The long road back appears to have finally crested the summit for Patrick Cantlay.
The former Servite High School golf phenom, who carried that success to UCLA and the top spot in the amateur golf rankings for 55 consecutive weeks, is challenging for victories on the PGA Tour again.
He had experienced more than two years of physical setbacks and personal horror after witnessing the death of his friend, caddie and former Servite teammate, Chris Roth, who was killed by a hit-and-run driver in Newport Beach in February 2016.
Cantlay, 25, returned to the PGA Tour this past February at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in Northern California and showed the consistency that made him such a threat during his amateur career, shooting 70-71-71-72 to finish in a tie for 48th.
He returned to competition a month later and finished second in the Valspar Championship in Palm Harbor, Fla., earning $680,400 and securing his PGA Tour card for the rest of the year.
Following a tie for 39th at the Shell Open in Houston, Tex. on April 2, he returned two weeks later and finished in a tie for third at the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head, S.C. The $338,000 payday put him over $1 million just a third of the way through the season.
Not just that, but his world ranking shot up from 1,424 to 131 and his PGA Tour ranking from 214 to 131.
Six years ago, Cantlay was on a similar path while still just a teenager.
He made the cut in all five of his PGA Tour starts and rose to No. 1 in the world amateur rankings. That season was best remembered for the course-record 60 he shot in the second round at the Travelers Cup, the lowest score ever for an amateur in a PGA Tour event.
He left UCLA the following year and turned pro, but things weren’t the same, starting with the 2012 Travelers Cup, where he missed the cut in his first event as a pro.
A few moments of greatness returned, such as when he finished as the low amateur at the 2012 Masters, but by 2013 he began to experience back problems and the condition became so unbearable that Cantlay was forced to drop out of an event in September of that year.
He attempted to regain his PGA Tour card in 2014, but grew so frustrated at a qualifying event outside Washington, D.C. that he reportedly didn’t turn in his scorecard. He resurfaced for one event late in 2014, but then sat out all of 2015 and 2016.
Last season was especially difficult for Cantlay after witnessing the death of Roth, who was crossing a street just a few feet in front of Cantlay when he was struck by a car that kept on going.
“For a while, I couldn’t care less about everything,” he told the Orange County Register earlier this year. “Not just golf. Everything that happened in my life for a couple months didn’t feel important. Nothing felt like it mattered.”
Cantlay gradually made his way back to the course and begin working with a past swing coach, Jamie Mulligan, who made some adjustments to his swing. Cantlay’s improvement became evident when he shot a course-record 63 at the Mountain Course at the Vintage Club in Palm Springs in January.
Cantlay’s past success had finally found its way back to the present.