Patrick Cantlay takes Memorial title after playoff with Collin Morikawa

Both players carded one-under 71s in the final round

 Patrick Cantlay  poses with tournament host Jack Nicklaus after winning the Memorial at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. Photograph: Tannen Maury/EPA

Patrick Cantlay poses with tournament host Jack Nicklaus after winning the Memorial at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. Photograph: Tannen Maury/EPA

 

The leaderboards positioned at critical junctures of a professional golf tournament are more than scoreboards. They are omnipresent yardsticks measuring the rhythm of the contest with hole-by-hole counts for the top golfers, collectively meant to tell the whole story of the event.

But Sunday in the final round of the Memorial Tournament, there was a jarring omission from every leaderboard, a name conspicuously missing.

Patrick Cantlay won the 2021 Memorial, outdueling Collin Morikawa in a seesaw battle that included one playoff hole, but the heartrending story of the event will always be the Saturday evening withdrawal of Jon Rahm, who had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Rahm, the defending Memorial champion, was informed of his test result at the end of the third round as he left the 18th green with a commanding six-stroke lead. The tournament continued, and Cantlay’s victory will not carry an asterisk in the PGA Tour record book, nor should it.

But from the first holes played Sunday by Cantlay and Morikawa, who became the third-round co-leaders after Rahm’s withdrawal, Rahm’s absence was recognised.

When Cantlay and Morikawa, who played together, each bogeyed the first hole, there was a disquieting murmur in the crowd around the green that may have been a shared thought: If Rahm were still in the field, his lead might now have been seven strokes with 17 holes remaining.

Play continued – and Cantlay and Morikawa eventually put on a good show. They made the turn still tied for the lead and extended their head-to-head match for more than two hours. The tournament did not lack drama. Its lasting image, however, will most likely be Rahm doubled over in tears.

A spirited crowd at the Muirfield Village Golf Club in the Columbus suburbs warmed to the taut competition in the closing holes, even when soaked by rain late in the afternoon.

Morikawa held the lead for most of the back nine, edging ahead on the par-five 11th by sinking a seven-foot birdie putt that put him back at 12 under par for the tournament, which is where he and Cantlay began the day. Cantlay threatened to catch Morikawa on the 12th hole when his 42-foot putt for birdie skirted the left edge of the hole. But on the next green, Cantlay coolly stroked a 17-foot uphill putt for a birdie that tied Morikawa.

Scottie Scheffler joined Morikawa and Cantlay at the top of the leaderboard at 12 under par when he nearly holed his second shot from 131 yards at the par-four 14th hole and was left a tap-in birdie putt. Scheffler hung in for several holes before faltering with a bogey on the 18th.

Morikawa regained the lead at the par-five 15th hole when he delicately pitched from a bad lie in deep rough near the green then sank an eight-foot birdie putt. That lead held up until the 17th hole when Cantlay rolled in a twisting 23-foot birdie putt to tie Morikawa, who had to make an 11-foot par putt to stay even.

At the 18th hole, both players sliced their drives right of the fairway. From the rough, Cantlay nonetheless knocked his second shot pin high on the elevated, two-tiered final green. His try for birdie just skirted the right edge of the hole. Morikawa hit his second shot into a greenside bunker, and his recovery from the sand left him a nervy three-foot attempt for par that he converted to send the competition to a playoff. Both golfers had shot a one-under par 71 for 13 under par.

Replaying the 18th hole, Morikawa’s approach shot from the fairway missed the green short and left, while Cantlay did the same from the right rough. Morikawa’s pitch from deep rough settled six feet from the hole. Blasting from a greenside bunker, Cantlay skittered a shot that ran 12 feet past the hole, but his right-to-left par putt tracked into the centre of the hole.

Morikawa’s par putt to extend the competition rolled past the left edge of the hole.

Both Morikawa and Cantlay had shaky starts to the final round. In addition to bogeying the first hole, Morikawa bungled the par-three fourth hole when he missed a five-foot par putt. Morikawa birdied the fifth hole but carded his third bogey in six holes when he flubbed a chip near the sixth green and badly misjudged a 10-foot putt. He made a putt of similar length just to save bogey.

From there, Morikawa found some consistency to his swing and his short game.

Cantlay birdied the second hole but then gave that stroke back on the subsequent hole with a bogey set up by a wayward tee shot into the rough. An errant approach shot to the par-five fifth green bounded into a bunker and led to a disappointing par but Cantlay rolled in a curving, right-to-left 10-foot birdie putt on the sixth hole.

