Patrick Cantlay
Amateur Patrick Cantlay of the U.S. tees off on the second hole during the third round of the 2011 U.S. Open golf tournament at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland, June 18, 2011. Reuters

Having already reached lofty heights on the golf course this year, American Patrick Cantlay has savored the prospect of playing in the company of Tiger Woods at this week's Open.

Cantlay, awarded the 2011 Mark H. McCormack Medal as the world's number one amateur, will tee off with 14-times major winner Woods and 2010 British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen in Thursday's opening round at CordeValle Golf Club.

It'll be a great time out there, the 19-year-old Californian told reporters on Wednesday while preparing for his fifth PGA Tour start of the season. I'm really looking forward to it.

The greatest player of his generation, Woods is also the biggest drawcard in the game but Cantlay was not worried about the likely distractions of huge galleries and a large media following on Thursday.

I'm not going to even worry about it because I can only control what I'm going to do, no matter who I'm playing with, Cantlay said. So to me it's really not a big deal.

I'm just going to stick to my game plan, and nothing I do is going to change because of who I'm playing with.

Cantlay was thrilled to meet Woods for the first time during a sponsorship outing on Tuesday when the two ended up playing together.

He was real cordial and real nice, Cantlay said of the former world number one. We joked around a little bit out there and had a good time.

I didn't keep my score. I was just an amateur, he added with a laugh.


Woods, who has struggled for form and fitness for much of this year, will be playing his first tournament in almost two months at CordeValle but Cantlay expected him to flourish.

He chipped and putted real well, hit it solid and played well out there, he said. I'm sure he's different in practice rounds than he is in a regular tournament, just like anybody else, but he looked good to me.

Cantlay, a sophomore at the University of California, Los Angeles, has every reason to be confident about his own prospects this week.

He has performed with distinction in his last four PGA Tour starts and won a college event staged at CordeValle last year.

I really like the golf course, said the American, who clinched the 2011 Southern California Golf Association amateur title and helped his college team win four tournaments this year. It suits my game.

I feel a lot more comfortable out here (on the PGA Tour) than I did in my first tournament, so it's nice coming out here and not feeling intimidated as much as I did. I feel ready to have a good week and play as best as I can.

Cantlay was low amateur at the U.S. Open in June where he tied for 21st, shared ninth place at the Canadian Open and fired a course record 60 at the Travelers Championship on the way to a joint 24th finish.