Canadian Adam Hadwin (pictured by Getty Images) reeled off six consecutive birdies en route to a course-record 63 and the first-round lead at the Chiquita Classic, the second of four events of the Web.com Tour Finals series.
Hadwin’s scorecard was nearly perfect with nine birdies, no bogeys and very few close calls as he grabbed a two-shot advantage over Louisiana’s John Peterson.
Scott Pinckney, Derek Fathauer and Hudson Swafford are bundled together in third place after their respective 6-under 66s.
Nick Taylor, Tony Finau, Colt Knost, Jamie Lovemark, David Lingmerth, Kyle Reifers and Oscar Fraustro are tied for sixth place with 67s.
A 70-minute delay at mid-afternoon prevented the entire field from completing play, though none of the five who haven’t finished are threatening the leaders.
“I wouldn’t say it was a different golf course for me,” said the 26-year old Hadwin, who was among the early starters. “It’s a much different game Thursday morning than it is Sunday afternoon coming down the stretch. The hole definitely looks a lot smaller and the grip gets a lot tighter.”
Hadwin was loose and free Thursday, rolling in three birdie putts on the front nine before canning six in a row starting at No. 10. These weren’t tap-ins, they were all in the 10-16 foot range.
“My record was five before today. I think I’ve done it a couple of times playing for fun and stuff,” he said of the streak. “At no point during that stretch did it cross my mind. I was just disappointed I left the seventh birdie putt short on 16 to keep it going. Par seems disappointing after six in a row.”
Hadwin missed a 35-footer for birdie and ended the streak and then did a nice job of getting up-and-down for par on the final two holes to maintain sole possession of the lead.
Regardless of what happens the next three days Hadwin will be playing a completely relaxed game. The former University of Louisville star has already punched his ticket to join the PGA TOUR for the 2014-15 season by finishing No. 4 on the Web.com Tour’s regular season money list.
“I’m going to the TOUR next year and I’ve got no pressure on me,” he said. “I’m just playing for seeding. I’m going to go out there, stay aggressive, stick to my game plan and whatever happens, happens.”
Hadwin’s closest challenger is Peterson, who claimed the top spot in last year’s Finals series with four top-5 finishes. Peterson had to settle for a T3 at this event in 2013 after missing out on a playoff by a single shot.
Peterson’s first full season on the PGA TOUR was a disappointing effort that left him scrambling for answers. He made only seven cuts in 25 starts, he didn’t finish better than T19 in any week and he wound up No. 179 on the FedExCup points list, which landed him in the Finals and scrambling to regain his TOUR card.
“I think I changed clubs almost weekly this year,” he said of his confusing year. “It was bad. I switched up caddies, instructors, clubs – everything. It got out of hand. I got caught up in trying to hit fades and play like this guy or swing like that guy. I just got lost of what made me me.”
Peterson rediscovered things two weeks ago when he retooled his entire golf bag – all 14 clubs.
“I switched back to everything that I had last year. They weren’t necessarily the exact clubs but they were still the same,” he said. “It’s amazing how the look of something when you’re looking down on it can change your outlook.”
Peterson challenged for the win at last week’s Hotel Fitness Championship but finished T11 after a final-round 74 and is in position again to make some noise in the greater Charlotte area.
“I knew I could play with this (equipment),” he said. “I knew I had to get back to something I was comfortable with.”
The Finals events bring together the top-75 money winners from the Web.com Tour’s regular season and PGA TOUR players ranked No. 126-200 on the FedExCup points list. At the conclusion of the Tour Championship in two weeks, a total of 50 cards will be handed out for the PGA TOUR’s wraparound season, which begins in October
FIRST ROUND NOTES:
* Thursday weather: Mostly cloudy all day. Play suspended from 2:40 – 3:50 p.m. due to threatening conditions in the area. Wind SW 6-12 mph. Daytime high of 88.
* A total of five players did not complete the first round due to the weather delay. Those players will resume play at 8:10 a.m. Friday.
* The second round will start as scheduled at 7:30 a.m.
