When Adam Hadwin tees it up in the Frys.com Open this week he’ll do so not only as a first-time full-fledged PGA Tour member, but also as an incoming player from whom success is anticipated. And those expectations are not from just Canadian golf fans, but also from the golf world in general. To that end, PGATour.com ranked him 80th on its list of 241 full-membership PGA Tour players in terms of fantasy value. (SCOREGolf’s soon-to-be-released 2015 Annual Issue has him 97th.)
Along with Brooks Koepka — the American who tore up the European Challenge Tour in 2013 and then netted five top 15s and a T4 in the U.S. Open as a full-time European Tour player last season — and three-time 2014 Web.com Tour winner Carlos Ortiz of Mexico, Hadwin is projected to be one of the finest of the 2014-15 PGA Tour freshmen class.
The Abbotsford, B.C., product is fresh off winning the season-long Web.com Tour money list, passing Ortiz with a tie for seventh in the final event. His was the most successful season by a Canadian in the history of that circuit and thus should have him better prepared for the big leagues than any Canuck who came before him in the last 25 years. Two PGA Tour top 10s, including a memorable T4 at the RBC Canadian Open, as a non-member in 2011 doesn’t hurt either.
It’s easy to forget given his rather immediate success that Graham DeLaet never played on the Web.com Tour. He jumped straight to the PGA Tour from the old Canadian Tour through qualifying school. Clearly he didn’t need the extra seasoning. Mike Weir required numerous kicks at the Q-School can to earn and then regain his PGA Tour card, but in the end he also made it to the top without experience at the AAA level. Eight PGA Tour titles, including the 2003 Masters, over the next 15 years make him one of golf’s biggest overachievers. Ian Leggatt, Glen Hnatiuk, David Morland IV, Jon Mills, Chris Baryla and this year Roger Sloan graduated to the PGA Tour through the Web.com Tour money list with victories. David Hearn, Brad Fritsch and now Nick Taylor did so without winning. (Hearn captured a Web.com Tour title in 2004, but didn’t finish in the top 25 on the money list that year with only 12 tournaments played as a non-member. He instead earned his card through Q-School and then through the Web.com money list without winning in 2010.) None of those players, however, advanced to golf’s biggest stage with the aplomb of Hadwin. And though his graduation came a couple of years later than he first expected, Hadwin believes there will not be a setback.
“I really don’t see anything other than being out there for the next 15, 20 years consistently and not having to come back and regain a card or anything like that,” he said in a recent interview. “Consistently being a top 125 player for the next 20 years and maintaining that card and being successful out there.”
Hadwin has never lacked confidence. However his self-assurance heading into his first PGA Tour season is based on much more than his game. He came close to earning a PGA Tour card in his first season on the Web.com circuit in 2012. He was bumped from the magical 25th spot on the money list in the season’s final hour when James Hahn made a superb up-and-down par on the 72nd hole of the Tour Championship. Hadwin followed that with a very poor 2013 campaign in which he missed 10 of 21 cuts and finished 66th on the money list. Recognizing that his poor play had much to do with a poor attitude, Hadwin set about changing his approach ahead of last season.
“Going through 2013 and taking an overall look at how quickly I was to get upset on the golf course,” he said. “If things weren’t going my way I’d just complain, always thinking that I deserved better.
“I really wanted to focus on bringing a different approach to the game. Sort of taking a step back, appreciating where I’m at and what I’m doing, having more fun on the golf course. Maybe playing less aggressive at times to keep the ball in front of me, to keep it in play.”
Hadwin wins Chiquita ClassicThat plan, plus an off-season workout regime that saw him add close to 15 pounds of muscle (“It mostly went to my ass,” he said, noting his glutes needed to get stronger to take the load of his golf swing), paid off early with a victory in Chile in March. A tie for third in Mexico five weeks later pretty well assured him of a 2015 PGA Tour card and, freed up to revert to his preferred aggressive style, Hadwin went for broke in the season’s second half. He won again, this time in North Carolina, playing the type of attacking golf that he prefers.
“That’s when my game tends to be at its best,” he said. “It really showed in Charlotte. I played some of the best golf I’d ever played in Charlotte. It was a lot of fun, under the pressure, to be able to aim at pins and pull off golf shots.”
Two more top 10s and the overall money title followed. It means Hadwin is exempt from the periodic reshuffles of the rookie priority rankings list. He’ll play a full PGA Tour schedule, including the lucrative Players Championship at the famed Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in May. Three weeks off between the end of the Web.com Tour season and the start of the PGA Tour’s wraparound schedule have given Hadwin little time to reset. But he’s cognizant of the fact that he’s starting from scratch and that cashing cheques early in his rookie season is crucial.
“I’m going to approach it the same way I did early in the year as (last) year,” he said. “I just want to get out and play. Get off to a good start, play the weekends, get into a rhythm for the first five events and just get acclimated to what the PGA Tour brings. I don’t want to push too hard, too soon. I’ve won playing both strategies now and I have an idea of how to manage that now much better than in the past.
“It’s been a great run that I’ve been on,” he continued. “I’m very confident in the way my game has been on the golf course and how I’ve handled everything outside of it. It’s going to be so much fun as a full member of the PGA Tour with full status. Just go out there and give it hell. Give it all I’ve got and see how my game stacks up against the best in the world.”