VANCOUVER - A new golf year that wasn’t scheduled to begin until late next month in South America will start early for Abbotsford’s Adam Hadwin, who on Monday went on a birdie binge that earned him a spot in this week’s PGA Tour stop at Torrey Pines near San Diego.
Hadwin fired an eight-under 64 that included 11 birdies in Monday’s qualifier for the $6.1-million Farmers’ Insurance Open and earned one of four spots into the event.
He’ll join a field that includes Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and defending champion Brandt Snedeker.
“It’s huge,” Hadwin said over the phone after his round. “I did the same thing last year and tried to Monday qualify for this event and I shot 78, so I am 14 shots ahead of last year already.
“With all the big names teeing it up this week it’s kind of just a nice little kick-start to my year. I wasn’t really expecting to start my season until I went down to Colombia. I went out there, played well and now I get a chance to tee it up with the PGA guys this week.”
Hadwin, who will begin his Web.com Tour season in Colombia, really didn’t have high expectations heading into Monday’s qualifier. He hasn’t played any competitive golf since narrowly missing his PGA Tour card at qualifying school in early December.
He recently returned from a week-long vacation in Mexico and spent some time in Abbotsford, where the recent weather wasn’t exactly ideal for practising.
“We were fortunate in that we had some nice days to hit some balls, but obviously not exactly the kind of preparation I would do before the week of the start of the Web.com Tour,” he said.
But after some work on the range on Saturday and a round Sunday at El Camino Country Club — the site of Monday’s qualifier — Hadwin felt like his game was coming around.
“Toward the end of my practice round I started to hit it a little better. I actually started hitting the centre of the fairway instead of the centre of the trees... I kind of went out today with a no-worries kind of attitude because I knew I hadn’t played much and really had no expectations. I kind of just went out and free-wheeled it and that is usually when you play your best golf.”
His 11 birdies were a personal best.
“I had 10 in a Future Links event when I was younger at Cordova Bay (in Victoria). But I’m pretty sure 11 is the most that I have ever done.”
His 64 was matched by American Mark Baker and topped a qualifying field that was loaded with past PGA Tour winners including Lee Janzen, Billy Mayfair, Chris Riley, Duffy Waldorf, Rich Beem and Rod Pampling.
“I made some good putts,” Hadwin said of Monday’s round, which also included a bogey and a double-bogey. “You don’t make 11 birdies without making a couple good ones. But I hit a lot of good iron shots. It was a little bit of everything. I didn’t hit it great off the tee, but I kept it in play. I birided all four par 5s and played the par 3s really well and almost had a hole--in-one today as well. Hit it to within about seven inches.”
Hadwin finished his round with five straight birdies to shoot 29 on his back nine.
This week’s tournament will be Hadwin’s eighth PGA Tour event as a pro. He has made the cut in six of seven previous PGA Tour events and recorded two top 10s. His best finish came in 2011 when he thrilled hometown fans and tied for fourth at the RBC Canadian Open at Shaughnessy Golf & Country Club.
Hadwin must now get familiar with Torrey Pines, which sits perched above the Pacific Ocean and consists of the North Course and the more difficult South Course, which played host to the 2008 U.S. Open.
“I have seen it and I have been there, but I have never played it,” Hadwin said of Torrey Pines. “I know it can be quite the challenge.”
A challenge that Hadwin said he’s more than prepared for. He’s heading to La Jolla oozing with confidence.
“I just came off 11 birdies and shooting 64, so obviously I am doing something right,” he said. “I just relish the opportunity I have had to compete against the best in the world and this is just another opportuniyt to do that this week. I get to go out there and prove myself again.”
CHIP SHOTS: Victoria’s Cory Renfrew narrowly missed qualifying after shooting a 67. . .Other Canadians in the field include Brad Fritsch, Graham DeLaet, David Hearn and Stephen Ames. . .Tiger Woods has won six times at Torrey Pines. Phil Mickelson has three wins there.
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