Cantlay will turn pro

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UCLA sophomore Patrick Cantlay, the top-ranked amateur in the world, is turning professional.

The Travelers Cham­pion­ship, which begins Thursday at TPC Highlands, will be his first professional event.

Cantlay has signed with Mark Steinberg of Excel Sports Management, the same agent who represents Tiger Woods.

“I feel like it’s time for me to play as a pro. I think it’s best for my golf game,” Cantlay said. “When I talked it over with my mom and my dad and (swing coach) Jamie Mulligan, that’s just what we thought would be best for me and my game right now. So we thought the Travelers, since I played well here last year. It was the right time.”

Less than a week after earning low amateur honors at the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., Cantlay en­tered the Travelers Cham­pionship and became the 36-hole leader after firing 60 in the second round. That’s the lowest score posted by an amateur in a PGA Tour event, and his scorecard and ball from that round are featured in a display at the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Cantlay has entered eight PGA events as an amateur and has made the cut in all but one – February’s Nor­thern Trust Open.

STILL THE PRINCIPAL: The Prin­cipal Financial Group will remain the title sponsor of the Champions Tour event in Iowa through 2015, even though it needs to find a new course for the tournament.

Principal announced Tuesday that is has signed a three-year deal to stay on as the main sponsor, but Glen Oaks general manager Bill Kir­ken­dall said the club won’t be the host in 2013. Tour­na­ment organizers said they are exploring other courses in greater Des Moines, the home of Prin­ci­pal’s headquarters.

Principal senior vice president and tournament board chairwoman Mary O’Keefe said the company was in discussions to remain as sponsor even before it learned Glen Oaks was out.

“We think it’s an event and a community happening that should stay in central Iowa,” O’Keefe said.

Kirkendall said the club simply felt it was time to walk away after 11 tournaments.

CASEY RETURNS: Paul Casey, who had to withdraw from the U.S. Open because of an injury, returns this week in Germany for the BMW
Championship. He can only hope he will be healthy enough the rest of the year to avoid being left off another Ryder Cup team.

“It was tough having to sit at home watching the U.S. Open on TV when you really want to be playing,” he said. “But doctors said my shoulder needed another week’s rest. I’ve been having the shoulder massaged, but it’s meant also having to cut down my practice sessions.”

Casey, who dislocated his right shoulder while snowboarding over the holidays, ended last year at No. 20 in the world. He has slipped to No. 60. Worse yet, he is 30th on the European Ryder Cup world points list and 56th on the list based on European Tour money.

Only 10 weeks remain to qualify for the team.

“This week will only be my sixth tour event this year, so in many ways, this week really now is the start of my season,” Casey said.

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