Hadley's comeback story continues at THE PLAYERS
May 11, 2018
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
- Georgia Tech alum Chesson Hadley opened with rounds of 66-69 at the Stadium Course. (Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Fifty-three weeks ago, Amanda Hadley felt helpless as she watched her husband compete at the Wells Fargo Championship.
His slump had become so severe that he’d considered taking an indefinite leave from the game. Now Chesson Hadley was struggling to two scores in the mid-70s at Eagle Point Golf Club in Wilmington, North Carolina. He had no idea how to fix a game that was good enough to win on the PGA TOUR just three years earlier.
“It was the saddest for me watching him, that tournament. He just looked lost,” she said. “That’s heartbreaking to watch. I think that’s when he actually hit rock bottom.”
Now Chesson Hadley is near the top of THE PLAYERS Championship leaderboard. The first-round co-leader shot a 69 early Friday to finish 36 holes at 9 under par. Despite playing his final two holes in 3 over, he was a stroke behind co-leaders Charl Schwartzel and Patrick Cantlay after the morning wave was finished. Then Webb Simpson changed the complexion of the tournament with his course-record 63 in the afternoon. He holds a five-shot lead at 15 under par.
“I did a lot of great things, and I’m really not worried about the last two holes for a second,” Chesson Hadley said. He hit his tee shot into the water at No. 17 and failed to get up-and-down from right of the 18th green.
Chesson Hadley meets first timers at THE PLAYERS
Every player in the field will likely endure a similar stretch this week. Such is the nature of the penal Stadium Course. That’s why resiliency is a requirement for any PLAYERS champion. Chesson Hadley’s trials over the past year should come in handy as he chases the largest title of his career.
He was 588th in the Official World Golf Ranking a year ago and wasn’t at TPC Sawgrass for the first time in four years. He was back on the Web.com Tour and in a “dark spot, not only in golf but in life,” he said.
“He knew what was wrong, but he didn’t know how to fix it,” Amanda Hadley said.
Chesson Hadley started to see his game turn around after reuniting with longtime swing coach, Jeff Paton, last spring. He finished second at the Rex Hospital Open in his hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina, in June, then won the LECOM Health Challenge the following month. He sobbed into his baseball cap after his win was complete.
“You start to spiral, lose your confidence and get negative,” he said that day. “I’ve gone from the top to the bottom, and it doesn’t take long.”
Chesson Hadley interview after winning LECOM Health Challenge
Another win came in the Web.com Tour Finals, earning Chesson Hadley the Web.com Tour’s Player of the Year award. Then he began the PGA TOUR season with three consecutive top-four finishes.
He has risen more than 500 spots in the world ranking since and is now 19th in the FedExCup. His six top-10s this season are second-most on TOUR.
“It certainly is something to be proud of, to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and move forward when you’re kind of down, scraping the bottom of the barrel,” Chesson Hadley said. “You can only dwell on that for so long. You have to keep moving forward and getting better.”
The statistics say that iron play has been his biggest improvement. He is fourth on the PGA TOUR in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green (+0.97) after ranking 91st and 143rd in that statistic in his previous two PGA TOUR seasons. His confidence with those clubs has allowed him to play safely on the Stadium Course’s tee shots that make him uncomfortable. He has hit 20 of 28 greens this week and is second in the field in Strokes Gained: Putting, gaining nearly eight strokes on the greens through two rounds.
He made a 44-footer to birdie the fifth hole in the first round and a 24-footer for birdie on No. 15 on Friday. He had an 11-foot eagle putt at the next hole to reach 13 under, but missed that opportunity.
“Off the top of my head, I think it was the first time I saw him miss when he had a chance,” said playing partner Matthew Fitzpatrick. “He holed everything he looked at.”Chesson Hadley is greeted by his wife Amanda after winning the 2013 Web.com Tour Championship at TPC Sawgrass (Dye's Valley). (Michael Cohen/Getty Images)
Hadley has made all 30 putts from inside 10 feet this week, including all seven from 5 to 10 feet. He needed just 24 putts Thursday, during what he described as a “blackout” performance on the greens, and 27 on Friday.
He already has won once at TPC Sawgrass, at the 2013 Web.com Tour Championship. That tournament was played on the property’s other course, Dye’s Valley. Hadley won two Web.com Tour titles that year, then won the Puerto Rico Open and was named the PGA TOUR’s 2014 Rookie of the Year. He was flirting with the top 50 in the world ranking after his win in Puerto Rico.
He finished 49th in the FedExCup as a rookie but fell to 98th the following season. He missed 13 of 27 cuts in 2016 and finished 159th in the FedExCup to lose his card.
“It’s a testimony to his character to get as far down as he did and come back up,” Amanda Hadley said. “I would attribute that to his faith and to his work ethic. … I knew he was going to bounce back. It just depended on how long it was going to take.”
From considering quitting to contending at THE PLAYERS, Chesson Hadley has come a long way in a year.
Chesson Hadley’s monster birdie putt at THE PLAYERS