These cross-over season events like the Shiners Hospitals For Children Open can be pretty stressful for the contenders.
That’s because a lot of them are young, relatively unknown guys trying to win for the first time on the PGA Tour.
It’s a huge pressure situation, tough circumstances.
Those circumstances got totally crazy late Sunday afternoon outside the Vegas Strip with a bunch of guys trying to win the big prize at the TPC Summerlin.
There was one real big problem, however.
Las Vegas had turned into the coast of Scotland. Winds were howling late in the day, 30-35 miles per hour and the contenders were getting battered.
Amid the craziness, 46-year-old Alex Cjeka, who lives in Vegas, was safely in the clubhouse. He finished at least two hours ahead of the leaders before the winds began to howl and shot 63 to post nine-under par.
He wasn’t going anywhere once he saw what the wind was doing.
Patrick Cantlay had it to 11-under par with two holes to play, looking like the winner outright. But he finished bogey-bogey, to tie Cjeka at nine-under.
J.J. Spaun, the overnight leader with Beau Hossler, had it to 10-under with two holes to play but tragically finished double-bogey, double-bogey and fell all the way back to six-under, costing himself a lot of money.
By the time the final group finished. Cjeka, Cantlay and Whee Kim were headed to the tee at the brutal 18th.
Suffice to say all three made bogey the first time around.
On their second trip down 18, Cantlay hit a drive right and wasn’t in good shape — tree trouble.
“I felt like as long as I kept it below the tree branch that was in front of me and cut it enough, I felt like it would go in a pretty decent spot,” Cantlay said. “I maybe didn’t cut it as much as I wanted to. I think the rough stopped it from being able to spin and get any cut on it, but it ended up in a good spot. It was a good shot.” That shot was a cut 4-iron that finished just over the back of the green. With Cjeka staring at bogey and Kim looking at a double, Cantlay chipped it close, made par and collected his first PGA Tour win.
“There’s not a lot of give up in me,” Cantlay said. “I never really thought about giving it up. I thought maybe there was a chance my back would never feel good enough to play again. But, fortunately, I feel great. I have a good program. I figured out a way to feel good all the time. It’s all good. I’m happy to be playing. Goals for the rest of the season, definitely majors,” Cantlay said. “It will be nice to be into all of those, and making it all the way to the FedExCup final and playing well in those events, those are big. First time playing last year, and really realized the gravity of them, and would like to do well and compete there, too.”
It’s been a long journey for Cantlay, a star at UCLA who suffered physical problems then had to deal with seeing his best friend killed when he was struck by a car.
He won more than $1.2 million and has climbed into the top 50 in the world rankings.