Sunday at the BMW Championship already had the natural tension any head-to-head showdown fosters in the final round of a golf tournament. Patrick Cantlay and Bryson DeChambeau had been matching each other birdie-for-birdie since Saturday’s third round, and when they’d separated from the rest of the field on the back nine Sunday, the winner was obviously going to be one of the two, Cantlay ultimately – and impressively – emerging the champ after six playoff holes.
But on the 14th hole in regulation, that tension seemingly took on a new dimension. DeChambeau, one stroke ahead of Cantlay at the time at 27-under, was getting set to play his approach shot on the par 4, his opponent already on the green 21½ feet from the hole. As DeChambeau stood over his ball about to hit, he suddenly pulled back and spoke:
“Patrick, can you stop walking?”
Apparently out of the corner of DeChambeau’s eye he saw Cantlay and it caused him to pause.
DeChambeau addressed his ball again and hit his approach, his ball failing to get to the top ridge of the green, leaving him 37 feet for birdie.
Immediately, NBC commentators Dan Hicks, Paul Azinger and Jim “Bones” Mackay noted the exchange, suggesting the directive was highly unusual and that it actually might have thrown DeChambeau, which would explain the poor approach shot.
“I’m surprised he called Patrick out like that,” Azinger said. “Really, that can break your own concentration when you call a guy out like that.”
Replied Mackay: “I completely agree with that take, Paul.”
When Cantlay then proceeded to roll in his birdie putt to regain a share of the lead, Azinger continued to focus on the comments.
“He [Cantlay] says, ‘Don’t call me out every again.’ ” And later Azinger noted: “Well, I think it’s personal now.”
Azinger leaned into that thought throughout the rest of broadcast, frequently bringing up the DeChambeau call out.
But how much did the comment actually impact the two players, and was there real friction between the two after the incident? The two were not very talkative for the rest of the round, and the handshakes exchanged at the end of regulation and the playoff weren’t that of two best friends appreciative of the moment. That said, neither golfer is the most gregarious player on the course and it wasn’t like they were cracking each other up on the previous 13 holes.
DeChambeau did not talk to the press after the round, so it’s unclear what he was thinking when he made the initial comments to Cantlay. And when asked about the incident in his post-round press conference, Cantlay was quick to say it was a non-issue.
“He just wanted me to stop walking,” Cantlay said. “We had just been told by the rules officials to kind of speed up, and I’m not always the fastest walker, so I was trying to get ahead and do my part. No big deal. That stuff kind of happens every once in a while out here.”