(Our Will Haskett worked play by play of the Valspar Championshp for PGA Tour Radio)
Palm Harbor, FL- At the beginning of Sunday, Adam Hadwin simply wanted an even-par round. Entering the final round of the Valspar Championship with a four shot lead, 71 around the Copperhead course at Innisbrook Resort seemed like it would be enough. It was, until it wasn’t.
The Canadian won for the first time on the PGA Tour with an unlikely birdie battle with Patrick Cantlay. He shot a final round 71, finishing at 14-under, one shot clear of Cantlay. Each performance was equal parts career altering and brilliant as they pulled away from the field. In the closest thing to match play the PGA Tour has seen in a recent trend of blowout performances, two golfers in pursuit of their first win couldn’t have delivered a more exciting finish.
Cantlay birdied three holes in a row, and five of six, as he was making the turn. When Hadwin made a 15-footer on 11, Cantlay answered. When Hadwin rolled in a 40-footer on 13, Cantlay calming stroked his six-foot putt after hitting the most gutsy tee shot of the day. Tit for tat. Hadwin washed his tee shot at 16, opening the door that Cantlay couldn’t quite enter. A failed up and down at the last gave Hadwin his breakthrough victory.
It was a fitting win for a player who joined the sub-60 fraternity earlier this season and was one of the most consistent players in the world this calendar year. With a wedding in two weeks with fiancee Jessica, he will miss the WGC Match Play, but now has an invitation to the Masters in his future and a Canadian following that will only swell.
For Cantlay, solo second earned him enough money to satisfy the requirements of his PGA Tour medical extension, giving him full playing privileges on Tour. It was a long road back for a player who has endured every imaginable tragedy in his young career. He wasn’t satisfied after the round, however, focused more on the loss than the gain.
In the end, the best player of the week won. Hadwin becomes the second Canadian to win this season, the first time in a decade two players from Canada have won in the same PGA Tour season.