Slowing his roll: Patrick Cantlay shoots 68, but still leads American Express after two days

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LA QUINTA, Calif. – Patrick Cantlay extended his string of 21 consecutive rounds under par in PGA Tour competition with a 4-under 68 Friday, but his afternoon seemed almost passive compared to the round he shot the previous day.

But Cantlay’s 68 after an opening 62 at the American Express was still good enough for the UCLA graduate to take sole possession of the lead in the $7.6 million event in La Quinta.

“I felt like it was really solid golf, I didn’t get the most out of it I possibly could, but another solid day and two more of those I should be right there,” Cantlay said.

On a day where scoring slowed to a gallop after the cavalry charge of birdies and eagles Thursday, Cantlay is at 14-under 130 through 36 holes, one shot ahead of Tom Hoge.

Hoge, playing the tougher Stadium Course at PGA West, managed a 66 and at one time had a share of the lead with Cantlay. Five players are at 12 under, including Joseph Bramlett, who had a chance to take the lead outright but bogeyed his last two holes at La Quinta Country Club for a 67 on Friday.

Cantlay’s 62 on Thursday at La Quinta was one of those rounds where he says everything felt easy. Friday at the Nicklaus Course, Cantlay didn’t have it as easy, making two bogeys including a three-putt on the eighth hole, his second-to-last hole of the day.

Tough day on the green

“Golf is like that a little bit. I mean, some days everything goes in and some days nothing goes in,” said Cantlay, the reigning PGA Tour player of the year. “Yesterday everything went in, today nothing did. I’m still the same and so I just have to go out with the same mentality over the weekend, and if I do I should be in a good spot.”

While Cantlay is in the lead, the rotation of the tournament might favor Hoge. Cantlay will play the Stadium Course on Saturday, while Hoge heads to La Quinta Country Club, which has a scoring average more than 2.5 shots under par for the first two days and two shots better than the Stadium Course through 36 holes.

Two other players at 12 under, Lanto Griffin and Greyson Sigg, will also head to La Quinta on Saturday. Griffin shot 65 on the Stadium Course on Friday, while Sigg shot 67.

La Quinta might also be a better course to play Saturday with the predicted strong winds early in the day, Hoge said.

“I feel better playing La Quinta, a little more protected over there in the trees, a little shorter golf course. You can play a little more conservatively off tees and just get it in play and go from there,” Hoge said.

Hoge’s round Friday included six birdies and no bogeys, but just one birdie on a par-5.

Tom Hoge plays his second shot on the ninth hole during the second round of the American Express golf tournament at Peter Dye Stadium Course. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

“Just a solid day for me. Again a lot of good birdie chances, would like to have hit a few wedge shots closer there for a few holes, but happy where I’m at,” Hoge said.

Cantlay’s round was a bit more up-and-down. At one time he was 15 under and held a two-shot lead, but two bogeys in his final seven holes stopped him from running away from the field. The course was able to produce a 61 on the day by Will Zalatoris, who birdied the final seven holes to be among the players at 12 under. Cantlay played those same seven holes in even par.

“I actually putted really well today and made nothing. The greens were a little beat up and it was hard to make putts,” Cantlay said. “But I rolled it really well and I rolled it how I wanted to, I just didn’t get any to go in.”

Cantlay is now faced with two rounds on the Stadium Course, one in the normal rotation of the event and then Sunday in the pros-only final 18 holes. On the surface, that’s good news for Cantlay, who shot 61 in the final round of the 2021 event on the Stadium Course. But forecasts of strong winds, at least early in the day, could bring out the best in the Stadium Course.

“Usually, you have to really put your foot on the gas and make a ton of birdies,’ Cantlay said. “Tomorrow, if the forecast stays the same, it will not be that kind of day and it’s just, it will be a different challenge. So controlling your golf ball will be a premium tomorrow and leaving your golf ball in the correct spot will be really key to scoring well.”