner -10
T7. Jordan Spieth -10
T9. Bud Cauley -9
T9. Emiliano Grillo -9
T9. Billy Horschel -9
T9. Tiger Woods -9
Sunday morning, the Jack Nicklaus Awards were presented to Matthew Wolff, Jorge Garcia, Josh Gibson, Mark David Johnson and Callum Bruce. The award is given to one collegiate golfer in NCAA Division I, II, II, NAIA and NJCAA.
“I am personally very honored to have my name on the award and it represents the best college players in the country in all divisions,” Nicklaus said at Sunday’s awards ceremony. “To see that here in Muirfield Village is very nice. Congratulations, we wish you well with the rest of your college career and beyond. There’s an old man who’s here that has a willing ear if you ever need help or anything. I offer that and a lot of guys have taken me up on that, which has kept me busy, but that’s okay.”
The Memorial Tournament announced Nick Price as the 2020 honoree with Gene Littler and Ted Ray posthumously also being recognized. Jack Nicklaus also mentioned during the CBS broadcast that Jim Nantz would be the 2020 Memorial Tournament Journalism Honoree… This was the 16th Memorial Tournament without any delays or stoppages in 43 years and first since 2015… Bud Cauley tied for ninth place one year after being involved in a Friday night car accident, good for his second top-10 finish of the season… For the first time this week, the par-5 seventh hole played easiest at a 4.315 total and the par-4 17th proved difficult with players averaging a 4.301 output… Had there been a playoff Sunday, it would have been the fifth in the last six years.
Photo credit: PGA TOUR Twitter
Chris Pohl also contributed to this article