Patrick Cantlay’s official duties as the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open defending champion began a couple weeks ago with a VIP helicopter ride from the Strip to TPC Summerlin for media day with four Shriners patient ambassadors.
Cantlay was soaring of a different kind on Saturday as he posted an 8-under 63 to move into a tie for fourth. Saturday’s round was four shots better than his best in 2017.
“I think it’s great to be around a place that you have good memories from, and I think that’s a big thing out here,” Cantlay said. “My strategy is to hit a lot of drivers and be aggressive. I feel like if you hit a lot of good shots and stay aggressive you can shoot a low number, and that’s the plan for tomorrow.
“There are a lot of scoring opportunities out here and a lot of holes fit my eye off the tee. I feel like I can be really aggressive.”
Penalty doesn’t faze Varner III
Harold Varner III (-12, T7) is known to head home to cut his parent’s lawn in North Carolina after tournaments. It’s that type of attitude that helped him shake off a penalty stroke assessed for causing his ball at rest to move on the 11th hole and violating rule 18-2b.
“That stroke thing didn’t really bother me,” Varner said, laughing off a reporter’s question with the word “tough” in it. “I had a lot of good holes coming up, so I wasn’t too worried. It was just a bad circumstance and it is what it is. I just need to keep doing what I am doing because I am playing good golf.
“I think tough would be in the hospital on your death bed, but this is easy. We won’t even be talking about this in a couple hours.”
Finau’s positive China loss
Tony Finau (-7, T40) lost in a playoff in China last week to Xander Schauffele and only took away good vibes.
“Last week proved I can play with the best players in the world and I can win against the best players in the world,” Finau said. “I can’t take anything but confidence from last week because I know I can do that against a great field.”
Fowler wastes shots
Rickie Fowler (-9, T19) believes Saturday’s 2-under 69 should have been substantially better.
“I didn’t exactly get what I wanted to out of my round, but I hung in there,” Fowler said outside the scoring trailer while a throng of fans waited for autographs. “Two under isn’t great. The course was fairly gettable today. I had a couple holes (three and 16) where I threw about four shots away and I should be about six under.”
Local, former champs report
Locals: Wyndham Clark (-4, T67), Ryan Moore (-5, T60 and also a former champ) Nick Watney (-9, T17) and Aaron Wise (-8, T27).
Former champions: Martin Laird (-7, T40), Davis Love III (-6, T52) and Webb Simpson (-8, T27).
Shriners are Golden (Knights)
On Saturday night, Shriners Hospitals for Children patient ambassador, Kechi Okwuchi, sang the national anthem at the Vegas Golden Knights game. Finau cranked the siren to start the game.
The daily Shriners Open notebook is written by freelance writer Brian Hurlburt, a two-time author who has covered golf in Las Vegas for more than two decades. He can be reached at email@example.com or @LVGolfInsider.