Hadwin's dream year gets even better

By Ryan LavnerMarch 13, 2017, 12:01 am

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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Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm