Curtains came down on the PGA 2020/21 season last night as Patrick Cantlay completed a wire-to-wire performance to be crowned the FedEx Cup champion ahead of world No. 1 John Rahm. Here are some facts and fun gleaned from the lucrative season ender:
Cantlay completes historic comeback
Cantlay became the top-ranked amateur player in the world during the 2011-12 season for a record 54 weeks. He suffered a back injury in 2013 which stayed away from golf for three years. During that time, his best friend and caddie, Chris Roth, was killed in a hit-and-run accident while walking with Cantlay in Newport Beach, California. He only resumed playing golf actively in 2017.
Yesterday’s victory marked Cantlay’s fourth triumph this season in the PGA Tour’s 50 events calendar, making him the only player to win more than two tournaments in the season. His other victories came in the last week’s BMW Championship, the Memorial in June and the ZOZO Championship last October. He’s not had a fine run in the Majors this season though, missing the cut at the Masters and British Open, finished 15th at the U.S. Open and 23rd at the PGA Championship. He is currently ranked fourth on the World Golf Ranking Order of Merit.
A part from raking in a cool $15 million and the FedEx trophy, yesterday’s victory earned Cantlay a five-year PGA Tour exemption. He became the 13th different winner of the FedEx Cup since it was introduced 15 years ago and the first player to win the BMW championship and Tour Championship back to back since Billy Horschel in 2014.
The handicapping debate
There have been mixed reactions since the handicap system was introduced in 2019 to reward the FedEx leader with a two-shot advantage at the Tour Championship finale. The starting scores are assigned based on the golfers rank in the FedEx Cup standings.
This week, Jon Rahm and Kevin Na shot the best 72-hole aggregate scores of 266, three better than Cantlay but still failed to dislodge the champion. In fact, Cantlay was fourth based in terms of gross scores. During last year’s playoffs Xander Schauffele shot the tournament’s best score of 15 under but still lost by three strokes to the eventual winner Dustin Johnson after beginning the week at 3 under, seven strokes behind Johnson.
While in 2020, without the strokes-based scoring Schauffele would have won by four strokes, the same scenario applies to the 2021 contest which Rahm having started four strokes behind Cantlay would have comfortably won the contest by three strokes.
Sungjae Im sets new birdies record
South Korean Sungjae shattered the 40-year PGA Tour record for the most birdies in a season despite finishing T20 at the Tour Championship. Im’s birdie haul for the season stands at 498 following yesterday’s run surpassing the 493 birdie-count registered by Steve Flesch in 2000. Im has achieved the feat after playing 128 rounds on the PGA Tour this season five rounds more than Flesch’s outings. He recorded his first PGA Tour victory at the 2020 Honda Classic before finishing tied for second behind Dustin Johnson at the 2020 Masters.
Niemann sets fastest round record
Joaquin Niemann, was forced to play the final round of The Tour Championship alone yesterday after Brooks Koepka withdrew on Saturday. Way off the pace and out of contention, Niemann opted to enjoy himself and chase a record unknown to many golfers and fans alike. He completed a fast-paced round at the East Lake Golf Club in 1 hour, 53 minutes to better Kevin Na’s time of 1 hour, 59 minutes set in 2017. Wesley’s Bryan’s playoffs record of 1 hour, 29 minutes set in the final round of the 2017 BMW Championship still stands out.
“It has been a long week, a long three or four weeks that I’ve been playing, and I wasn’t playing my best golf this week. I was in last place and wasn’t going to win. I was pretty far behind from the guys in front of me, so I was like, let’s make it fun and have fun. It was a lot of fun.”