Charlotte, NC – The interview room is empty. His teammates are on their next duty. But Patrick Cantlay is sitting on a staircase at the side of the room, his left foot resting on his right knee, thinking out loud.
“Imagine a picture on the wall,” he says. “If I had a difficult decision to make, and it’s a complex issue that I’m trying to deal with, I’d call four or five people that I think are the smartest about it. I might have 25 to 30 percent of the picture full. By the time I’m done talking to those people, I might have 90 or 95 percent. They might all say Do not do it And maybe I can still do it. But I’m better off because I heard.”
We’re talking about how golfers make decisions, which means the conversation has made an inevitable leap into the topic of the LIV versus the PGA Tour. Cantlay thought a lot about that. He imagined pictures on the walls. We’ve called subject matter experts. And he decided that the decision players were constantly being asked to make – LIV vs. the PGA Tour – didn’t really exist. At least, it’s not as black and white as they think.
Cantlay has no plans to join LIV. There will be no announcement this week proclaiming the fact that the world number four has jumped ship. But he doesn’t want you to mistake his current commitment to the PGA Tour with unending loyalty.
“It’s an ever-evolving computational process, isn’t it?” He says. “Because if 20 of the 24 guys here go out this week and play the other round, I will most likely want to go to the other round. So to say I would never play that round – I don’t think that’s real.”
Part of the experience of talking to Patrick Cantley is realizing that he doesn’t like saying things that aren’t true. Many people have this instinct, but Cantlay seems quite committed to it; To say something false or inaccurate would violate his way of being. He knows that other professionals lack the same accuracy, but is still amazed that others have been so candid about their decisions, whether to leave or leave, knowing the uncertainty of the future.
“A lot of people were like, ‘No, I would never do that. ‘ And then they get angry when you ask questions about it, like, ‘I already said I’d never do that.’ And then you see guys go and do it,” he says. “I’m surprised by that.” This is one of the reasons for careful language – to avoid negative reactions to a hot topic.
If you read Eamonn Lynch’s articles [on Golfweek]Nobody wants to write that about them,” he says.
Cantlay enters the Presidents Cup this week on the heels of another strong season. He defended his title in the BMW Championship. T7 finished in the final FedEx Cup standings. He finished racing inside the top 10 in 11 of his 19 starts in the PGA Championship. Now back to Team USA, he’s suddenly in his 30s as an older statesman.
“I guess you kind of look around, and you go oh, who’s the oldest person here, and there are probably only two or three guys older than you. Then you start to think, ‘I’m old,’” he said earlier, addressing a group of reporters.
Cantlay isn’t old, of course. But he has some old school leanings. There’s his approach to social media, for one reason: He doesn’t use it. Absolutely. He says “zero percent”. “If it happens on social media, I don’t know if it happens.”
I ask if there are exceptions, such as when rumors of his defection from LIV circulate. Does he have anyone to tell him about these things? Laugh.
“What would improve my life if they told me something was going on on social media?”
But being old school is not the same as opposing change. Cantlay believes that his methodical approach to decision-making—and his certainty once a decision is made—means that he often ends up going against the tide. Does this make it contradictory?
“I consider myself able to stand in the minority if I think I’m right,” he says. “So if I do it enough times, I’ll be labeled fair.”
He doesn’t mind the label. He also doesn’t mind a healthy discussion. “Everyone has a negative connotation of ‘argument,’” he says. “But I love the discussion.” He’s been involved in a lot of discussions this year. Most of them aren’t about the LIV Tour vs. the PGA Tour—but there are plenty of them, too. I ask about his role in the Players Tour meetings Only, where he acknowledges participating in some healthy discussions.
“I always try to wear my professional hat to the players,” he says. “I think men should do it more. I think they should wear their pro-players hat.”
The alternative, he says, is blind support for the status quo. Support the way things are always done. default.
“I think players in general don’t realize what power they have,” he continues. “I think they generally have a lot more power than they think. And they are very reluctant to see things through a lens: How do I do best for professional golfers?“
I asked Cantlay if he thinks professional golfers have had a good year in terms of power.
“Competition definitely gives workers more power,” he says.
Was that good for the players?
“It was definitely a good thing for professional golfers.”
How about professional golf?
“That is a different question. Philosophically, it is a difficult question.” Stop. “I think it’s not a good idea for a professional golfer to break in. Like, I love [Dustin Johnson] so be here. I’d love to have Cameron Smith on the international team. I would like to have the best competition you can have.”
Looking at his crystal ball, Cantlay thinks a professional golfer will rest somewhere in the middle. This was another reason that surprised him that the conversation about him had become so heated.
“It was controversial, and it seems to be still controversial,” he says. “I’d be surprised if there wasn’t some co-intervention because I don’t know of any sport, really, that has a tattered legitimate sport.”
could be wrong. He doesn’t know how to compromise the rounds or who will help her do it. But when he looks at other sports, the best players tend to play in the same league.
“We had the NFL. That went away. I mean, nobody kept playing in the NFL,” he says. “So I feel like at some point, when you start looking back, people are going to be surprised to hear, ‘Oh, man, it was really controversial. “Because it will feel like a flash on the radar once it’s all flattened out. It’s just, right now, it’s very unrecognizable.”
He knows a few things. He knows that he and partner Xander Schauffele will try to put the first point on the board for the US team on Thursday. He knows he will continue to ignore the rumors and stay away from social media. He knows he will keep trying to remove emotion and ego from every decision. And he knows that as all of this goes on, he’ll keep trying to get the full picture.
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