Adam Hadwin overcame a double-bogey on the 16th hole for his first PGA Tour victory at the Valspar Championship, closing with a level par 71 on Sunday to hold off Patrick Cantlay.
The 29-year-old began the day with a four-shot lead at 14-under-par and was able to maintain that score for victory despite a valiant push from world-number-1419 Cantlay who only fell short with a bogey on the 18th.
Just over a month ago, Hadwin earned his best career finish of second at the CareerBuilder Challenge but was able to improve that stat this week by going one better for his victory.
Cantlay, Dominic Bozzelli and Jim Herman all played their part in threatening Hadwin early on and Tony Finau, who started the day at back at four-under, emerged as another threat going out in 33 and opening the back nine with three birdies to find himself tied second at 10-under. Only for Cantlay to find a birdie on the ninth to move into solo second behind Hadwin.
The lead, however, was still three for the Canadian heading onto the back nine. He adopted a conservative approach for the final round in hope his overnight lead would hold the chasing pack off, with his opening nine a level par 36 with one bogey and one birdie to match.
A birdie on the 10th for Cantlay to open the back nine, though, put the youngster within two of Hadwin. As the former put his approach on the 11th to six-feet, the lead could have been cut to two but for a 20-foot birdie putt from Hadwin to ensure he matched his challenger. A birdie apiece began the movement of the leading duo away from the pack.
Hadwin’s conservative play looked as though it may come back to bite him on the par three 13th as he bailed out to 60 foot from the hole as Cantlay took on the flag to six foot. He was not to allow his opponent back in that easy though, as he attacked his long-putt and sunk it from the far side of the green to, again, keep Cantlay two-shots back.
The pair matched each other to the green on the 14th but, from virtually identical spots, Cantlay out-putted his counterpart to close to within one. The scrutiny on Hadwin’s lead, though, did not last long. A poor close-bunker shot from Cantlay earned him a bogey and allowed Hadwin to extend his lead back to two with three to play. Nevertheless, that three being the unforgiving Snake Pit.
The Snake Pit interfered with proceedings immediately as Hadwin’s tee shot on the 16th found the water. A resulting double-bogey, with a par from Cantlay, shunted Hadwin back down to 14-under-par and meant the lead was now shared.
A par each on the 17th brought it all down to match-play from the 18th, and perhaps, onwards. Routine tee shots were followed by Cantlay finding the bunker and Hadwin firing long. Cantlay’s bunker shot was short and Hadwin chipped to two-foot. The pressure was all on the American from 20-foot and a miss right handed victory to Hadwin.
Besides substantial pay-outs and FedExCup points, there were extra rewards for both leaders as runner-up Cantlay secures a PGA Tour card for next season and Hadwin a place at Augusta for the first major of the year next month. A delayed honeymoon to make-way for the appearance at the Masters should only seem a mere inconvenience.