5 things about Adam Hadwin's 1st PGA Tour win
Canadian who shot 59 in January takes Valspar Championship
The most telling takeaway from Adam Hadwin's victory at the Valspar Championship on Sunday was that few people on either side of the border were surprised.
Golf watchers in Canada and elsewhere were expecting the 29-year-old from Abbotsford, B.C., to win soon on the PGA Tour after he shot 59 at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January.
Here are five other things to know after Hadwin's victory:
Not the prettiest ending
Hadwin took a four-shot lead into Sunday, taking control of the tournament after firing a four-under-par round of 67 on Saturday. American Patrick Cantlay, a former amateur star who has battled crippling back injuries the past three seasons, closed the gap on the back nine.
Nursing a two-shot lead on 16, Hadwin dunked his tee ball, leading to a double-bogey and allowing Cantlay to draw even. Two holes later Cantlay had a similar miss on his approach into 18, leaving his ball in the bunker to the front-right of the green.
Hadwin used a bladed wedge from the fringe to give himself about a foot for par, forcing Cantlay to make a long par putt to extend the tournament to extra holes. The 24-year-old Californian missed and Hadwin's short brush-in gave him his first PGA Tour victory.
Hadwin's 59 on Jan. 21 in the California desert made casual fans take notice, but his star has been on the rise in Canadian golf circles since 2010.
Hadwin made the cut and briefly contended at the RBC Canadian Open that year, finishing as the low Canadian at St. George's in Toronto. The following year, and playing a virtual home game at Shaughnessy in Vancouver, Hadwin made a valiant run on the back nine, finishing just two shots out of a playoff eventually won by Sean O'Hair.
Hadwin would eventually win twice on the Mackenzie-PGA Tour Canada and the Web.com Tour, before earning his full PGA Tour playing privileges in 2014. He comfortably re-upped that status twice but his fourth-place showing on home soil remained his best PGA Tour performance until his 59 helped him to a solo second at the CareerBuilder.
The Weir effect
Canada currently has six full-time PGA Tour players. Three of them — Graham DeLaet, Brad Fritsch and David Hearn — were already well into their 20s when Mike Weir won the 2003 Masters. Hadwin, along with Mackenzie Hughes and Nick Taylor, were young teenagers when the lefty from Brights Grove, Ont., became the first Canadian male to win a modern major title.
Hadwin spoke at length at his post-tournament press conference and later on a conference call with Canadian media about Weir's positive example. Specifically, Hadwin cited a weather delay at Torrey Pines a few years ago as a key opportunity that he had to get to know Weir, as the pair waited for fog to lift so they could resume playing. Hadwin also said one of the first people he would seek out for advice for next month's Masters is Weir.
A quirky fact about Canada's PGA Tour contingent: DeLaet and Hearn remain in many ways the country's two most notable players by world ranking and tenure, as their representation on the Olympic team last summer showed. But both men, along with Fritsch, still await their first PGA Tour victory, whereas Hadwin, Hughes and Taylor have now all won on golf's best tour. Hadwin and Hughes are now the lone players to have won on Mackenzie/PGA Tour Canada, Web.com and PGA Tours.
The evidence is largely anecdotal and there are no hard-and-fast numbers to support it, but it's a commonly held belief that Canadian players enjoy more support than your average competitors among U.S. galleries. That's because of the tendency for snowbirds to attend PGA Tour events, especially in the winter months.
Hadwin, as Weir and others have before him, paid tribute to those Canadian fans on Sunday. Two months ago, Hadwin voiced a similar sentiment when he broke 60, and a day later when he grinded on Sunday for a solo-second showing. "It's really a victory for the whole country," said Hadwin after his win on Sunday.
Honeymoon can wait
Hadwin's victory vaults him to just outside the top 50 in the world ranking. It also gets him a spot in next month's Masters and almost certainly in the year's remaining major championships. At the Masters, he will join Hughes and Weir to form the largest Canadian contingent at Augusta since 1968 (Al Balding, Gary Cowan, George Knudson).
Before then, Hadwin will marry his fiancée, Jessica, on March 24. The wedding will trump the WGC-Match Play event that Hadwin earned a spot in with his victory. The soon-to-be newlyweds were planning to take their honeymoon the week of the Masters. Hadwin says that the honeymoon can now wait, with Jessica's blessing.