Adam Hadwin’s approach to his first Masters is a smart one. It’s practical, well intentioned, and with how busy his life has been the past few weeks — on and off the golf course — it offers the Abbotsford, B.C., product his best chance of success as a first time invitee to Augusta National.
“I’ve had plenty of people tell me, it is the Masters, and it might have an aura about it, but at the end of it it’s still a golf tournament. It’s no different than any other event. Don’t let the aura or prestige of it make you think you can’t compete,” said Hadwin on a conference call with Canadian media Thursday. “I’ve got that advice from people who have been there. I take it all in and I listen to all of it but it’s about playing my game and I think I can fit my game to match any golf course.”
Hadwin, idle this week, plans to travel to Augusta Saturday. He will do so with his first PGA Tour victory, the Valspar Championship, under his belt, a win that has propelled him to fifth on the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup point standings and 10th for a spot on the Presidents Cup International team. He is among the PGA Tour’s best in multiple short game categories, including putting where he is currently sixth. Hadwin also arrives at his first Masters as a married man and new homeowner. He and wife Jessica exchanged vows last weekend, then promptly closed a deal Wednesday on a house in Phoenix.
“All very good things happening and in life right now,” he said. “Now with the Masters next week I’m trying to shift the focus there as well.”
Hadwin will do so without the benefit of prior experience to draw on. He plans to begin his preparation in earnest on Sunday and on Tuesday he will join 2003 Masters champion Mike Weir and tour rookie Mackenzie Hughes, the reigning champion of the RSM Classic, for a practice round. In no way does he see it as a disadvantage that he was not able to get to Augusta previously to see the Bobby Jones-Alistair Mackenzie design.
“I’ve gone to lots of golf courses I haven’t played before and played well so I’ll go Saturday and have an extra day Sunday to play the golf course,” he said. “It’s a matter of going there, getting my bearings, talking to guys, asking advice, and finding out if there’s anything special I need to work on. I haven’t started picking Mike’s brain yet. I’ve been saving it. I don’t want to wear him out before we actually play. I’m sure I’ll pick up a bunch of stuff come Tuesday.”
None of this is to suggest that Hadwin is not excited. Clearly he is and he made reference to the Masters and Augusta National during his post-victory remarks at Valspar and again on the conference call.
“For us it’s the first major of the year. It’s the unofficial opening of the golf season. It has a heightened prestige around it,” he explained when asked about what significance he places on the Masters. “For me sort of the way I view it is to get in the Masters you have to do something special. You have to be a top-50 player in the world, you have to be in the top 30 of the previous year’s FedEx Cup or you have to win so it has that winner’s only, great players only, type of feel to it. I’m not downplaying the other majors by any stretch but with the U.S. Open you can be 600th in the world and you have one good day and you’re in. Same with the British. With the Masters you have to do something real special to be invited.”
Not lost on Hadwin either, in terms of significance, is the anniversary being celebrated at this year’s Masters. Next week marks 20 years since Tiger Woods’s 12-shot victory. It was a “win for the ages” that had an impact on the then 10-year old Canadian.
“That was my first Masters recollection, when he kind of burst on the scene there, where he destroyed the field and ran away with it. Tiger made it a point to not win by one or two. He wanted to win by 15,” said Hadwin, who also has vivid memories of Weir’s win in 2003, Phil Mickelson’s first green jacket win in 2004 and Woods’s victory again in 2005. “Tiger had that look in his eye. He hit it miles past everybody. He hit farther, he hit it higher, he hit closer, he made putts. He made the game look so easy, not just at Augusta in ‘97 but for a long time there. I think the intensity and the passion that was going on for him at that time stands out for me.”
Hadwin is not going to hit it miles farther or higher than anyone else in the field but he can hit it close and he does make putts. Along with ranking sixth in putting, his proximity-to-hole ratio with his wedges is among the best on tour. Currently, he is ninth in approach distance from 50-125 yards and 15th with that same statistic from 100-125 yards. Both bode well for success on Augusta’s famous par 5s and, overall, on a golf course that demands heightened short game prowess.
“Mike (Weir) found a way to fit his game to Augusta in ’03 and be the best player that week,” Hadwin said. “I’ve thought about how people have been successful there in the past. What’s made me successful this year is I stay aggressive but I call it conservatively aggressive. I’ve done a great job, especially on par 5s this year. When it warrants it I’m aggressive, otherwise I lay up. My wedges have been so good that I have full confidence I can do either. That’s how I’ve treated this all year. I’m going to do the best I can to make a birdie or give myself a chance at eagle. Augusta can be scored on doing both.”
Asked if he has allowed himself to dream what it might be like to wear the Green Jacket Sunday evening, Hadwin tempered his answer with thoughts of the past but with a very realistic view for what’s required to make that happen in reality.
“I’ve made many-a-putt at sunset to win the Masters while practising but I’m not approaching this any different from any tournament I’ve played all year,” he said. “I’m going to focus on the things I need to do to prepare my game best I can. I’m going to go in there with confidence. I’m playing really well this year and I’ve had some success against great fields.”