Ice man Patrick Cantlay claims BMW Championship win and looks ahead to East Lake, Ryder Cup and more

The American became the 2020/21 PGA Tour season’s first three-time winner with a sensational play off victory over Bryson DeChambeau.

Just a couple of months ago the notion of Patrick Cantlay being a big time player could prompt fury on the Twitter feeds of some golf fans.

"Never proved himself at the highest level" and "big reputation, low returns" were the gist of at least two angry missives.

Rather wonderfully, his 2020/21 season might actually have both ends of the spectrum continuing to believe their own opinions of the 29-year-old.

Because in among the three victories has been some of his poorest golf of the last four years.

Through March and April, for example, with the exception of one startlingly good group match in the WGC Dell Match Play, he was absolutely awful.

But in those three stellar weeks he has also been magnificent, most especially when under the cosh.

At Sherwood in last October's Zozo Championship, he went toe-to-toe with Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas and triumphed by one shot.

At Muirfield Village he was handed a massive helping hand because Jon Rahm tested positive when holding a six shot 54 hole lead, but he pounced in style, taking down Collin Morikawa in extra holes after a final round duel.

And last week he was the winner of a thrilling head-to-head against Bryson DeChambeau that had resembled a Marvel-like contest between scalpel and blunderbuss.

DeChambeau's driving was outrageous: long, brutal, accurate. But Cantlay overwhelmed it with a putting display what was calculated, forensic and error-free even under the severest of pressure.

The Baltimore galleries cried "Paddy Ice" at him, in honour of his demeanour.

"That's the first time I've heard it," he said and it may not be the last.

Of his ability to take on the world's best in final rounds tussles and emerge with the trophy he said: "It takes a lot of determination and a lot of focus.

"I'm as focused as I can be on every single shot and I try not to let my mind get past the moment that I'm in. Maybe that's why I come across a little sedated out there.

"I'm locked in. I let the chips fall where they do, try not to get caught up in being out-driven by 45 yards or whatever it is. Just lock in and do my absolute best in that moment, and my best is pretty good."

It was certainly that on the greens. He gained 14.577 strokes on the field last week, the best number recorded since tracking began back in 2004.

"Did it beat Kevin Na when he beat me (in the 2019 Shriner's Hospitals Open) and it seemed like he was making everything on the planet?" he asked.

Yes, he was told.

"Good, a little redemption then."

The key to his performance? A new surgical instrument.

"I think it's a Phantom X5, I think that's what they call it. It felt great. Switched to it on Saturday last week after I've been working with the guys at Scotty Cameron all year. They just sent me a ton of putters and I've got the magic one now."

What of the future? In the short-term he heads into next week's seasonal finale already leading the field with the staggered start.

In the medium-term he has a Ryder Cup debut to look forward to. And then in the long-run he will be looking to transfer his winning form to the Major Championships.

Let's take a closer look at all those goals.

Cantlay on East Lake this week

"I'm a little tired but very happy. I'll try to reset and play the golf tournament like any other golf tournament, just trying to put a bunch of rounds in the 60s on the board. It's a really good golf course. It's usually in fantastic shape. I haven't played that well there in the past, that's true, but it's a golf course I like. I like the visuals out there and I'm looking forward to having a better result this year.

"Driving the ball in the fairway there is very important with the Bermuda rough. In the past we've had it firm, so that highlights putting the ball in the fairway even a little more. Staying below the hole there is very important, too. The greens have lots of pitch, usually back to front, and they are very fast, so as many uphill putts as you can get, then you really have some chances of making some."

This week will be his fourth start and he is still seeking a first top 15 finish. In fact, only once, after 36 holes in 2018, been inside the top 15 at the end of any of his 12 laps at East Lake.

He notes the importance of driving above so will want to improve on his last two visits, when he lost shots on the field from the tee. He also has dreadful Strokes Gained Putting stats on the course, ranking 29th, 20th ad 30th in a 30 man field.

Cantlay on the Ryder Cup

"I'm excited. Fred Couples texted me this week and said it looks like he's going to be one of the assistant captains, so he'll be up there. I've been talking with Xander, obviously, and JT and Jordan. We're really looking forward to it. It's nice to get in the team on points. I've heard so much about it and watched it growing up. I'm sure it will be everything I've imagined and more. Hopefully we'll get a victory."

Cantlay in the Majors

At Augusta National he has made five starts and failed to breach the top 40 three times. He was tied ninth, briefly holding the final round lead, in 2019 and was tied sixth at half way in 2020 when ultimately finishing T17th.

He's 5-for-5 at making the cut in the PGA Championship, but has just the one top 20, when tied third at Bethpage in 2019.

He has a similar record in the US Open: six starts, six cuts made, just the one top 20. That came this year when T15th at Torrey Pines. He is, however, yet to end any single US Open round inside the top 10.

He finished T12th on debut at the Open in 2018 at Carnoustie, but was T41st at Royal Portrush and missed the cut this summer.

READ MORE: Ryder Cup just a month away: conventional wisdom says USA hold aces, unconventional wisdom disagrees

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