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Hadwin hoping to build on playoff finish

Adam Hadwin Adam Hadwin - The Canadian Press

It’s as close to a win as you can get and while Adam Hadwin would have preferred a victory at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, he’s taking the positive from his playoff loss.

Hadwin ended up with a tie for second along with Collin Morikawa after the two were defeated by Rickie Fowler in a one-hole playoff.

“I'm stoked,” said Hadwin moments after Fowler drained a 12-foot putt to win. “I'm through the roof right now. I mean, I got myself into a playoff and at the end of the day, that's what you want. You want a chance, you want a chance to win a golf tournament and I guess I kind of had a chance coming up 18, an outside chance.”

After equaling the course record at the Detroit Country Club on Saturday with a 63, Hadwin started the final day one back of Fowler’s lead. He kept his hot hand, going bogey-free with key birdies on the 15th and 17th holes that pushed his score to 24 under.

On the extra hole, Hadwin hit his approach on the par-4 18th pin high but it spun back to about 20 feet. His birdie putt glided just past the left edge of the hole.

“I hit two of the best golf shots I've hit all day in a playoff and really even that putt, it just didn't go in,” said Hadwin. “You know, I can take nothing but positives away from this week.”

Considering where Hadwin has come from in the last three years, that’s understandable. While Fowler has deservedly received a lot of attention for his comeback from a long journey through swing changes that didn’t work and then a reset at the hands of his on-again, off-again coach Butch Harmon.

Hadwin travelled much the same path. He embarked on a mission to improve his game with instructor Mark Blackburn but it took longer than expected. At times, he was close to being lost, admitting to second-guessing his decision and going through some dark days. He dropped to 160th in world ranking and to 120th on the FedEx Cup standings, requiring a late-season finishing kick to stay in the top 125 and retain his playing privileges.

But the return to form did come and Hadwin began showing signs of his old self with 2022 finishes such as top 10s at the Players and the U.S. Open, where he held the first-round lead.

The return to form isn’t solely built on his swing however. It’s also about his approach to the game and the his enjoyment of his work. It’s easy to get dragged into the morass of swing mechanics and arm positions and putting grips, but it is still a job, one that most of the players on the PGA Tour sometimes take far too seriously. It came eat them up and take command of their life.

“I think one of the hardest things in golf is to get out of your own way when things are going well,” Hadwin admitted. “I've been victim of that, I think. Not that I've been trying too hard, but just maybe putting a little bit too much pressure on each shot or the outcomes of each shot instead of kind of just playing golf and trying to have as much fun as I can out there.”

That was evident on Sunday during the heat of the final round. As he walked down the 15th fairway alongside his caddie, Joe Cruz, he threw out a question:

“Why don’t we don’t this more often,” he asked his bag-toter. “This is fun.”

The runner-up finish was the second time this year that Hadwin has earned a silver medal. He also came second at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans where he teamed with his longtime friend Nick Taylor.

Of course, Hadwin was there when Taylor won his playoff at the RBC Canadian Open, famously getting tackled by a security guard as he attempted to give his pal at champagne shower.

This week, he came close to his own playoff moment and while it didn’t work out, it has reminded him of what it’s like to be in the hunt.

“This was a really big week for me,” he admitted. “It’s been a while since I’ve been in contention and I was pleased at how relaxed I was.”

The plan is to remember that feeling and carry it forward. He heads to the John Deere this week where he’s hoping his good play will continue. There is also the outside chance that he may get a last-minute spot into the Open Championship, which fills its final spots based on the world ranking. Then there are the FedEx Cup playoffs, the conclusion to the PGA Tour’s season.

For now, this finish is reason enough to celebrate. It’s a massive step forward for Hadwin’s confidence and for his desire to go one step better than he did this week.