BROOKLINE, MA – “That guy’s name is Hadwin,” said a pretty brunette in a Puma golf outfit to her young blond friend wearing Polo Ralph Lauren. “That’s the same name as Harry Potter’s owl!”
Umm…no, it’s not. Harry Potter’s owl is actually named Hedwig, but thanks for playing. We have lovely parting gifts for our runner’s up, like Rice-a-Roni and six months of furniture polish.
Adam Hadwin, however, is not an owl. He’s Canada’s best hope to win one of golf’s major championships since Mike Weir improbably bagged the 2003 Masters, beating the likes of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. And he’s doing quite well despite the golf world not being that familiar with him, especially for a player who made it into the field as an alternate.
“Pretty crazy to think. Obviously, you never want to leave it to an alternate chance. I did think snagging the first alternate at what we consider a PGA TOUR qualifying site, I thought gave me at least a better than 50/50 chance of getting in, but you are never quite sure until you get the call,” Hadwin explained about his nervy journey into the field. “I was excited to get the call just because I’ve been playing some good golf….I felt like I was well-prepared to come in and just kind of plod along and just shot after shot, and things have worked out so far.”
He’s been far more hardy than a mere plodder. Plodders and mudders might have done well at the old racetrack that predated the Country Cllub’s golf holes, and they sometimes win majors, (see the Olympic Club for more about that),
Hadwin stands at 2-under after three rounds at the Country Club, Boston’s eponymously named Golden Age golf masterpiece, hosting its fourth U.S. Open this week. After racing out to a first round 66 and the outright lead at the 2022 U.S. Open, Hadwin has weathered the growing ferocity of the golf course – it’s hip high fescue, it’s vast soft-sanded bunkers, and the fickle winds that howl first one direction, then inexplicably, turning back the way they came – he’s handled the rocky, windy, winding golf course admirably. Following the opening 66, rounds of 72 and 70 have him at 2-under, just two behind co-leaders Will Zalatoris and England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick, neither of whom, like Hadwin, have won a major.
Born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan and now living in British Columbia, thus far, Hadwin had had little luck in golf’s biggest events. He’s been on and off the PGA Tour since 2011, but has only one win, the 2017 Valspar Championship. His previous record in majors is dismal: only one top-25 finish in 19 starts, (a T-24 at the 2018 Masters). And in six tries he’s never finished higher than T-39 in the U.S. Open. So how is he here? Answer: the Country Club is tough; shotmakers tend to win here.
“From a U.S. Open setup standpoint, I think this is probably one of the most if not the most favorable setup that I have seen for my game. You look at the top two on the leaderboard at Winged Foot a couple of years ago, and it was Bryson and Matthew, and they kind of overpowered the golf course, which I can’t do,” Hadwin admitted after his round on Saturday. “I think this layout allows me to maybe play certain angles. As firm as the fairways have gotten, I can sort of run it up. I’m certainly not going to keep up with the guys, but I’m not so far back now that I have 5-irons and 4-irons. I’m still getting 8- and 7-iron in, which allows me to compete.”
It’ll take more than “compete” to hoist the U.S. Open Championship Trophy and claim the gold Jack Nicklaus medal. It’ll take patience, grit, stamina, and clutch brilliance, something few besides Hadwin have shown thus far, especially Saturday. Yesterday at Brookline was so mercurial that eight players had at least a share of the lead at some point. Three of them didn’t even finish among the top 10, including two-time major champion Collin Morikawa. The overnight co-leader.
Will it take Harry Potter magic? It should. There’s a mystique to the Country Club, an aura that all great Golden Age classics have: an ability to conjure up drama and incomparable romance. Do plodders sometimes win the U.S. Open? Yes, but the Country Club is so relentless, so demanding, so unforgiving that maybe one can parry and move, survive and advance for a while. But in the clutch is where U.S. Opens are won. Hadwin’s shown he can last until crunch time, but now it’s time to convert. Put up your wand, and prepare to duel.