For all the success Patrick Cantlay had in California during his amateur career, it hasn’t translated to great results in his home state on the PGA Tour, albeit in just nine starts as a professional. But the former UCLA standout and college player of the year looked right at home on Thursday at Riviera Country Club, cruising to a five-under 66 to grab a share of the lead with Tony Finau at the Genesis Open.
Cantlay, 25, played a nearly flawless round, hitting a field-leading 16 of 18 greens in regulation and making just one bogey. The highlight of the day came at the par-4 seventh, where Cantlay holed a 31-foot right-to-left slider, a birdie putt that got him to one under. He added another birdie at the following hole, and three more on Riviera’s difficult back nine, including a 15-footer at the par-4 13th. While he’ll be focused on a potential second career victory this week, a made cut on Friday would extend an impressive streak of 18 consecutive cuts made for Cantlay, all of which he’s made since returning from a two-year absence from the PGA Tour last February.
Finau’s 66 also featured just one dropped shot and six birdies, including three straight to begin his round at the 10th, 11th and 12th holes. The 2016 Puerto Rico Open winner (below) continues his impressive run of form in 2017-’18, having made six of seven cuts, including a solo second at the Safeway Open and a T-6 at the Farmers Insurance Open.
Among a large group at three under is two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen, who shot a 68 with five birdies and two bogeys. Goosen, who turned 49 earlier this month, has been trending upward since opening his season with a missed cut at the Sanderson Farms Championship last fall, having made four of his next five cuts and finishing T-12 at the Farmers Insurance Open.
Four players are three back at two under, including Justin Thomas and Ernie Els, who has made just one out of his last seven cuts on the PGA Tour. Phil Mickelson is at one under, while Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth are five shots back at even par.
Tiger Woods’ return was a bumpy one at times, but the 14-time major champion was still able to grind out a one-over 72 with five birdies, four bogeys and one double bogey. He’ll tee off on Friday at 3:02 p.m. EST, six shots off the pace.