At the seventh hole, Cantlay again squandered an opportunity to take advantage of a par-five when his tee shot skidded into a fairway bunker and his escape from that hazard also ended up in the rough. He saved par. Worse, at the ninth hole, he three-putted from 40 feet for bogey.

For Cantlay, 29, it was his fourth PGA Tour victory and the second time he has won the Memorial since 2019. Cantlay’s last victory was the Zozo Championship in October 2020. Ranked 15th in the world before the Memorial Tournament, Cantlay this year has had two top-five finishes and five top-20 finishes.

“This week was a really good week,” Cantlay said. “I played very solid most every day. A little more up-and-down today. There were a few short putts, mid-range putts, that I normally would make that today I didn’t, which made it a little more of a grind.

“But made a few long ones. So it ended up being just enough and a tough playoff where Collin and I were really trading blows all day. So it felt really good. I stayed within myself and comfortable and confident and I really did my best to stay present and I think I did a good job.”

Shane Lowry carded a closing 70 to share sixth place and pocket plenty of Ryder Cup points, while Rory McIlroy finished with a level-par72 to end the week on one under. – New York Times

Final leaderboard

(USA unless stated, Par 72)

275 Patrick Cantlay (won at first play off hole) 69 67 68 71, Collin Morikawa 66 72 66 71

277 Scottie Scheffler 67 71 69 70

278 Branden Grace (Rsa) 68 72 67 71

280 Patrick Reed 71 71 69 69

282 Max Homa 69 69 72 72, Shane Lowry (Irl) 69 71 72 70, Jimmy Walker 74 69 74 65,

283 Si Woo Kim (Kor) 73 70 68 72, Aaron Wise 72 70 70 71

284 Rickie Fowler 69 70 75 70, Xander Schauffele 68 70 74 72

285 Bo Hoag 68 73 72 72, Alexander Noren (Swe) 73 69 75 68, Kevin Streelman 72 72 73 68

286 Carlos Ortiz (Mex) 71 68 72 75, Adam Scott (Aus) 74 68 71 73

287 Bryson DeChambeau 71 72 73 71, Talor Gooch 74 71 71 71, Lucas Herbert (Aus) 71 69 71 76, Rory McIlroy (NIrl) 72 72 71 72, Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa) 72 71 72 72, Antoine Rozner (Fra) 72 72 69 74, Jordan Spieth 76 67 71 73, Vaughn Taylor 69 72 71 75

288 Chris Kirk 67 74 74 73, Jim Herman 72 68 72 76, Adam Long 67 77 71 73, Cameron Tringale 70 76 73 69, Danny Willett (Eng) 75 71 69 73, Xinjun Zhang (Chn) 73 68 75 72

289 Joel Dahmen 68 73 73 75, Tony Finau 72 68 76 73, Sung-Hoon Kang (Kor) 70 72 74 73, Robby Shelton 71 71 73 74, Sahith Theegala 69 76 73 71

290 Christiaan Bezuidenhout (Rsa) 69 77 72 72, Rafael Cabrera (Spa) 68 72 78 72, Jason Dufner 70 73 77 70, Brendan Steele 69 73 75 73, Lucas Glover 72 70 72 76

291 Mark Hubbard 73 72 72 74, Doc Redman 75 71 74 71, Nick Taylor (Can) 68 74 77 72, Justin Thomas 69 72 75 75, Kyle Stanley 70 71 75 75

292 Stewart Cink 70 74 77 71, Viktor Hovland (Nor) 72 70 76 74, Harold Varner III 72 73 75 72

293 Sam Burns 71 71 75 76, Brandon Hagy 76 70 77 70, Troy Merritt 74 70 71 78

294 Corey Conners (Can) 74 69 74 77, Martin Laird (Sco) 74 72 74 74, Charl Schwartzel (Rsa) 70 72 75 77, Brendon Todd 72 72 74 76

295 Charley Hoffman 72 71 80 72, Marc Leishman (Aus) 69 75 75 76, Chengtsung Pan (Tai) 74 70 74 77, Tyler Strafaci 74 71 78 72, Russell Knox (Sco) 72 73 75 75

296 Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn) 73 68 79 76, Hudson Swafford 72 73 78 73

297 Michael Thompson 70 73 73 81

298 Kyoung-Hoon Lee (Kor) 74 71 79 74, J. T. Poston 69 74 78 77

301 Billy Horschel 76 70 82 73

305 Harry Higgs 76 69 76 84

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