‘It sucks, right?’ Chesson Hadley explains his late collapse at Congaree
The quickest and easiest way to describe Chesson Hadley’s performance Sunday at the Palmetto Championship would be with a cliche: it was an absolute rollercoaster.
Hadley’s day began with him finishing his third round — due to some Saturday storms — by making just a single par on the 18th hole early Sunday morning. Finally, the third round was complete, and he’d hold a dominant, 4-shot lead through 54 holes.
After waiting a few hours for the final tee time Sunday afternoon, Hadley proceeded to bogey two of the first three holes, including the par-5 2nd, which played as the easiest hole all week long. In a span of 45 minutes, his 4-shot lead was completely erased. Back to square one.
But Hadley didn’t completely explode in the way some 54-hole leaders do. He battled back with a birdie on 4, playing the next 12 holes in one under, once again earning himself a 2-shot lead at Congaree. It was a new course as far as PGA Tour events go, and it took some getting used to for everyone in the field. Through 69 holes in the event, the best player all week was atop the leaderboard, all alone. As tends to happen at the elite level, 72 holes just seems to be two or three too many.
Hadley drove it into a bunker on 16, made a mess around the green on 17 and hit an approach on 18 that he later would call “inexcusable.” He’d walk off each of those finishing three holes with 5-5-5 on his scorecard. It was three straight bogeys to finish with a final-round 75, crowning 22-year-old Garrick Higgo in the process.
It was ugly, and it seemed to happen in slow-motion. If anything, it was reminiscent of Lexi Thompson’s finish at the U.S. Women’s Open last week in San Francisco. There was no blow-up hole. No shot that ended in a hazard. Just one cut after another until 72 holes were complete and it was one shot shy of a playoff. And Hadley himself was pretty upfront about it afterward.
“It sucks, right?” he said to reporters. “I can only imagine what it looked like on TV because it looked freakin’ awful from my view. I mean, I could barely keep it on the planet.”
The truth hurts there. Hadley hit just four of 18 greens Sunday, losing more than four strokes to the field with his approach game alone. He led the field in putting all week long, and took only 26 putts to get around Congaree Sunday afternoon, but when he needed to grind one out for a late par, they never dropped.
Was it nerves that affected him down the stretch? Did he — dare we say it — choke away his chances for a second career Tour victory? He was basically ready to call it that himself, but keen about his word choice.
“I hate the word choked,” Hadley said. “That’s not the right word because that’s a very negative word, but I didn’t handle it the way I needed to handle it. So we’ll go get them next time.”