UCLA rides Cantlay’s 67 to lead at CordeValle

UCLA freshman Patrick Cantlay

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1Patrick RodgersStanford  68.39 
2Robby SheltonAlabama  68.58 
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4Cameron WilsonStanford  68.90 
5Joey GarberGeorgia  69.19 

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SAN MARTIN, Calif. – After shooting a first-round 67 Monday at the Gifford Collegiate Invitational, UCLA freshman Patrick Cantlay could be seen engaging in a lengthy conversation with noted golf course architect Robert Trent Jones Jr.

Most of the conversation focused on architecture, specifically at CordeValle and Chambers Bay, two Jones designs where Cantlay has had admirable performances.

Cantlay’s round Monday gave him the first-round lead on a difficult day at a course just three weeks removed from hosting a PGA Tour event, the Frys.com Open won by Rocco Mediate.

Cool temperatures, high winds and demanding rough led to just three sub-par scores on the 7,169-yard, par-71 layout at the base of foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains in central California. CordeValle played to a 76.1 scoring average Monday. Less than one-third of the field broke 75.

Cantlay, by contrast, didn’t make a bogey. He hit 15 greens and missed just two fairways.

“He doesn’t try to do anything spectacular,” UCLA head coach Derek Freeman said. “He just knows that fairways and greens are usually good for you.”

Cantlay emerged as one of the nation’s top incoming freshmen after making the semifinals of this year’s U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay. He also finished second in the Amateur’s stroke-play portion.

Cantlay’s round led UCLA to a 12-over 367 Monday, good for a one-shot lead over Pac-10 rival Stanford. Washington, another conference foe, is third at 370.

Northwestern is fourth at 371, followed by Oregon (375) and USC (378). The surprise of the day was at the bottom of the leaderboard, though.

Augusta State, No. 6 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, is in last place after shooting 30-over 385. Henrik Norlander fired a 3-under 68, but none of his teammates could shoot better than 78.

Cantlay is No. 24 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings after finishing 21st at the Ping/Golfweek Preview and seventh at the U.S. Collegiate.

At the Gifford, he’s one shot ahead of Augusta State’s Norlander. Stanford’s David Chung, runner-up to Peter Uihlein at Chambers Bay, shot 69.

Chung is playing his first college tournament of the season; he competed recently for the United States at the World Amateur Team Championship, finishing ninth to help the U.S. to a third-place team finish.

Cantlay’s round could’ve been even lower. He hit 5-iron to 2 feet on No. 17, but missed the birdie putt. He also missed a 12-foot eagle putt on the driveable, par-4 eighth hole.

Cantlay grew up at Virginia Country Club in Long Beach, Calif. His instructor, Jamie Mulligan, also teaches PGA Tour players such as Paul Goydos, John Cook, John Merrick and John Mallinger. (Cook, a former U.S. Amateur champion who texted Cantlay during Cantlay’s run at Chambers Bay, won the Charles Schwab Cup Championship on Sunday at Harding Park, just 90 minutes from CordeValle.)

Mulligan is not a technical instructor; he emphasizes consistent tempo and emotions. Cantlay has displayed those attributes in his brief time at UCLA.

“Patrick has such a nice demeanor about him,” Freeman said. “He treats everything like a professional. Most importantly, he understands his game more than most young people do, so he knows what he can do and what he can’t do.”

On Monday, the freshman could do no wrong.

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