Patrick Cantlay has played the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open so well that he wasn’t the least bit concerned when he was stuck in neutral Friday. Four straight birdies later, he was right up at the top again.
Cantlay ran off four straight birdies at the midway point of his round and got up-and-down from a bunker on the par-5 ninth to cap off a 6-under 65 and share the early 36-hole lead in Las Vegas
Martin Laird hit his second shot into 4 feet for eagle on his closing hole at the ninth for a 63. They were at 14-under 128 going into a weekend with a forecast of dry, warm weather and plenty of birdies.
U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau who opened with a 62 for the 18-hole lead, played in the afternoon.
Cantlay was this tournament for his first PGA Tour title in 2017. He was runner-up to DeChambeau the following year, and lost in a playoff to Kevin Na last year. He expects to play well, and that showed early on in his round when he was even par through six holes and losing ground.
“You need to make so many birdies, and I’m just used to it out here,” Cantlay said. “It never feels like I’m stressing because it feels like there are so many birdie holes. It actually allows me to be patient.”
He went into a back bunker on No. 11, his second hole of the round, and missed a 10-foot par putt. On the 15th hole, a par 4 that played at only 284 yards Friday, he drove into a right bunker and didn’t reach the green, having to scramble for par on the second-easiest hole at the TPC Summerlin.
At that point, he was even for his round. And then he two-putted for birdie on the 16th, and had wedges to 10 feet and 15 feet for birdies, and hit a flip wedge to 4 feet on No. 1. Just like that, he was on his way.
Laird poured it on late. He was 2 under on the back nine, and then played the front nine in 30 with four birdies and his short eagle putt on his final hole.
“I hit 5-iron and I didn’t think I could get it there,” Laird said. “But to that pine, if you’re 5 yards short of the green it’s a pretty straightforward chip up the green. And as soon as I hit it, I just got it absolutely right and I said to my caddie, ‘That’s as good as I got. Let’s see if it gets there.’ It landed perfect, skipped up to about 4 feet. It was a nice way to finish.”
Among early starters, they were two shots ahead of Sergio Garcia (64), James Hahn (66), Nate Lashley (67) and the resurgent Stewart Cink (63), who began the new season by winning the Safeway Open for his first title since he won the British Open at Turnberry in 2009.
Garcia is coming off a victory in the Sanderson Farms Championship, his first on the PGA Tour since the 2017 Masters.
“Earlier in the year I felt like I was playing as well as I’ve been playing the last week and-a-half, just things weren’t really happening,” Garcia said. “So obviously it’s a combination of playing well, confidence, couple good breaks when you need them at the right time that keeps your round going, and that’s what I did.”
Headed the opposite direction was Rickie Fowler, who missed the cut for the fourth time since golf returned in June. Fowler hit two shots in the water on the par-5 16th and made a triple-bogey 8. On the next hole, he hit his tee shot in the water on the par 3 and made double bogey. He shot 74.
Francesco Molinari, in his first competition since golf shut down in March, returned with rounds of 70-68. In Las Vegas, on this course, that meant likely missing the cut.
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