I’m a Business, Man

Identifying with Patrick Cantlay and his process


I’d argue that no one is more of a “professional golfer” right now than Patrick Cantlay. He isn’t a magician like Jordan Spieth. Unlike Justin Thomas, he’s not interested in crafting a shot that isn’t completely necessary. He doesn’t have one skill that stands out from the others, like the driving ability of Rory McIlroy or ballstriking of Will Zalatoris. His swing doesn’t have an eye-catching pause like Cameron Young’s, or feature idiosyncratic footwork like Scottie Scheffler’s. He’s not combustible like Jon Rahm or Tyrrell Hatton. And he doesn’t have the flair for the dramatic like Rory McIlroy or Tiger Woods.

Instead, Patrick Cantlay is steady. He’s relentless in his approach and in his process, and he also boasts a dependable, repeatable golf swing that has made him one of the best players in the world over the last five years. His golf game has no glaring weaknesses.

In his pursuit of consistency, Cantlay has largely been okay not being one of the fan favorites. He’s not interested in being inauthentic in order to boost his stock with fans. He’s there to play high-level golf.

Like many, I haven’t exactly been drawn to Cantlay’s lack of flash over the years. Golf fans want to watch someone spectacular, someone who makes you feel something either with their play or with their personality. But this weekend, for the first time, I found myself appreciating his approach.

While it has caused pace of play issues, Cantlay’s routine is mesmerizing. Every step, swing, and shot is made with intent and with the same rhythm. It never feels rushed. He prepares for and makes the swing that, in theory, will provide the best outcome the highest percentage of the time. He then walks to his ball at a moderate pace and does it again. For him, golf is intentionally a science, not an art. (But not in the way golf was a science to Bryson DeChambeau.) Cantlay’s approach does feel like it takes some of the creativity and fun out of the game, but it’s clearly worked for him to this point in his career. This weekend wasn’t his best showing, not by a long shot, but even when he didn’t have his best stuff, his process remained the same.

Exactly who Patrick Cantlay is and how he feels about the game of golf, I’m not entirely sure. His recent interview with Dylan Dethier didn’t portray a person with a deep passion for the sport, but at the same time I think that says more about his personality than anything. He’s an introspective individual. He largely keeps to himself and doesn’t go out of his way in search of attention. Speaking as a non-attention seeking introvert, I can appreciate someone who keeps to themself, letting their actions speak louder than their words. Of course, if you’re a professional athlete, that approach isn’t going to earn you a legion of diehard fans.

I’m not here to urge you to become a Patrick Cantlay fan. Unless he’s playing in front of a European Ryder Cup crowd, he’s neither excitable nor energetic. And given his reported approach to the PGA Tour Policy Board over the last year, I fully understand why he isn’t one of the most popular players amongst fans. But that’s his process. He’s there to play elite golf, not to be your show pony. And I respect the hell out of that.