Fire and Ice: Patrick Cantlay and Tom Kim set up Sunday shootout at Shriners

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LAS VEGAS – Fire and ice. Tournament organizers couldn’t have written a better script.

Drawcards Patrick Cantlay and Tom Kim scorched the TPC Summerlin turf in Saturday’s third round of the Shriners Children’s Open to rocket to a tie for first at 19-under, setting up a three-shot buffer over the nearest chasers in the Vegas desert.

It sets up a mouthwatering final-round battle where the two Presidents Cup stars will try to outduel each other while also keeping the challengers at bay. Matthew NeSmith and Kim’s International Team colleague Mito Pereira sit tied for third at 16-under. Another International team star in defending champion Sungjae Im is tied for fifth with S.H. Kim at 15-under.

In Cantlay, we have Patty Ice. A no-nonsense, almost emotionless robot who dissects golf courses for pleasure. He doesn’t waste words, or golf shots. Everything is measured. Intelligent.

In Kim, it’s youthful fire and exuberance. His bellows are still echoing around Quail Hollow from the Presidents Cup and while he’s been somewhat subdued so far in Vegas, the rampaging fist pumps are sure to surface if things go well on Sunday.

In Saturday’s third round it was 2017 champion and TPC Summerlin specialist Cantlay who started with the fire on a day of lights-out scoring. In fact he threatened to card just the 13th sub-60 round in PGA TOUR history but was forced to settle for a course record-tying 11-under 60 when his 24-foot birdie try on the 18th green scooted wide left.

The 2021 FedExCup champion opened with six straight threes on his card, five of those birdies, before adding another at the turn to go out in 6-under 29.

He then closed like a runaway train with five birdies in his last seven holes to match the course record at the place he’s had a win, two seconds and a T8 in his four previous starts. Incredibly he left at least two birdie chances on the edge of the hole in a near flawless performance.

“I would have liked to have made it,” Cantlay deadpanned about his last-hole chance. “I had like 120 in the fairway and it was a perfect spot and I hit a big sand wedge and I thought I hit it high enough and it took a huge bounce when it landed. Then the putt probably carried a bit too much speed, and just missed it a little high.”

Cantlay, who last shot 60 on TOUR as an amateur in the 2011 Travelers Championship, thought he might have let the chance slip when an eagle putt from 17 feet on the par-5 16th came up fractionally short.

“I felt like I would need to make that to have a real good chance. Obviously left it a little short, but yeah, I didn’t probably really think about it until about 16 green,” the eight-time TOUR winner said.

A laser into 12 feet on the 17th set up another birdie giving him one final hole to snatch the magic number. Despite the miss, he now feels confident ahead of Sunday’s challenge.

“I hit good putts all day today. You can’t make every single one as much as you’d like to. I’m very happy with how I played, and I’m in a good spot going into tomorrow,” he said. He leads the field in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and sits third Tee to Green. His Saturday proximity was a deadly field-leading 20 feet. 

“Same game plan as the first three days, and it’s going to take a low one again tomorrow,” he said. “This golf course yields low scores, and I expect the same tomorrow. Everyone will be gunning for me, and I’ve got to shoot a low one.”

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Ben Everill

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