Hadwin Ready to Make Most of Finals Exception to Cap Exceptional Year
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

Adam Hadwin, the Great Canadian Hope...(the highest-ranked Canadian since Mike Weir can no longer break 80)

Adam Hadwin estimates he’s played roughly 80 holes in practice rounds since arriving in the desert last Wednesday, a week before the first of six grueling rounds at the final stage of Q-school, to fine tune his preparation for the test that — if he passes — leads to attaining his lifelong dream: a PGA Tour card.

Hadwin had the good fortune of bypassing second stage, as a result of his stellar play and the Tour granting him what was initially reported as a special exception, which subsequently triggered accusations of favoritism, including a tweet from 2011 Valero Texas Open champ Brendan Steele saying, “Interesting that the PGA tour changed the Q School exemption category for one player. I hope they are ready to deal with that in the future.”

Several days later a clarification was released, stating that Hadwin hadn’t actually been given a special exemption, rather a loophole had been discovered in the wording of the Q-school exemption policies, which was then amended.

In just five starts this year, the 24-year-old Canadian raked in $440,752. He placed 39th at the U.S. Open and notched top-ten finishes at the Canadian Open and the Open. He finished equivalent to 145th on the 2011 PGA Tour money list. The top 150 are granted direct entry to finals, but with the way the rules were written, the player had to be a member or special temporary member to receive the exemption. Special temporary membership is available to those who finish in the top 150 of the previous year’s money list, which Hadwin didn’t achieve because of the unusually large discrepancy in the amount between 2010 and 2011 (No. 150 in 2011 made roughly $150,000 less than in 2010).

As Hadwin was told by his agent, George Sourlis, who submitted a request to the Tour on behalf of his client for a special exemption to final stage, the Tour initially came back and said no. Then four days later, the Tour called back and said yes. However, officials claim they never had that first conversation with Sourlis.

“It happened to be a gray area that (the Tour) thought they had covered but didn’t, so the rule is going to be rewritten, and anybody in my situation will be in the final stage from now on,” said Hadwin, after wrapping up his last practice session at PGA West on Tuesday afternoon.

While the Tour’s handling of the situation sounds a little strange, it’s more curious why the rule was written the way it was in the first place (and a little unsettling — or perhaps reassuring — that apparently the Tour can’t grasp its own outdated, esoteric policies). What’s important is regardless of the exception or loophole, Hadwin’s play speaks for itself, making it clear he deserves and belongs at finals (and the PGA Tour). I mean, it’s not easy to make nearly $500,000 in only five opportunities (with only a few starts previous to this year).

“I guess I’m the rule maker,” Adam said, jokingly, in a phone conversation at the beginning of November. “If I’d been like Bud Cauley (who earned enough to finish in the top 125 on the money list, becoming the first player since Ryan Moore in 05 to bypass Q-school), the rule would’ve stayed the same instead of being fixed.”

Now that he’s at finals — his first trip — how does it feel?

“Like what I’ve seen you’ve written, it’s like a PGA Tour event really,” said Hadwin. “There’s a lot of guys here, a lot of guys I’ve played with and against over the course of this last year.  A lot of preparation for two courses.  It’s a little bit different when you have two courses (to play).  But it’s no different really than any other golf tournament…

“It’s been good because I got in Wednesday night and played Thursday and Friday, played 18 on each course. I got to see it in a way that’s been much more relaxed and just slowly built up.”

While most of the virgin final-stage players have been in denial about their emotions and thrown around phrases like “back-up plan” and “better off than I was last year,” Hadwin is admittedly nervous — but not in a bad way.

“This year with 173 guys here, if you don’t finish inside the top 100 you’re not going to play,” he said. “Yeah, you’ll have (conditional) Nationwide status but you’re not going to get into any events.”

John Maginnes’ column this week on Q-School and his experiences reminded me of the wise comment Jay Haas made about pressure when describing his son Bill’s playoff at the Tour Championship in September. He said “every player has a threshold of nerves, and once you have reached that threshold you can’t get any more nervous.” Then, you just have to learn how to deal with it, and those who have accepted and embraced it are more likely to succeed and control their emotions in stressful situations. Hadwin seems to fit that bill.

“It’s not any pressure right now, but I think if you kind of go down to the first tee and you don’t start off well, it all of a sudden might build up,” Adam said. “It just depends on whether or not you’ve been in a situation like that, whether you can handle it or not.”

So, can he?

“I mean, I played the Canadian Open this year in front of 35,000 people,” he said, matter-of-factly. “I tend to play better and rise to the occasion when I’ve had to. We’ll see.”