Both golfers are aiming for their third victory of the season; either would go No.1 in the FedEx Cup standings ahead of next week’s Circuit Championship. And while Cantlay had the most stable round, it was DeChambeau who had the funniest day to follow in Round 3 as he tried to secure his early lead at home.
Let’s take a closer look at their two rounds and find out who can catch them on Sunday afternoon in Caves Valley.
T1. Patrick Cantlay, Bryson DeChambeau (-21) : Saturday was an absolute stroll for DeChambeau. He shot 30 on the first nine, and it started to look like the No.9 win on the PGA Tour was inevitable. However, he hit two balls in the water less than 20 minutes apart over the last nine, the last of which came on par-3 13th and double bogey drive. He worked on the remaining holes (two more birdies and a bogey), and his 70% chance of winning (according to Data Golf) dropped to 40% by the end of the round.
The interesting part of that dynamic will be how DeChambeau deals with the crowds that could be against him on Sunday. When he hit his shot in the water on No.13, the sound wasn’t quite a cheer, but it wasn’t quite not a cheer, either. DeChambeau encountered something similar at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Classic a few weeks ago, and he will surely hear as much “Brooksie! Taunts that Sunday as he did that one when the discord over the top nine in the last round turned into a score in the 40s on the back. I wrote about how psychologically taxing it can be to hear galleries that are against you, especially when you want to be loved. DeChambeau could handle that – and he’s historically a good closer – but if he will managing it could determine who wins that event.
As far as Cantlay goes, well, I was wrong about him. After he shot 66 on Thursday, I figured the game was going to weaken him for the rest of the week, especially since his putting numbers were twice as good as the next best golfer in that area after the round 2. Normally this is not a recipe for success on the PGA Tour, but Cantlay is no normal golfer. Where the putter fell a bit, his ball strike took over. This is why Cantlay can be such a problem. He doesn’t have any holes, and even if he doesn’t do well for a day or two, that can change faster than with most other players. He only has two bogeys in his last two laps (which he has played in under 15), and it will be difficult to tidy up on Sunday at a time because he may have the best putting week of his time. life and because it is good when he starts the final rounds in the top three. This is the 11th time he has done so since the start of 2014, and he has already scored two wins while increasing his expected winning value.
3. I am Sungjae (-18): I have had a fairly calm summer. He has only one world top 10 since the Honda Classic in February, and that happened during the Rocket Mortgage Classic, which can’t touch that even in field strength. Im flushing him out, though (sixth on the board, fourth from tee to green), and he absolutely has the firepower to get into the mix with a few holes to go on Sunday.
T7. Sergio Garcia, Sam Burns, Abraham Ancer, Rory McIlroy (-17): McIlroy doesn’t hit his irons very well (see also Dustin Johnson below). It’s not a problem in the standings when you roll the putter like Rory, but it doesn’t give me much confidence on Sunday. McIlroy, as Cantlay did in Round 3 on Saturday, could put it all together and it wouldn’t surprise anyone exactly, but the numbers are at least worth taking into account. He is in a great place to go shoot something stupid on Sunday before the last pairing, so it should be fun to see him try to chase that number 5 under five holes that Bryson posted in rounds 2 and 3. Burns, at fact, could play for a place in the Ryder Cup on Sunday.
8. Jon Rahm (-16): It was a tough comeback for Rahm and reminiscent of what happened to him Monday at the Northern Trust. He played the last six in 3s and fell five behind the leaders, which is not an insurmountable number but should be much closer. These last six holes played slightly below par, meaning Rahm lost more than three field strokes (not the leaders, but the field average) playing them in 3 rounds. It wasn’t a very Rahm-ian stretch, but it’s been so good the last few months that I wouldn’t be surprised to see a 65 Sunday. It would probably not be enough yet.
9. Hudson Swafford (-15) : Swafford is one of the few at the top of this table to play just to enter the Circuit Championship. He started the week at No.40, and if the tournament ended now he would be No.31, with a spot to play at East Lake next week where the top 30 in the FedEx Cup standings advance. He needs a good run on Sunday to enter.
T10. Dustin Johnson, Erik van Rooyen (-14) : DJ has been calm this week, but he’s starting to fit into the mix a bit. He won’t win on Sunday (unless he shoots something in the 50s), but he can set himself up for a second straight FedEx Cup victory next weekend at the Tour Championship by running on that board and getting as many shots as possible from his starting position in East Lake. One interesting thing to note here is that he continued to struggle with his approach shots (outside of the top 40 this week), which is an area where he really struggled for most of 2021.
Rick Gehman and Greg DuCharme break down and react to Saturday’s third round action at the BMW Championship. Follow and listen to The First Cut on Podcasts Apple and Spotify.