Tour Rookie Adam Long Upsets Mickelson to Secure Life Changing Victory
WITH all eyes on Phil Mickelson and Adam Hadwin, a 31-year-old rookie called Andrew Long stole in while nobody was looking, holed a 15-foot birdie putt on the 72nd green and walked away with his first PGA Tour title at the Desert Classic. It wasn’t in the script, but you can be certain Long wasn’t bothered in the slightest about that.
Mickelson had led from day one after opening the tournament with a round of 60, and most onlookers expected him to go on and close the deal. Long admitted that when he teed off in the final group his target was a top-10 finish, which would ensure him a place in the field for the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. He did rather better than that and can now draw up more ambitious plans for the rest of the year.
Long, aged 31 and making just his sixth PGA Tour start, arrived at the final hole tied with Hadwin and Mickelson. After hitting his drive into the right rough, Long hit his 175-yard onto the green. That’s when he asked his caddie to confirm that he shared the lead. “I wasn’t 100% sure. I didn’t care. I had nothing to lose,” Long said.
The stage was set for him after Hadwin’s bunker shot stopped inches from the hole and Mickelson missed his own long birdie effort. He then drained his putt to close with a round of 65 for a 26-under-par winning total of 262. What made this all the more remarkable was that in his previous five starts he was 20 over par.
He shot 63 in the first and third rounds, then fired a 65 that was Sunday’s second-lowest score on PGA West’s tricky Stadium Course. Long, who started the final round three shots behind Mickelson, chipped in twice on the back nine. He didn’t make a bogey.
“I just kept plugging away and it was very much the Phil and Adam Hadwin show for most of the way,” Long said. “Everyone was chanting Phil’s name most of the way and there are a lot of Canadians down here. I was just in the background.”
Before the win, he was an alternate for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open. Now the Players Championship, Sentry Tournament of Champions, Masters and PGA Championship are among the events he can add to his schedule.
Long leapt to 12th in the FedExCup standings. He started the week ranked 205th, ahead of just 13 players. The win was worth 500 points. He began this week with just four FedExCup points after missing the cut in four of five starts this season. His best finish was T63 at the Safeway Open.
“He hit shot after shot and putted great, had a couple chip-ins and did what you had to do to win,” said Mickelson.
Hadwin was still three shots ahead after Long’s chip-in on the 12th hole. Hadwin played the final six holes in one over, though, while Long found three birdies. He holed a five-footer for a birdie on the 14th before holing another chip on the next hole. Then he birdied the last hole.
Long may have been nervous, but he didn’t show it, with birdies at the first and second helping to settle him down. “Birdieing those first two really calmed me a bit, like, ‘All right, I got this, I can compete, I can play, I belong,” Long said.
Long's only tour start before this season came at the 2011 U.S. Open. That was the same year that he won his only previous professional title, the Woodcreek Classic on the now-defunct Hooters Tour. He estimates that the winner’s check was $25,000. He played his first Web.com Tour season the following year but finished 127th on the money list. He didn’t get back on that tour until 2015 but never doubted that he could make it at this level.
“I wasn’t doing great, but I never really doubted it,” he said. ”I still wanted to play and I still loved it and I still wanted to see how good I could get.”
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