Another major, another impressive finish for Patrick Cantlay.
The former UCLA standout finished in a tie for third with Jordan Spieth and Matt Wallace at two-under-par 278, a month after a tie for ninth in the Masters. It was Cantlay’s seventh top-10 finish of the year, tying his career-best seven of last year.
“It’s just sticking to my game plan,” said Cantlay, 27, who as a Bruins freshman in 2011 won the Jack Nicklaus Award as the college golfer of the year. “I feel like every week I show up extremely prepared and extremely ready to play well. And I have been. I had a lot of nice finishes this year, and looking to get some Ws.”
Cantlay, whose only PGA Tour win came in the 2018 Shriners Hospital for Children Open, shot a one-over 71 on Sunday with four birdies, three bogeys and a double. He said the windy weather dramatically changed Bethpage Black.
“It was very difficult, yeah, especially once you finish the first six,” he said. “Really, really windy, and so it’s hard to get the ball in the correct spots. It’s hard to get the fairways. And when you turn and you get the holes into the wind, or cross-wind, really, really difficult.
“I played really well. I hit a lot of good shots. I actually hit some good shots that didn’t end up in good spots. Caught gusts. I’m sure everyone was catching gusts out there.”
Spieth leaves Bethpage without a PGA Championship victory, the only box he needs to check for a career slam. But he was happy about his tie for third place, in light of his recent slump.
He hasn’t been victorious on tour since three wins in 2017, and his previous best finish this year was a tie for 21st at the Masters.
“I knew coming into the week that it was unlikely on this golf course that I was going to have a chance to win,” he said, “and that’s a humbling feeling for me, but I knew that if I played the course the right way, had the right mentality, kept putting the way I’ve been putting, that I would be in it; that I would be, you know, in and having a chance to make some noise.”
“The last five or six years, my best finishes are in the majors,” he said. “We pick a plan to peak for the majors. It’s very difficult to try and to do that every week because you use a lot of energy up. The next couple days, I can’t really, I mean, I don’t feel like I can do anything. I’ve got to just rest and recover.
“My score in majors typically reflects the state of my game at that time and I’ve been speaking to how it’s been closer and better than maybe results would show.”
Rory McIlroy said he doesn’t know Brooks Koepka well, nor does he know his routines. But McIlroy, who has won every major but the Masters, was asked about the difficulty of sustained excellence and what he has learned.
“The big thing for me was finding the time to, or making sure that you have the time to keep yourself at a level where you need to be at,” he said. “Saying no to things. Just making sure that golf and your performance is still the No. 1 priority.
“When you start to win majors and you start to get all these opportunities, you know, it depends. You have to make the most of those, as well, because at the end of the day, we’re here to make a living and have a livelihood and enjoy ourselves. But at the same time, you have to make sure that your performance stays where it needs to stay.”
A couple of golfers with the same first name were paired Sunday and had memorable performances on the 206-yard, par-3 17th.
Lucas Bjerregaard hit a beautiful six-iron that sailed toward the pin, took one hop and landed in the cup for a hole-in-one.
Next, Lucas Glover blasted out of a bunker behind the green and heard the cheer swell to a roar as his ball rolled into the hole for a two. He was 49 feet, six inches away.
Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesfarmer