Bethpage Black and the PGA Championship showcased the immense talent of Brooks Koepka. Brooks now holds two PGA Championship titles, as well as two U.S. Open titles. Next week at Pebble Beach he will be looking to make it three U.S. Open titles in a row. And if that happens, Koepka will add his name to another page in the golf history books, as no one has accomplished that in the last 100 years. Willie Anderson is the only player ever to win three in a row, doing so from 1903 to 1905.
Koepka has won four of the last eight majors entered and has demonstrated the physical and mental attributes needed to keep contending. But, as with all major championships, there is always a host of top-quality players ready, willing, and able to snatch the title.
The most mentioned names of those looking to prevent Koepka from winning the upcoming U.S. Open Championship and make it three in a row are Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, and, of course, Tiger Woods.
Tiger certainly likes Pebble Beach, as he won the 2000 U.S. Open there by a record-breaking 15 strokes, but after last week’s impressive victory at The Memorial Tournament at Jack’s place, Patrick Cantlay looks like he could a roadblock to Koepka.
Not too long ago, Cantlay was regarded as a bigger sure-fire-can’t-miss player than Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, or three-time Major winner Jordan Spieth. Cantlay’s played his golf at UCLA and was so talented that he was ranked the #1 amateur in the world for 54 consecutive weeks and finished low amateur in both the Masters and the U.S. Open.
In 2012, Cantlay turned professional and won his second event on the Web.com Tour. It seemed everything was going right until it all of a sudden it all went wrong.
One day, Cantlay was hitting balls on the range when he felt a sharp pain in his back. It was diagnosed as a stress fracture. Over the next three years, Cantlay was only able to compete in nine tournaments. You might think that a back injury would be the worst thing that could happen to a golfer. Well, unfortunately for Patrick, something far worse happened in his life.
In February 2016, Chris Roth, Cantlay’s high school teammate, best friend, and caddie was killed by a hit-and-run driver as they were both crossing a street in Newport Beach, CA. Cantlay will tell you not a day goes by that he does not think of Chris and that he changed as a person because of it. It took Cantlay three years to recover from both the back injury and the loss of his close friend.
While there are many qualified candidates to win the U.S. Open and if Koepka doesn’t keep his winning streak alive, don’t be surprised if Cantlay emerges from the pack.