Bryson DeChambeau, on the par-4 14th at Caves Valley, stood over his second shot for 10 seconds when he turned slightly to his left and backed away. Leading playing partner Patrick Cantlay by a stroke during Sunday’s final round of the BMW Championship, DeChambeau had outdriven him by some 50 yards, and Cantlay was beginning his walk to the green after his approach shot.
“Patrick, can you stop walking?” DeChambeau shouted.
Only then he ran.
DeChambeau hit his approach to 37 feet. Then Cantlay cleared hurdle after hurdle. Cantlay made his putt on 14, from 21 feet, to tie DeChambeau atop the leaderboard. Two holes later, after DeChambeau birdied, Cantlay rolled in an 8-footer for par to fall just one shot back. On the 17th, after hitting in the water on his tee shot, Cantlay rolled in another 8-footer to remain tied. On the 18th, he jarred a 21-footer for birdie to tie DeChambeau again and move the event to sudden death. There, Cantlay kept himself alive with putts on the first and second playoff holes, then won it on the whopping sixth with a 17-foot birdie.
Cantlay, after DeChambeau’s stop sign, made 95.5 feet worth of putts over 11 holes. And on the other side, DeChambeau missed important putts on 17, 18 and the first, second, third and sixth holes of the playoff. Coincidence? Sure. Cantlay admitted as much afterward. (DeChambeau, meanwhile, declined to speak to reporters.) “He just wanted me to stop walking,” he said. “We had just been told by the rules officials to kind of speed up, and I’m not always the fastest walker, so I was trying to get ahead and do my part. No big deal.”
Or was it? As good as Cantlay’s game is, his poker face might be better. And during the broadcast, two NBC analysts broke down the incident on 14.
“You know, I’m surprised he called Patrick out like that,” said Paul Azinger, a former major champion. “I mean that could break your own concentration when you call a guy out.”
“I completely agree with that take, Paul,” said Jim “Bones” Mackay, Phil Mickelson’s longtime caddie.
“I think he could have just backed off,” Azinger said.
Announcer Dan Hicks asked how often that happens.
“Almost never,” Azinger said. “I think it might have broken Bryson’s concentration. Probably put a little chip on Cantlay’s shoulder.”
Adding to the theory, DeChambeau, on the next hole, thumped his drive 30 yards longer than Cantlay, grabbed his tee and took one longer-than-normal stride forward.
“See how fired up Bryson was when he left that tee?” Hicks said.
“These two guys, a grudge match,” Azinger said. “I love it. They’ll deny it when it’s over. But for Bryson to just call Patrick out like that it’s what makes this so compelling.”