Planet Golf — 10 March 2017 by GW staff and news services
Hadwin hangs on to win first PGA title

PALM HARBOR, Fla. — Adam Hadwin only wanted a chance to win on the final hole Sunday at the Valspar Championship. He could have done without the self-inflicted drama.

Hadwin lost a two-shot lead with one swing on the 16th hole when his tee shot sailed into the water and led to double bogey. The 29-year-old Canadian kept his wits and closed with two pars, the final one good enough for a one-shot victory over Patrick Cantlay.

The victory sends him to Augusta National for the first time, even if it means altering a honeymoon trip to Tahiti.

Hadwin is getting married March 24.

“I just wanted a chance to win coming up the last, and I had that chance,” Hadwin said.

Hadwin closed with an even-par 71, and it was hard work to the end. Tied for the lead, and with Cantlay having come up short into a bunker, Hadwin went just over the back of the green against the collar of the fringe. He used the leading edge of a sand wedge to send it down the slope to 2 feet from the cup.

Cantlay came up well short and missed his 15-foot par putt to force a playoff. He closed with a 68.

Hadwin is the third Canadian to qualify for the Masters, joining RSM Classic winner Mackenzie Hughes and 2003 champion Mike Weir.

The consolation prize for Cantlay was a runner-up finish that paid $680,400, more than enough for him to secure full status for the rest of the year. The former No. 1 amateur was playing for only the second time since 2014 because of a stress fracture in his back

Even in loss, it was a bright return for the UCLA star. Cantlay wondered if his back would ever allow him to regain his game, and he endured an even greater burden a year ago February when his best friend and caddie, Chris Roth, was struck and killed by a car as they were walking to a restaurant for dinner in California.

“It doesn’t really feel like much consolation at the moment,” Cantlay said about securing his card. “I didn’t finish the deal.”

Hadwin finished at 14-under 270 after a duel that featured big putts along the back nine of the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook.

The Canadian had a four-shot lead with 10 holes to play when Cantlay started to apply enormous pressure with an approach into 3 feet at No. 9 and a 15-foot birdie putt to start the back nine. Cantlay had 7 feet for a third straight birdie on the par-5 11th when Hadwin holed a birdie putt from 25 feet to keep a two-shot lead.

The big blow appeared to come at the par-3 13th, where Cantlay hit a 7-iron at the flag and came up about 8 feet short. Hadwin played it safe out to the fat of the green, and his 55-foot putt swirled into the cup to keep the lead at two shots when Cantlay made his birdie

Cantlay made his fifth birdie in six holes with a 20-footer on the par-5 14th, only to fall two behind again with another poor bunker shot on the 15th.

Cantlay was only 1 of 6 in sand saves for the week.

That’s when Hadwin let him back into the mix one last time with his worst swing of the swing, letting the fairway metal dangle over his shoulder as the ball headed to the middle of the pond.

The final mistake belonged to Cantlay, and that was enough for Hadwin to break through for his first PGA TOUR victory.

Jim Herman (68) and PGA TOUR rookie Dominic Bozzelli (67) tied for third, two strokes behind Hadwin.

Tony Finau closed with a 64 to finish alone in fifth, though that likely will narrowly keep him out of the Dell Match Play in two weeks. Finau only moves to No. 70 in the world, and as many as five players are likely to withdraw.

Jason Dufner birdied his last two holes for a 67 to tie for 11th and qualify for Match Play.

Hadwin, meanwhile, would get into his first World Golf Championship except for his wedding, which is the Friday of the Match Play. They had planned to go to French Polynesia for their honeymoon a week later, though Hadwin had said if he won he might have to postpone that to go “the greenest place on earth.”

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