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Inside the Ropes: Cantlay resumes quest to get Tour card

The SportsXchange

Patrick Cantlay turned down a chance to play in the Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes so he could tee it up this week in the RBC Canadian Open.

That's not exactly the decision Cantlay had to make, but that's the way it has worked out after the No. 1 amateur in the world decided to turn pro after tying for 41st last month in the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club.

By giving up his amateur status when he did, after his sophomore season at UCLA, he also forfeited the exemption he had been granted into the third major of the year by the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews.

"For me, it was a combination of being comfortable with being a professional and taking it to the next level, and timing," Cantlay said late last month before missing the cut in his first event as a pro, the Travelers Championship.

"I think this timing makes sense for me, being able to start somewhere where I'm comfortable and I have good memories. And I feel ready and comfortable with being a pro and trying to be as good as I can be."

Cantlay felt comfortable at TPC River Highlands because he shot 10-under-par 60 there last year, a record for an amateur on the PGA Tour, en route to a tie for 24th in the Travelers.

That was one of four finishes in the top 25 Cantlay posted in five PGA Tour events he played last summer, including a tie for ninth in the RBC Canadian Open.

At the time, he said he planned to stay at UCLA until he graduated.

The 20-year-old from Los Alamitos, Calif., has claimed that the changes to the PGA Tour season and the elimination of the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament, as we know it, didn't have that much to do with his decision to leave the amateur ranks.

However, he admitted that one of his goals was to emulate Bud Cauley, who last year came out of the University of Alabama and made enough money to join Gary Hallberg, Phil Mickelson, Justin Leonard, Tiger Woods and Ryan Moore as the only players to reach the PGA Tour without going to Q-school.

"I hope so," said Cantlay, who finished second in the U.S. Amateur Championship last summer and this season earned the Ben Hogan Award as the best college golfer in the nation, a year after claiming the Jack Nicklaus Award, the Phil Mickelson Award and being selected college player of the year by GolfWeek magazine.

"I'm definitely looking to get into as many (tournaments) as I can. It would be great to do what Bud did. It was really impressive."

Cantlay would have earned more than $700,000 on the PGA Tour for the six events he played last season, which included a tie for 21st in the U.S. Open at Congressional.

So far in his three events since turning pro, he missed the cut in the Travelers, tied for 66th in the AT&T National and tied for 38th in the Greenbrier Classic, earning a total of only $37,855.

That means he has plenty of work to do in order to reach $411,943, equal to No. 150 on last year's money list, which would give him special temporary membership on the PGA Tour and unlimited sponsor exemptions the remainder of this year.

Once he gets to that point, he would have a chance to duplicate Cauley's feat of reaching the top 125 or at least be exempt into the final stage of Q-school in December, the last time PGA Tour cards will be available in that event.

Next year, only Web.com Tour cards will be up for grabs in the tournament, and it will be more difficult for players like Cauley to jump right to the big tour because of the new Web.com Tour Finals, which start in 2013.

Cantlay, who is exempt into the second stage of Q-School, has said that he hasn't felt any added pressure and doesn't feel any difference "inside the ropes" since going from amateur to pro, but Hunter Mahan disagreed when told of that statement.

"It's quite a bit different, it's totally different," said Mahan, who earned his PGA Tour card in 2004 but did not claim his first professional victory until 2007.

"When you're an amateur, you're just playing to win and trying to play well. When you turn pro, obviously there's responsibilities and there's decisions to be made. There's a lot more decisions in life, and sometimes your golf takes time to adjust to it."

Cantlay, who is represented by Tiger Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg of Excel Sports Management, and signed a contract with Titleist, actually has admitted that there have been adjustments to be made.

And it didn't take him long to figure it out.

"As an amateur, you don't feel like you're losing anything," he said. "I got to a hole at the U.S. Open, my caddie turns to me and goes, 'Why not hit driver? You're an amateur. It's not like you're going to lose anything.' "

As a pro, whether you're winning or losing, the difference is money.

COMING UP

PGA TOUR: RBC Canadian Open at Hamilton Golf and Country Club in Ancaster, Ontario, Canada, Thursday through Sunday.

TV: Thursday and Friday, 3-6 p.m. EDT on the Golf Channel; Saturday, 3-6 p.m. EDT on CBS.

LAST YEAR: Sean O'Hair, who had missed the cut 10 times in his previous 17 tournaments, needed only a tap-in bogey on the first playoff hole to turn back Kris Blanks, who lipped out a five-foot putt for bogey at Shaughnessy Golf Club and Country Club in Vancouver. O'Hair, who claimed his fourth victory on the PGA Tour, got into the playoff by shooting 66-68 on the weekend, coming from three shots behind in the final round. Blanks, seeking his first PGA Tour victory, closed with a 1-under-par 69, including a 10-foot putt for par on the 72nd hole. Both players drove into the thick rough on the playoff hole, but Blanks hit his second shot into a greenside bunker and couldn't keep his third on the green before missing his bogey putt.

CHAMPIONS TOUR: The Senior Open Championship on the Ailsa Course at Turnberry Resort in Turnberry, Scotland, Thursday through Sunday.

TV: Thursday through Sunday, noon-2 p.m. EDT, on ESPN2 each day.

LAST YEAR: Russ Cochran closed with a 5-under-par 67 to claim his third Champions Tour victory, and first major, by two strokes over Mark Calcavecchia at Walton Heath Golf Club in Walton-on-the-Hill, England. The 52-year-old left-hander, whose only victory on the PGA Tour came in the 1991 Centel Western Open, carded six birdies and a single bogey in the final round. Calcavecchia, who was tied with Cochran for the 54-hole lead, finished with a 69 that included a four-putt from 15 feet that gave him a triple-bogey 5 on the nine hole, possibly costing him a playoff. Tom Watson, seeking his fourth Senior Open title after winning the Open Championship five times, closed with a 67 and tied for third.

LPGA TOUR: Evian Masters at Evian Masters Golf Club in Evian-les-Bains, France, Thursday through Sunday.

TV: Thursday and Friday, 6:30-8:30 p.m. EDT; Saturday, 1-6 p.m. EDT, and Sunday, 6-11 a.m. EDT, on the Golf Channel each day.

LAST YEAR: Ai Miyazato of Japan closed with four consecutive pars to shoot 2-under-par 70 and beat Stacy Lewis by two strokes for her second Evian Masters title in three years. Lewis had a chance to tie for the lead with a 20-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole in the final round, but she three-putted for a bogey and could not recover. Miyazato, whose Evian victory in 2009 was the first of her nine titles on the LPGA Tour after she won 15 times on the Japan LPGA Tour, said she would donate a portion of her $487,500 winner's check to victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan earlier in the year.
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