He's only 20, but Patrick Cantlay has played enough professional events – nine on the PGA Tour and a handful more on the Web.com Tour -- to look, act and feel like a veteran.
After two seasons at UCLA, the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world turned pro in June after the U.S. Open. He signed with Tiger Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg of Excel Sports Management, and never looked back.
In October, Cantlay came from five shots down on the last day at the Web.com’s Chiquita Classic in North Carolina, shot his second consecutive 65, and wound up in a playoff with Russell Henley before being edged out. Cantlay had a birdie putt to win in regulation but missed a 25-footer.
The low amateur at the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional and the low amateur at this year’s Masters, Cantlay’s 60 at the 2011 Travelers Championship is the lowest round ever shot by an amateur at a PGA Tour event.
Since he was 7, Long Beach native Cantlay has worked with swing coach Jamie Mulligan at Virginia Country Club.
After wrapping up his season, Cantlay this month is looking toward PGA Tour Qualifying School at PGA West at La Quinta. He took time out recently for an interview with Southland Golf.
Q: What’s the takeaway from your runner-up finish in North Carolina?
I played well that week and really well over the weekend. The more you can put yourself into position, the better it is. I learned a lot coming down the stretch. It was good that I played well under pressure.
Q: You shot 65-65 on the weekend. What did that do to you emotionally and mentally?
It’s the most fun playing golf in that situation, trying to win a golf tournament and not be in the last group on Sunday. So I just really tried to stick to my game plan and hit the right shots. And I hit a lot of really good ones. I had a 5-shot deficit to come back from; I just came up one short.
Q: Are you happy with your driving distance stats, in the Top 30 with a 299.3 yard average?
That’s great; you definitely need length to compete out here. I think l’ll only get longer because I don’t think I’m fully developed, fully matured yet. But, yup, as long as you’re in the fairway, length is good.
Q: To what do you attribute your length? Lower body, legs, torque?
That’s a good question; I don’t really know. I haven’t ever worked on hitting the ball farther. I think you have to be flexible to create enough energy, big enough arc to hit a ball far. And then you have to hit it solid. So I feel like I do those two things well, and I never feel like I’m swinging too hard.
Q: Anything surprise you so far since you’ve turned pro? Anything you didn’t expect?
It’s everything I expected. I played a lot of professional events before I turned professional, so I knew exactly what to expect. I’m into a good routine of getting enough rest and budgeting my time correctly so I feel good during the week. And I think it’s important to do that.
Q: What’s a typical practice session for you on the range?
My day starts with stretches for about 20-25 minutes every morning. Then when I make it over to the range, I usually work up from the bottom. I hit sand wedge, 9-iron, 6-iron, 4-iron, 3-wood, driver and then a couple of little small pitching wedges before I tee off.
Q: When you’re not warming up for a round, how much attention do you pay to the technical aspects like launch monitors and so forth?
I don’t pay any attention to launch angles or anything like that. I’m not a big numbers guy. But I do think it’s important to hit the ball where you’re looking. That’s basically what golf is. If it feels like that, I don’t spend too much time on the range. And if it doesn’t feel that way, I spend a little more time to get it to feel that way.
Q: Are you close to any of the UCLA guys on the tour?
I hang out with basically the Long Beach guys like John Merrick and John Mallinger and then Kevin Chappell, probably the closest UCLA alumni to where I am.
Q: What’s a night off on the road for you now that golf’s your profession?
I usually just go out to dinner. I don’t do too much. I try to rest a lot when I’m out on the road because I think it takes a [toll] on your body to peak every day, to compete every day, physically and mentally. So I relax and kind of keep to myself most of the time.
Q: You’ll be at Q School this month, and you’re on your way on the tour. Is this whole experience daunting or challenging or fun or what?
It’s what I really love doing, and it’s fun for me.