Cantlay leads as Zalatoris fires his way into contention at American Express

By Sports Desk January 21, 2022

Patrick Cantlay secured a one-shot lead on 14-under par ahead of Tom Hoge on the second day of the American Express in California on Friday.

The world number four followed up his impressive round of 62 on the opening day with a four-under 68 to hold the outright lead at the end of day two, with Hoge following up a first day 65 with another respectable round of 66 to sit on 13-under.

The best round of the day came from Will Zalatoris, who shot an 11-under 61 to move up 93 places to joint-third after having hit just 10 greens in his opening round 71.

The 25-year-old American managed 12 birdies, including each of his last seven holes to climb up the leaderboard, and now sits level on 12-under with fellow countrymen Lanto Griffin, Greyson Sigg, Cameron Young and Joseph Bramlett.

His drive on the final hole actually ended in the rough on the adjacent first hole, but he was still able to make birdie.

“I think today I just gave myself chances," Zalatoris said after his round. "I hit a lot close and made a couple 20, 30 footers to keep the round going and obviously... making birdie on nine from the wrong fairway is kind of the icing on the cake."

Sam Ryder, Roger Sloan, Zach Johnson and Paul Barjon ended their second rounds tied for eighth on 11-under. 

Meanwhile, Lee Hodges, who held the lead with Cantlay at the start of day two, could only muster an even-round of 72 and now finds himself tied for twelfth with 11 other competitors.

Among them is Sahith Theegala, who shot an eagle and eight birdies as part of a round of 62 to climb 98 places to inexplicably sit alongside the previous day's overnight joint-leader.

World number one Jon Rahm was unable to build on his steady first round of 66 as he hit five birdies and three bogeys during his 70 to sit tied for 32nd on eight-under.

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    Golf's world number two, Jon Rahm, believes teenage compatriot Carlos Alcaraz can benefit from having Rafael Nadal around as his burgeoning tennis career progresses.

    Nineteen-year-old Spaniard Alcaraz became the first tennis player to beat both Nadal and Novak Djokovic in the same tournament on clay, on his way to becoming the youngest ever winner at the Madrid Open earlier in May.

    Alcaraz has won three of the past four tournaments he has entered, including the Miami Open, moving to number six in the ATP world rankings and emerging as a serious challenger for the French Open, which starts on Sunday.

    When asked about Alcaraz's rapid ascent, Rahm said Alcaraz can still learn a lot from 21-time grand slam winner Nadal.

    "I thought you were talking about a golfer. I was just confused," Rahm joked, speaking ahead of this week's US PGA Championship. "I've heard about what he's done, and I've seen the results. Pretty impressive, especially in the world of tennis.

    "He's got some big shoes to fill, because historically Spain has had great tennis players, and obviously with Rafa out there it can be probably daunting yet really exciting too for somebody like him.

    "You have a great reference who's done it right in front of you, so I'm sure he can pick his brain and learn. He's got a great start. Hopefully he can keep it going and be a great champion like many others have been."

    Following a tie for 27th at the Masters, Rahm returned to action earlier in May, winning the Mexico Open.

    The lingering dynamic this weekend at Southern Hills will be the fact Phil Mickelson will not be there to defend his title, following his controversial remarks about the Saudi-backed breakaway golf tour.

    Rahm and Mickelson share the same alma mater and agency, and the former continued to defend the six-time major winner.

    "Phil has got to do what Phil has got to do," Rahm said. "He's a good friend of mine. I can't remember the last time a major champion didn't defend a title.

    "But he's got to do what's best for him. That's all I can say. I can't say it makes me unhappy. As long as he's doing what is best for him, I can't truly say I'm unhappy.

    "I would have liked to see him defend. I know he's played good here in the past. But again, he's got to do what he's got to do."

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