La Quinta, California
Winner: Adam Long
Adam Long, 31, a wandering golfer since his days at Duke University, almost had the distinction of witnessing Hall-of-Famer Phil Mickelson scoring his 43rd PGA Tour victory. Instead, Long had the distinction of sidetracking Mickelson and recording his own first professional win (apart from that one on the Hooters Tour).
This he did when Mickelson, in his first competition in three months, after opening with a 12-under 60, led for three rounds but faltered just enough in the last. Long pounced and took the win with a birdie on the last hole. “It can seem like it came out of nowhere,” Long said, “but my game’s been trending in the right direction for the last two years.” Long himself came out of nowhere. After graduating from Duke, he turned pro in 2010 and headed out to seek his fortune. “I’ve played in most tours around the world,” he said. These included the Web.com (now Korn Ferry) Tour, from which in 2018 he qualified for the PGA Tour. He made one cut in five starts, tying for 63rd. And then in the Desert Classic, he caught Mickelson and Canada’s Adam Hadwin and birdied the final hole to beat them by a shot.
“I didn’t expect to be sitting here,” Long told the media. “I just kept plugging away.“The three players were on different courses through the first three rounds. Mickelson’s opening 60 at La Quinta included an eagle-three on a five-foot putt at the sixth and a chip-in birdie at the 14th. Said Mickelson: “I didn’t feel sharp heading in, and the bad shots, I got away with.” Mickelson kept the lead with a 68 at the Nicklaus course and a 66 at the Stadium. Hadwin played La Quinta and the Nicklaus in 66-65. Long shot 71 on the Stadium
and 63 at La Quinta.
Going into the final round at the Stadium, the final threesome were Mickelson, at 22 under, Hadwin at 20 and Long at 19. “It was the Phil and Adam Hadwin show most of the way,” Long said. “I was just in the background, plugging away.” Hadwin spread out six birdies, then bogeyed No. 13 and shot 67 for a 25-under 263. “Didn’t quite have it like I did,” he said.
Mickelson three-putted for bogey at No. 1, notched three birdies, then bogeyed No. 9 out of the water. He birdied the 15th and 16th for a 69 and tied Hadwin at 263. Long was grinding away. With four one-putts and two chip-ins, he birdied Nos. 1, 2, 9, 12, 14 and 15, there to be tied at 25 under.
The tournament came down to the par-four 18th. Hadwin was bunkered and parred. Mickelson also parred, two-putting from 40 feet. Long fired his six-iron second to 14 feet and holed it for his fifth one-putt birdie, a 65, a 26-under 262 and his first tour win. “I was just trying to make a putt,” Long said. “But when that thing went in, I don’t know — I never felt like that in my life.”