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Patrick Cantlay has impressed in 2017 despite playing just 11 events

NORTON, Mass. -- To consider all that Patrick Cantlay has gone through over the past two years puts the quality of his season in a different light, and it looks even stronger because of his limited schedule.

He is No. 41 in the FedEx Cup standings despite having played only 11 tournaments.

"If he had the full year this year, I would imagine he'd have been on the Presidents Cup team, no question," said Jordan Spieth, who competed against Cantlay in college and played with him in the third round at the TPC Boston. "He's extremely talented, and he's going to work his way up into the top 10 in the world, in my opinion."

Cantlay first showed his promise on a big stage in 2011, right after his sophomore year at UCLA, when he was low amateur at the U.S. Open, shot 60 at the Travelers Championship and never finished out of the top 25 in the four PGA Tour events he played.

But his career was nearly derailed his rookie season in 2013 by a stress fracture in his lower back that kept him out of golf for two years. During that time off, his best friend and caddie, Chris Roth, was struck by a car and killed as they were walking to dinner. It's been a long road back, physically and emotionally.

Even so, the 25-year-old Cantlay remains the talent he always was.

He is the only rookie -- yes, this still counts as his rookie season -- not to miss a cut this year. He was runner-up by a shot at Innisbrook, tied for third at Hilton Head, and despite the limited schedule, goes into the BMW Championship next week with a strong chance to make the Tour Championship.

Cantlay cleared his first hurdle in his second tournament when he was runner-up at the Valspar Championship and earned more than enough to fulfill his major medical extension. Only he didn't look at that as an achievement. He saw it as a loss. So the mention of East Lake as a goal was met with a blank stare.

"I'm just trying to win every tournament," he said.

Cantlay might be higher in the ranking if not for an ankle injury that kept him out for two months this summer. He felt something wrong in his right foot while hitting balls and just didn't want to risk another setback.

"I was playing a lot of golf that I hadn't been before," he said, referring to his two years away from golf. "The ankle, I was surprised about. Right now, I feel great and I'm really happy with my physical shape."

As for his game? He has high standards, though he also is practical. He's not going to win them all. He still hasn't won the first one.

"I feel like I'm playing well and trending in the right direction," he said. "Everything is on track to give myself a chance."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.