Patrick Cantlay impresses in pairing with Tiger Woods

Patrick Cantlay isn't afraid of going toe-to-toe with the best players on the PGA Tour. We found that out earlier this summer, when the 19-year-old sophomore at UCLA teed it up in four tour events and promptly finished inside the top-25 in every one of them.

The highlights included a top-10 at the RBC Canadian Open, and low-amateur honors at the U.S. Open. Needless to say, Cantlay proved he's got the tools and demeanor to make it as a professional golfer.

But despite his incredible summer, he's remained adamant about staying in school and getting his degree. While we may have to wait to see him on tour full-time, we got another glimpse of his game on Thursday, when he teed it up in his biggest pairing yet, getting prime-time billing with Tiger Woods, and spending the early part of the week doing a clinic at The Institute with the former No. 1 ranked player.

You wouldn't have blamed Cantlay if he was nervous about the pairing with Woods. But as he did all summer, the UCLA golfer rose to the occasion, firing a 2-under 69 that has him sitting two shots off the lead, and four shots ahead of Woods.

No doubt about it, this kid is the real deal. But we already knew that. However, just seeing him methodically work his way around CordeValle GC was impressive.  He hit some precision irons in the soggy conditions and once again has himself in position, after one round, to become the first amateur since Phil Mickelson ('91 Tuscon Open) to win on the PGA Tour.

Thursday was all about Tiger Woods, sure, but the way Cantlay played in his fifth tour event, you couldn't help but take your eyes off the marquee name in the field and watch the world's top ranked amateur put together another brilliant round.

No matter what Tiger Woods does for the rest of the week, he'll certainly be the biggest story. But if he somehow misses the cut, don't be surprised if Cantlay takes over the spotlight. The way he's playing at the moment, he certainly deserves to be the most talked-about player at the Open.

What to Read Next