“We kind of looked at each other and didn’t really hesitate,” Cantlay recalled on Wednesday on the eve of the Players Championship. “We were like, ‘Yeah, put us out in the afternoon, we’ll go get it done.’ And we won that afternoon and played really well.”
It was the start of a beautiful friendship that has only blossomed on the golf course, over dinner and while playing cards, particularly gin. While there are several months to go before qualifying for the U.S. Ryder Cup team is completed and captain’s choices are made, Cantlay and Schauffele are quickly developing into America’s best duo.
Think about it: It’s highly unlikely that Tiger Woods will be able to play with Justin Thomas as they did to great effect at the Presidents Cup and JT’s successful partnership with Jordan Spieth in France still seems dicey despite Spieth’s recent resurgence. Brooks and DJ? I don’t think so. And who do you pair with Patrick Reed? So many questions for U.S. Captain Steve Stricker, but he would be wise to keep the Cantlay-Schauffele pairing intact.
For starters, they are two of the hottest players in the world. Cantlay has recorded six straight top 20 finishes, including a win at the Zozo Championship and a runner-up at the American Express. He’s No. 7 in the world and winning a significant title such as the Players this week would be the next box for him to check in solidifying his place in the game’s upper echelon. Schauffele is No. 5 in the world having made a Tour-best 23 straight cuts and finishing runner-up eight times since his last victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in 2019. He’s knocked on a lot of doors and no one would be surprised if he claimed the Players or a green jacket next month or really any of the four majors this season.
Ever since the Presidents Cup, Cantlay and Schauffele have become regular practice-round partners.
“Both of us were sort of like I would say lone soldiers for the most part, in terms of playing practice rounds by ourselves. And I know his team pretty well and he knows my – now he knows my team pretty well – but I pretty much knew everyone on Pat’s team before I knew Pat really well himself. So, it was kind of an easy mix. We just kind have a pretty laid-back schedule for a practice time. We do enjoying a game every week, it’s very competitive, and we feel like when we play against each other it sort of sharpens ourselves for the best week possible.”
On Tuesday, rather than battle head-to-head, Cantlay and Schauffele teamed up against Thomas and Spieth in a spirited nine-hole match on the front nine at the Stadium at TPC Sawgrass.
“We had them down every single way and JT made like a 35-footer on the last and Pat and I both missed our birdie putts,” Schauffele said.
“It hurt tying,” added Cantlay.
These two are part of a mutual admiration society. Here’s Schauffele waxing rhapsodic about Cantlay: “It’s almost impossible to rattle him,” Schauffele said. “He really doesn’t have a weakness and so there’s a lot for me to learn from him in terms of short game shots and how he approaches the game. So, it’s been great for me. I’m not sure if he’s learned anything from me, but I definitely learned something from him.”
When those plaudits were repeated to Cantlay, he held serve: “See, there he goes again, just being the best partner you could ask for, saying nice things,” Cantlay said. “He’s just good people. So, I feel like if it’s not something golf, which sometimes it is, we talk golf and we talk strategy I’ll learn something just that I can use in daily life, just because he’s such a good guy.”
As their friendship grows, so has their place as two of the top American pros, both under 30 and positioned to be a tandem in international competition for the next decade. And yet they remain two of the most underrated players in the game.
“We’re not particularly flashy and so that doesn’t get a lot of attention, if we’re not winning golf tournaments,” Cantlay said.
That could change this week at the Players or some time down the road on the way to the Ryder Cup, but by the time the biennial competition is played at Whistling Straits in late September, these friends likely will be told they’re being sent back out in the afternoon together. These two won’t be afraid to go “get it done.”
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