At the Desert Classic, Adam Hadwin was due.
The native of Abbotsford, B.C., led with nine holes to go at this event in 2016, shot a 59 in 2017 and finished second, and was in the final group on Sunday a year ago.
He didn’t get the job done this year – while eventual winner Adam Long chipped in for birdie two holes in a row, Hadwin faltered down the stretch with a late bogey and a stubbed chip – but his tie for second proved why he’s cemented himself at the top of the group of ever-growing Canadian male professional golfers who are contending for PGA Tour titles.
It’s never been a more prosperous time for Canadian golf on the PGA Tour, and Hadwin showed this week why he’s the best of the bunch.
There were eight Canadians in the field at this week’s Desert Classic, and eight in the Sony Open the week before. It was the third time this season eight Canadians were in a PGA Tour field, the highest number for a non-domestic event since the PGA Tour began keeping track in 1970.
Last week Adam Svensson fired a first round 9-under-par 61 at the Sony Open to take the lead. This week it was Hadwin – who told The Canadian Press in early January his main goal this season was to return to the Presidents Cup – who rocketed up the leaderboard.
And it’s not just Adam’s who are playing good golf.
Corey Conners finished tied for third at the Sony Open last week after notching a runner-up at the Sanderson Farms Championship in the fall.
Roger Sloan had his best ever PGA Tour result at the Desert Classic, a tie for 12th.
Nick Taylor and Mackenzie Hughes have already won on the PGA Tour, and, like Hadwin, are now looking for their second victory.
Hadwin moved to 13th in the FedEx Cup standings with his tie for second – his best result on the PGA Tour since he finished tied for third at this event a year ago.
The 31-year-old spent a good chunk of 2018 getting more dialed in with his irons, but that came at the expense of his putting. He went from 21st in the putting average statistic in 2017 to 139th last year. He’s up in that stat already this year, so strides are being made on the green to get him back to where he was.
Up-and-coming PGA Tour pros describe Hadwin as a guy who “just takes care of business,” and his work ethic is something to emulate.
Jared du Toit, who shares an agent with Hadwin and made noise at the 2016 RBC Canadian Open by playing in the final group as an amateur, says it’s easy to see Hadwin’s good habits.
One of the first times they played a casual round together, it was late in the year and standard, du Toit says, to have a quick beer afterwards.
Hadwin passed on the post-round drink.
“He was the kind of guy who was obviously really focused. He had some stuff coming up and he said ‘no’ and that’s something I give him props for because not a lot of guys can say ‘no’ when you get pressured by a whole group,” says du Toit.
Du Toit says he talked to another Canadian professional, Riley Wheeldon, who has known Hadwin since junior golf in British Columbia. Wheeldon told du Toit that Hadwin wasn’t a great putter in college, but after spending a few years really working on his stroke and became one of the best on the PGA Tour.
“Any weakness he has, he addresses it,” says du Toit. “He does the right things on and off the course.”
Derek Ingram, the men’s national team coach for Golf Canada, says Hadwin is quick to separate himself from a lot of other guys. Hadwin, Ingram says, carries himself like one of the best players in the world, and has from a young age.
“Even when he was a junior player he had this belief that he was great and he could win the big event and he was just ultra-confident,” says Ingram. “That’s the one thing I love about (Hadwin) is that be believes in himself in such a deep, deep fashion… it’s a real separator.”
Combine an improved putting stroke with his already solid iron game, big-time confidence level, and efficient move off the tee and Hadwin is the most complete Canadian PGA Tour player out there.
A win this week would have moved Hadwin to No. 44 in the world, but instead he’ll slide up just a few spots from his current rank at No.70.
The next closest-ranked golfer is Conners at No. 181.
So while Hadwin didn’t take the title in the Desert Classic, he’s still very clearly at the top of the heap of Canadians on the PGA Tour.
But, with solid play from a mixed group of proven winners, Tour veterans, and up-and-comers champing at the bit for their own piece of PGA Tour glory, it will be fun to see the others try to take the mantle from him.