Thursday, March 30, 2017

Hadwin's dream year gets even better

PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Two-and-a-half months into 2017, and it’s already been the best year of Adam Hadwin’s life.

He shot 59.

He won a PGA Tour event.

And he’s getting married in two weeks.

The rest of the year can only be a disappointment, right?

“Who knows?” he said with a laugh. “Throw a major in there and it won’t be.”

The likable Canadian blew a big lead Sunday, but coming down the 18th fairway at Innisbrook he kept reminding himself that he still was in position to capture his first Tour event. He played a delicate bladed wedge shot from the back fringe to tap-in range, then won the Valspar Championship when a hard-charging Patrick Cantlay missed a 15-footer for par.

“You’re never quite sure when you’re going to get the job done,” Hadwin said. “I feel a little fortunate after that hole to be sitting here with you, but I’ll certainly take it and I can’t wait for everything that comes with this win.” 

Hadwin looked poised to win in a runaway when he maintained his four-shot lead through eight holes. Then Cantlay, playing only his second event in the past 28 months, caught fire around the turn, running off five birdies in a six-hole span.

Still, Hadwin had a two-shot lead with three holes to play, but that disappeared as soon as he wiped his 3-wood into the pond on 16.

Standing on the 18th tee, they were tied at 14 under par.

“I told him, ‘All you wanted was a chance coming in, and we’ve got a chance coming in,’” said his caddie, Joe Cruz. “Let’s go make it happen.”


Valspar Championship: Articles, photos and videos


The victory was met with little surprise by the rest of the Canadian contingent. Hadwin, 29, has won at every level as he progressed from the Canadian circuit to the Web.com to the big leagues.

“The scores speak for themselves,” Graham DeLaet said. “He’s obviously comfortable now, and that’s one of the biggest things out here. Your first couple of years, you need to just believe that you belong, and now, getting the win, he knows he can do it and can beat some of the best.”

Said David Hearn: “He’s got a really good head on his shoulders and seems to rise to the moment. That’s what I feel like he does best. He’s got a great game. I don’t think this will be the last time he wins.”

After failing to crack the top 85 in each of his first two seasons on Tour, Hadwin is now ranked fourth in the FedEx Cup and qualified for his first Masters. He also earned a spot in the WGC-Match Play later this month, but he’s already turned it down.

For good reason.

Last May, Hadwin and his fiancée, Jessica Kippenberger, set their wedding date for Friday, March 24.

Why then?

Jessica says it’s because that’s when spring break falls for many of her nieces and nephews from Kansas.

Hadwin had a different reason: “I looked at it as, hey, we picked the week of Puerto Rico, not the week of the WGC,” he said, smiling.

They’re going ahead with the wedding, of course, but the honeymoon, a 10-day trip to French Polynesia, will be rescheduled. After all, he now has a Masters to prepare for.

“Sorry, babe,” he said. 

At least Hadwin did show some foresight. He booked refundable airfare tickets, but now he’s already thinking about how he can recover his hotel deposit at the Four Seasons.

“I understand I won a nice check this week,” he said, “but I don’t like to throw money away.”

Cantlay’s final-hole bogey was costly, but the runner-up finish (and $680,400 paycheck) helped him secure his playing privileges for the rest of the season. A former amateur star, Cantlay was playing on a major medical extension after he missed the better part of the last three years after suffering a back injury and dealing with the loss of his best friend/caddie.

“It doesn’t really feel like much consolation at the moment,” he said. “I didn’t finish the deal.”

No, for now, it’s Hadwin’s turn to celebrate. He had a chance to win earlier this year, at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where in the third round he became the most recent player to break golf’s sub-60 barrier. But he couldn’t finish it off, chased down on the final few holes by Hudson Swafford.

Hadwin waited only two more months for another opportunity, as the good times continued to roll.

“I can’t say that I’ve been through a lot,” he said, “but I’ve worked my butt off to get here. I’ve slowly improved each and every year. I’ve won at every level, and now I can call myself a PGA Tour winner.”


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