CHARLOTTE, NC — Patrick Cantlay walked the first hole at Quail Hollow in the Presidents Cup and told his caddy Matt Minister that playing as a team with his American partner Xander Schauffele offered a level of comfort in a format where players are essentially half hit the shots.
After all, he and Schauffele have become a dangerous tamper-evident tandem in the last three international team competitions and are regular practice round partners on Tuesdays when they play the same events and are prepared to take on all newcomers in money matches. Not to mention they won the Zurich Classic of New Orleans at the end of April, the only two-man team event in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup regular season.
“We’ve played so many times now that we feel so comfortable,” Cantlay said. “I told my caddy on the first hole that while it’s an alternate shot, it feels completely normal. I think that’s an advantage for us in that format.”
Xander Schauffele (left) and Patrick Cantlay (right) hold up the Zurich Classic trophy and belts after winning the final round of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans golf tournament. (Photo: Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports)
In the first of five foursomes (aka alternative-shot) matches contested for the Presidents Cup on Thursday, Team USA’s Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele hit Hideki Matsuyama and Adam Scott 6 and 5. It marked the second-earliest finish of any match in Presidents Cup history.
“I told the boys last night that we have to set the tone,” said Schauffele, “and we did. Playing this format on a day like today and not making bogeys is exactly what we need.”
The dynamic duo for the USA improved to a perfect 3-0 in fours in the Presidents Cup – 5-0 including the Ryder Cup – to put the first point on the board. Cantlay-Schauffele took the lead with a par in the third. It took the US side five holes to birdie, but once the seal was broken, the US threw it at it with three birdies in a row to open a 4-up lead. The Internationals won their only hole of the day in the short par-4 eighth when Schauffele completed his birdie putt.
The international team had a chance to close the gap when Matsuyama set his six foot tee shot at number 10, but Scott missed the putt. That took the wind out of the sails of the international side as they bogeyed on the last three holes.
“You always expect your opponent to come back strong. We were lucky there at 10. That could have been a big one that they missed, and we used that as momentum to close out this match,” Cantlay said.
The Cantlay and Schauffele combination was the brainchild of Assistant Captain Fred Couples, who in 2019 saw the two Presidents Cup rookies play gin on the 26-hour flight from the Bahamas to Australia and told US Captain Tiger Woods he felt that there is a winning combination.
“They just play really good, smart, strategic golf and they’ve become best friends, so what’s the worst that could happen?” Stellen, the former Masters champion and three-time winning US President Cup captain, asked rhetorically. “They lose.”
But at last year’s Ryder Cup and again on Thursday, they only win. They have become an automatic clutch, of which the American captain Davis Love III was wise enough not to think too much. Asked to re-write the conversation with Love about working with Cantlay, Schauffele said: “It was kind of like, I assume you want to do this. If you guys like that, we’ll just do it back. So it was kind of of a very chill conversation, nothing too serious.”
It was another disappointing start for Scott, who fell back to 7-9-2 in fours. The 42-year-old Australian who is 10 . makese appearance in the biennial team competition is still looking for his first win. (The match ended in a draw in 2003.)
“Can you imagine? It sucks to lose these things,” said fellow Aussie Geoff Ogilvy, an assistant captain on the international team, who called Scott the captain of the players. “They all lean on him. He wants just win it for everyone. It’s like he wants to win it for everyone who never had a chance to win one.”
Story originally appeared on GolfWeek