2022 BMW Championship leaderboard, grades: Patrick Cantlay successfully defends title in Wilmington

It didn’t look as easy as a year ago, but the drama was just as rich. Patrick Cantlay has accomplished a first in PGA Tour history as he successfully defended a FedEx Cup playoff event title with his victory on Sunday at the 2022 BMW Championship.

Entering the final round with a one-stroke lead over his good friend, Xander Schauffele, and his biggest challenger, Scott Stallings, this title did not come easily. After making two bogeys in a three-hole stretch around the turn, Cantlay found himself two strokes off the lead set by Stallings and on the cusp of yet another close call.

While his 2021 season brought victories and riches, 2022 has brought close call after close call. Three-time runner-up, Cantlay entered the week among the most consistent in the game but without a solo victory to his credit. The breaks have gone in the direction of his playing competitors; he was one revolution away from a playoff victory at the WM Phoenix Open and a plugged lie away from extending a playoff at the RBC Heritage. On Sunday at Wilmington Country Club, the golf gods finally made amends.

Battling Stallings down the stretch, Cantlay found himself in a share of the lead on the 17th tee after dodging bullet after bullet with Stallings unable to convert numerous birdie opportunities. With his tee shot drifting right, it was a bounce that finally went his way that ultimately propelled him to victory.

Destined to end up in the fairway bunker or perhaps the thick rough, Cantlay’s ball on 17 took an obscure hop back into the fairway instead. While these moments happen often throughout a tournament, it is what Cantlay did next that defines champions: he took advantage of it. Hitting his approach inside 6 feet, the 30-year-old grabbed hold of the lead by himself and did not look back as a tidy par on the last put the BMW Championship trophy back in his hands.

Cantlay has now earned 11 top-10 finishes on the season, the best of his career and the best mark of anyone on the PGA Tour. It was mentioned yesterday that consistency is not often rewarded in the short term but rather the long term. Faced with the condensed three-week FedEx Cup Playoffs, Cantlay is actually afforded the luxury of benefitting from both.

His fantastic regular season saw him miss out on adding hardware to his mantle, but what he did was set him up for this very moment. He will enter the Tour Championship in the second position behind only Scottie Scheffler and start the postseason finale two strokes off the lead at 8 under.

Cantlay made history in Delaware on Sunday with his triumph, and now has an opportunity to add to it in Atlanta. No man has won back-to-back FedEx Cup crowns, and while this will surely be on the mind of the reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year, so will the $18 million check he has a realistic chance to add to his bank account for the second consecutive year. Grade: A+

Here is the breakdown of the rest of the leaderboard at the 2022 BMW Championship

2. Scott Stallings (-13): He looked like the best player of those vying for the title for most of the day. Exquisite from tee to green, Stallings ultimately fell short on the greens as he was unable to convert birdie opportunities on his final four holes which followed up an untimely three-putt from just off the green on the par-3 13th. A victory would have meant so much for Stallings, who is winless in over eight years. Despite the disappointment, there are plenty of positives to take away from his performance. He entered the week 46th in the FedEx Cup and will leave in the 12th position ahead of the likes of Justin Thomas and Matt Fitzpatrick, which is somewhat mind-boggling to imagine. Grade: A+

T3. Scottie Scheffler (-11): The world no. 1 got off on the wrong foot at the St. Jude Championship but quickly rectified any mistakes in Memphis. He had his chances coming down the stretch on Sunday, and although he came up short, he will head to Atlanta as the top man in the FedEx Cup standings. Beginning the week at 10 under and two strokes ahead of Cantlay, he will attempt to follow in the footsteps of his nearest pursuer and fend off the chasing pack. Scheffler has been able to parlay his scorching spring into an enviable position at East Lake, but his historic season could be made with the addition of a friendly putter. In his last 10 tournaments, Scheffler has lost strokes on the greens on seven occasions — the three times he didn’t, he finished inside the top three. Grade: A-

T5. Corey Conners (-10): The best player out of Canada these days, Conners entered the week 29th in the FedEx Cup standings. His ball-striking has long been a strength of his, and it came through in a big way on Sunday. After making two bogeys in the middle of his back nine, Conners was reeling and in need of something good to happen. Well, that happened for the 30-year-old as his iron play set up kick-in birdies on three of his final four holes to secure his spot in the Tour Championship.

“It’s really exciting,” Conners said. “It’s always a goal at the start of the year. I feel like I’ve had a solid season. Still trying to get in the winner’s circle again, but a lot of really solid play, giving myself some chances, and really excited to be going back to East Lake.” Grade: A

T15. Sahith Theegala (-7): After opening his BMW Championship with a 1-over 72, Theegala battled back with three consecutive rounds in the 60s to qualify for the Tour Championship. He mentioned on the television broadcast the nerves settling in during his warmup, but they were nowhere to be seen in the home stretch. Making birdie on four of his final seven holes on Sunday, Theegala looked well beyond his years in experience and displayed the grit and determination showcased by a top 30 player on the PGA Tour.

“Oh, that’s what it’s all about,” Theegala said of his nervousness. “The fact that you’re even in that position to feel nerves is a good thing. I think that’s something I tell a lot of guys is like, hey, if you’re nervous, that’s such a good feeling. Imagine not being nervous , then what you’re doing kind of thing. Obviously, there’s a fine line between serious nervousness and anxiety and comfortability, and finding that line is tough. But yeah, just pressure is a privilege, and I sure felt that way today.” Grade: A+

T15 Aaron Wise (-7): The last man in had a turbulent final round and easily could have packed it in early. Making a double bogey on his second hole, Wise righted the ship in the middle of his round before taking on the water once again. Going double bogey-bogey on Nos. 14-15, the 26-year-old was able to make three pars in a row to punch his second-ever ticket into the Tour Championship. While Wise has been able to make his way into major championships in recent years, with his trip to East Lake, he will garner an invitation to next year’s Masters for the first time since 2019. Grade: B+

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