Patrick Cantlay hangs on, takes 2-shot lead into Sunday, with win at Riviera Country Club finally within reach

Cantlay holds a 2-shot lead over Xander Schauffele and Will Zalatoris with 18 holes to go at the Genesis Invitational

LOS ANGELES — Patrick Cantlay did just enough Saturday.

Cantlay’s third round was nothing special. In fact, he made several key mistakes in the back half that left him scrambling — including landing his drive in a ridiculously deep fairway bunker at the 17th.

But Cantlay walked up the steps from the 18th green and entered the clubhouse finally in prime position to accomplish something he has been seeking since he was a kid growing up in Southern California.

“It's one of the tournaments on the list that I'd like to win the most,” he said.

Cantlay carded a 1-under 70 on Moving Day at the Genesis Invitational, which gave him a 2-shot lead headed into the final round. It’s not the lead he started the day with, and it could've been much bigger, but it kept him two steps ahead of the rest of the field and in the final pairing.

Cantlay entered Saturday with a huge advantage after two outstanding rounds to begin the tournament. He made just one bogey through his first 36 holes and then carded a bogey-free 65 on Friday. That gave him a 5-shot lead over the rest of the field, which matched the all-time record for the tournament at the midway point.

“We’re half done,” Cantlay said plainly Friday. “Stay in the moment, and trust the process that I have. I have a good game plan for this golf course, and I’ll just stick to it.”

Patrick Cantlay holds a 2-shot lead over Xander Schauffele and Will Zalatoris with 18 holes to go at the Genesis Invitational
Patrick Cantlay holds a 2-shot lead over Xander Schauffele and Will Zalatoris with 18 holes to go at the Genesis Invitational. (David Crane/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News/Getty Images)

Saturday, though, wasn’t as great. Cantlay went just 1-under in his third round, which opened the door for everyone else. Xander Schauffele, a close friend of Cantlay’s, and Will Zalatoris are just two shots back of him after 54 holes.

Cantlay slipped near the end of his round. After making two birdies through his first four holes on the back nine and scrambling multiple times to keep himself safe, Cantlay bogeyed the very getable par-5 17th. It was all self-inflicted, too. He made it out of the bunker but then left his approach shot well short and below the green before missing a makeable par putt.

Looking at the bigger picture, he’s more than content with how he played.

“I mean, I played solid golf today,” Cantlay said. “I didn't make any long putts or anything. Didn't really give myself too many chances, but all in all a solid day and in good position for tomorrow.”

While he’s still out in front, the rest of the field is now in a spot to overtake Cantlay. Schauffele, who opened his third round with an eagle, made four birdies on his back nine to close out his bogey-free 65. He’s looking for his eighth career win and first since the 2022 season. Will Zalatoris is at 12-under on the week, too. Zalatoris — who won both himself and his caddie a new car with an ace Friday — made five birdies on his last 10 holes of the third round to match Schauffele in second place. He’ll play in the penultimate group Sunday with Luke List.

Cantlay, who grew up in Long Beach and played collegiately at UCLA just a few minutes down Sunset Boulevard from the course, has tried and failed at Riviera countless times both on the PGA Tour and elsewhere. He finished third last year behind eventual winner Jon Rahm. Cantlay, who has eight career victories to his name and entered the week at No. 7 in the Official World Golf Rankings, hasn't won anywhere since the 2022 season.

While the task of finally winning at Riviera is sure to be on his mind all day Sunday, and he’s going to have plenty of family and friends on the course walking with him, Cantlay will have to get past Schauffele, who has had plenty of experience going up against him.

“To play good golf at Riviera, you’ve got to sort of fire on all cylinders, and [I’ve] been able to do that the last couple days,” Schauffele said. “Just wanted to give myself a shot tomorrow. I see Pat’s still making birdies, so he looks like a tough man to beat right now.”