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.”

Getty Images

Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

Getty Images

Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

@tommyfleetwood_1

A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

Getty Images

Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."

Getty Images

Rahm (62) shoots career low round at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 10:33 pm

After a banner year in 2017, Jon Rahm found a way to add yet another accolade to his growing list of accomplishments during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Rahm got off to a fast start at La Quinta Country Club, playing his first seven holes in 6 under en route to a 10-under 62. The score marked his career low on the PGA Tour by two shots and gave him an early lead in an event that utilizes a three-course rotation.

La Quinta was the site of Adam Hadwin's 59 during last year's event, and Rahm knew full well that a quick start opened the door to a memorably low score.

"Any time you have that going for you, you get thoughts come in your head, 60, maybe 59," Rahm told reporters. "I knew that if I kept playing good I was going to have more birdie opportunities, and I tried not to get ahead of myself and I was able to do it."


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


Rahm birdied his first two holes before an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole sparked him to an outward 30. He added four more birdies on the inward half without dropping a shot.

The Spaniard is the highest-ranked player in the field this week, and while many players opted for a two-week stint in Hawaii he instead came home for some practice after opening the new year with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. That decision appears to have paid some early dividends as Rahm gets set to defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Low scores were plentiful on all three courses during the opening round, and Rahm remained pleased with his effort even though he fell short of matching Hadwin's sub-60 score from a year ago.

"That's golf. You're not going to make every single putt, you're not going to hit every shot perfect," he said. "Overall, you've got to look at the bigger picture. I birdied the last hole, had a couple of great sand saves coming in, shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for."