Patrick Cantlay gets real on “Tiger Woods effect,” crushes at Genesis Invitational

Patrick Cantlay came out on Thursday at the Genesis Invitational ready to prove something. He carded a 7-under 64 to sit atop the leaderboard by one shot. Granted, there are a few players still out on the course but he will in all likelihood hold the lead after the first round.

Cantlay played in the group ahead of Tiger Woods, who made his first official PGA Tour start since the 2023 Masters. Woods sadly suffered back spasms leading to a costly finish Thursday.

Following his round, he explained the importance of having Woods out there to Kara Dixon on Golf Channel.

“He really is the needle for our sport,” Cantlay said.

“The Tiger effects, you see it this week, you’ve seen it for the last 15 years. Young kids are growing up with better information, more drive and they’ve been emulating him for over a decade now.”

The 31-year-old is well aware that golf draws more attention when Tiger is in the field. Even if the Big Cat essence takes away from what he accomplished on the course, Cantlay still impressed through his first 18 holes.

This isn’t just an anomaly of a hot start either.

He has posted a 64 in round one of play in three of his last four starts in 2024, per PGA Tour Communications. No other player has more than one first-round score of 64 or better. Cantlay shot 64 on Thursday at the American Express and the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

“Got off to a great start. Our group had good momentum, Jordan [Spieth] and I were a bunch under on the front nine and, you know, a day where I putted really, really well, made every putt I should have and a couple of longer ones,” Cantlay said. “It was a good start.”

He started his day with back-to-back birdies on the first and second holes. The 8-time PGA Tour winner added three more on the front nine to make the turn in 30 strokes.

Cantlay’s strong play continued as he birdied the 11th hole before making back-to-back birdies on 13 and 14. At that point in the round, he led the field by two strokes.

His lone mishap came at the par-3 16th, where he settled for bogey. He hit a tree off the tee and chunked his second shot into the bunker. Cantlay had 58 feet to the hole for par but settled for a two-putt to drop a shot.

“I got up and down for bogey — it was a good up-and-down,” he said.

As a former UCLA Bear, he is familiar with this area. He likes Riviera Country Club.

“I think I’m comfortable around this place — greens are really good,” Cantlay said. “This is probably the best condition I’ve seen at Riviera. You know, it’s a place I’m really comfortable.”

The Jupiter, Fla., resident looked relaxed on the course. Cantlay is looking to build on his one-shot lead and earn his first PGA Tour victory of the year.

Savannah Leigh Richardson is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. For more golf coverage, be sure to follow us @_PlayingThrough on all major social platforms. You can also follow her on Twitter @SportsGirlSL and Instagram @savannah_leigh_sports.

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