Cantlay up 2 at Genesis as pal Schauffele looms

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LOS ANGELES — Patrick Cantlay moved one round closer to winning before home fans at Riviera on his favorite course. He just moved the wrong way at the end Saturday in the Genesis Invitational.

Cantlay got up and down from short of the 18th green to save par for a 1-under 70, giving him a 2-shot lead over good friend Xander Schauffele and Will Zalatoris.

Cantlay, a UCLA alum who grew up 30 miles down the coast at Virginia Country Club, was leading by 4 shots for much of the back nine, reaching 15-under par with a bold approach to a back left pin on the 13th.

But he made a soft bogey on the par-5 17th as Schauffele (65) and Zalatoris (65) finished strong, and now the final round is a lot tighter than it was.

Cantlay was at 14-under 199 and will play in the final group with Schauffele, his closest friend on the PGA Tour.

They take vacations together with their wives and often stay in the same house on the road. They have been partners 11 times in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup matches, 12 rounds at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans — they won the team event in 2022 — along with about 100 practice rounds together.

At stake is a $4 million payoff to the winner of the signature event, a boost in first-place money as a player-hosted tournament. The host is Tiger Woods, who might not be around to present the trophy. Woods confirmed on X he had influenza, the cause of him withdrawing Friday.

“When we play on Mondays and Tuesdays we’re trying to beat each other,” Schauffele said. “I think the only time we’re really rooting hard for each other is when we’re playing team events. I’m rooting for myself harder than anyone else and same goes for him. But of course I’d like to see him do well, but when we’re in the final group together it’s pretty obvious what we’re trying to do.”

Cantlay finally missed a putt inside 10 feet, this one for par on the third hole, but was otherwise solid on an overcast afternoon at Riviera. He saved a tough par on the 10th when his chip rolled off the green and added birdies at the 11th and 13th.

“I played solid golf today,” Cantlay said. “I didn’t make any long putts or anything. Didn’t really give myself too many chances, but all in all a solid day and in good position for tomorrow.”

But he lost a little of his cushion, particularly on the par-5 17th, the second-easiest hole at Riviera that yielded only two bogeys among the 51 players who reached the weekend.

Cantlay found a fairway bunker to the right off the tee, blasted out to wedge range and his shot to a front pin came off the green. He chipped weakly to 15 feet and missed the par putt.

Schauffele opened with a 15-foot eagle putt on the par-5 first and was relatively quiet until taking care of the par 5s on the back and adding birdies at the short par-4 10th and a tee shot to 7 feet on the par-3 16th.

Zalatoris, who missed most of last year recovering from back surgery, already has one highlight this week with his hole-in-one Friday on the 14th that resulted in a car for him and his caddie. He zoomed into contention with five birdies over his 10 holes for a 65.

Luke List (68) was 3 shots behind, while Harris English (65) and Jason Day (69) were another shot back going into the final round.

No one else was closer than five.

Cantlay is trying to join Max Homa (2021) and John Merrick (2013) as players from the greater Los Angeles area trying to win what amounts to a hometown event. Cantlay won the Zozo Championship at Sherwood in Thousand Oaks, about 35 miles north, when the tournament was moved to California during the pandemic.

But Riviera is special.

“Being from Southern California, it’s one of the tournaments on the list that I’d like to win the most,” Cantlay said.

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