In “Ways to Win,” we track the PGA TOUR winner’s rounds using the V1 Game mobile app and then analyze how they got the job done using the same tools available to V1 Game users.
The 2021 PGA Tour season comes to a close with it’s annual handicapped event to claim the Fed Ex Cup. This is always a strange event for Ways to Win as the player that wins the tournament so far has not been the player with the fewest strokes. This week Patrick Cantlay was actually beaten by two players in the field as both Jon Rahm and Kevin Na finished the four rounds in just 266 strokes to Patty Ice’s 269. In fact, any other week of the year Cantlay would have finished tied for fourth with Justin Thomas and Viktor Hovland. If you are scratching your head, you are not alone. This week has a staggered start where players begin with a ‘handicap’ or a ‘head start’ based on how well they’ve played all season. Cantlay teed off in round one with a two-stroke lead at -10 before ever hitting a shot. Rahm started four strokes back at -6 and Kevin Na began eight back at -2. While Cantlay is certainly a deserving champion – having won four events this season – including the finale, Rahm has to be wondering “What could have been?”
In addition to falling short of catching Cantlay this weekend, Rahm handed Cantlay another one of his victories when Rahm was forced to pull out of the Memorial with a six-shot lead due to a positive COVID test. Certainly Cantlay has been the benefactor of Rahm’s misfortune, though I think Rahm will sleep just fine with his U.S. Open trophy. So, how did Cantlay hold off his pursuers at East Lake? Using insights from V1 Game, it is obvious that Cantlay does it with ball striking.
In the Strokes Gained Stacked chart from the screenshot above, Cantlay gained strokes on the PGA Tour field with approach and driving on all four days, with the exception of round 3. Overall, his putting was only average. He lost strokes putting in two of his four rounds. This is not surprising for a guy who finished the season tied for third in Strokes Gained Tee to Green (T2G) and 30th in Strokes Gained Putting. After filling up the cup in last week’s win, Cantlay came back to Earth with the flatstick (and his averages) at the TOUR Championship. Still, despite not excelling on the greens, he is far from poor. Using V1 Game’s detailed putting analysis, Patrick Cantlay lost more than a tenth of a stroke per putt from 4-6ft, 11-15ft, and 26-30ft this week. He only gained more than a tenth of a stroke per putt from <3ft, 21-25ft, and 31-50ft. That’s a pretty average performance by Tour standards, but Cantlay did avoid three putts for the week and stayed steady with all the pressure of trying to close out a tournament worth over $15 million. He really earned the new nickname “Patty Ice.”
While Ways to Win doesn’t currently track the strike quality coming from the PGA Tour pros, with the new Strike Quality feature, we could. In the case of Cantlay, it would likely come back as ‘flushed,’ just like the 6-iron he hit on 18 to secure the FedEx Cup title. After a season of tracking PGA Tour winners, there is no doubt that Ball Striking and Tee2Green performance are the keys to winning golf. While you can’t win while putting poorly, you certainly can’t win without excellent ball striking.
If you want to strike it like FedEx Cup champ Patrick Cantlay, V1 Game can help you understand where you are with each part of your game and what to work on to take the next steps regardless of whether you are working to break 100 or 70. Download the app for free and get started on the path to better golf.