* Cameron Percy withdrew prior to the start of the first round. There are no alternates for this event and he was not replaced in the field.
* Trevor Immelman (78) withdrew after completing his round.
* Tim Petrovic withdrew during the second round.
* Adam Hadwin is in his third full season on the Web.com Tour. He has made the cut in 13 of 18 starts this year and has six top-10 finishes – including a win at the Chile Classic, a T2 at the WinCo Foods Portland Open and a T3 at the El Bosque Mexico Championship.
* Hadwin was never out of the top-10 on the money list this year and finished the regular season No. 4 to earn a trip to the PGA TOUR for the upcoming 2014-15 season. Hadwin has made 8 cuts in 11 career starts on TOUR. He was T53 at the RBC Canadian Open this year, his only start of the season. His career best finishes to date are a T7 at the 2011 Frys.com Open and a T4 at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.
* This is only the second time in Hadwin’s career he has held/shared the lead after any single round. The only other time he has been atop the leaderboard came earlier this year when he held a one-stroke lead after 54 holes of the Chile Classic in Santiago. He went on to win that event for his first career title.
* Hadwin’s round of 63 matches his career-best on the Web.com Tour (66th career start). His shot 63 three times previously but all were on par-71 courses.
63 (9-under) R1 2014 Chiquita Classic
63 (8-under) R3 2014 WinCo Foods Portland Open
63 (8-under) R3 2012 Cox Classic
63 (8-under) R2 2012 Chitimacha Louisiana Open
* Hadwin hit 12 of 14 fairways, 15 of 18 greens in regulation and had 25 putts for his opening round.
* Hadwin played in the Finals last year but missed the cut in three of his four starts, including the Chiquita Classic (73-72-145).
* Hadwin’s string of six consecutive birdies (Nos. 10-15) matches the third-longest streak on Tour this year. Jon Curran had eight in a row at the Brasil Champions and tops the season-best list. Chris Baker/Chile Classic and Steve Wheatcroft/Albertsons Boise Open each had seven in a row.
* John Peterson had two eagles on par-5s today. Peterson rolled in a 15-foot putt at No. 18 (his 9th hole) and then a 3-foot putt at No. 2 (his 11th hole).
* Bud Cauley, winner of last week’s Hotel Fitness Championship, fired a 1-under 71 and is T45. Cauley hit only 6 of 14 fairways and 11 of 18 greens.
* As a rookie on the Web.com Tour in 2014, Scott Pinckney has made 14 cuts in 21 starts. He finished the Regular Season No. 37 on the money list. Last week at the Hotel Fitness Championship Pinckney finished T25 and is currently No. 25 on the Finals money list.
* Derek Fathauer is off to a good start with a 66 in the first round at River Run CC. Fathauer finished T9 at the first Finals event in Fort Wayne and looks to continue his rise up the priority rankings with a good week in Davidson.
* Hudson Swafford missed the cut at the Hotel Finess Championship last week after he followed up a 69 with a 77 in the second round. In 26 starts on TOUR this season Swafford made 11 cuts with his best finish coming at the Sony Open in Hawaii (T8).
* Nick Taylor’s third top-10 finish of the season at last week’s Hotel Fitness Championship (T9) places him 9th on the Web.com Tour Finals money list. Taylor finished his first season on Tour No. 69 on the Regular Season money list.
* Bogey-free rounds this week:
63 – Adam Hadwin
65 – John Peterson
69 – Henrik Norlander
* Scoring Averages for the week:
Front (36) Back (36) Total (72)
R1 35.337 36.086 71.419 (round still in progress)
* NEXT WEEK: The Web.com Tour moves to Columbus, Ohio for the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship at the Ohio State University Scarlet Course Sept. 8-14. Last year, Korea’s Seung-Yul Noh put on a dominating performance and distanced the field by five shots. Noh grabbed a two-shot lead after 36 holes and led by three after 54. His final-round 69 put him at 12-under par and well in front of runner-up Edward Loar, who carded a 65 in Sunday’s finale.