July 12, 2014
By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word
– With his wife away shopping the other day, Chesson Hadley drew kid duty as his eight-month-old son played out a version of his father’s life as a PGA rookie.
Hughes Hadley is becoming mobile; he’s wobbling, but getting around well enough that it’s a good idea to keep an eye on him.
You could say the same about Dad.
Chesson will be of six former Georgia Tech golfers in this week’s British Open as he and former teammates Roberto Castro and Cameron Tringale will make their Open debuts. They’ll join former Yellow Jackets Stewart Cink, David Duval and Matt Kuchar at Royal Liverpool.
The elder Hadley has done some wobbling on the big tour, yet he’s also pulled himself up cleanly on several occasions.
Chesson has missed seven of his past eight cuts, but he has three top-10 finishes and six top-25s in 23 overall PGA starts.
More importantly, he won the Puerto Rico Open, has earned $1.34 million this season, and stands 56th in the FedEx Cup rankings with a world ranking of 84th.
Overall, not bad — especially for a rookie.
Recently, however, he’s scuffled and gone ker-plop a few times – like Hughes.
“My son has learned how to stand up, or pull himself up; I have to watch him,” Hadley said. “He is so much fun for sure. I love this.”
Presently, Dad doesn’t care much for golf.
If it weren’t the prestigious British Open that Hadley, Amanda and Hughes flew to England on Friday for, Chesson would be at home right now ignoring the game that has driven him a bit nuts recently.
He’s played a lot, perhaps too much.
Yet Hadley has played well enough over his ultra-busy schedule to rank high enough to earn a spot in the most prestigious of tournaments.
So, he’s hopeful of finding a cure on the other side of the pond.
“It’s been frustrating especially with how consistent I was last year,” Hadley said. “I have not been hitting it well at all, and I don’t think I’ve been putting it very well. I honestly can’t tell you [what’s wrong]. It hasn’t been one thing.
“I think I just need time off, a lot of time off, to just get fired up again about the game. You can be both [tired of the game yet excited about playing in the Open]. I’m going to take two weeks off [after the Open], and it will be a perfect time.”
The truth is, Hadley – like all pro golfers – has been through this before, and at multiple levels.
He slumped over the summer between his first and second years at Tech (2006-`10), took a chunk of time off, and went out and striped them in his second season on the Flats to earn All-America honors.
He needs time away from the game. But he wouldn’t dare miss the Open, which he learned just about 10 days ago that he qualified to play in for the first time.
“I remember something like this happened my sophomore year. I was so sick and tired of playing golf, and I took three weeks off, and skipped the U.S. Amateur, came back and I had best year of my college career,” Hadley said.
“I just remember having this peace and confidence that it was going to come. Whenever you don’t do your livelihood well, it’s very frustrating, and especially out here you can get down on yourself pretty quickly. I’m a little tired . . . I know it’s going to come.”
To be more specific, Hadley would be referring to his game coming back.He’s not searching to find it for the first time.
He made his first two cuts on the PGA Tour last fall, and in fact tied three others – including former Jacket Troy Matteson — for fifth in his second outing to earn $210,750 in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
Then, however, he missed five straight cuts before taking off on a relative tear.
Hadley made seven of his next eight cuts, tied for 10th in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and won the Puerto Rico Open March 9 to take a check for $630,000.
The win added two years to his PGA Tour card.
“It’s been frustrating especially with how consistent I was last year,” said Hadley, who finished third on the Web.com money list last season while earning his PGA Tour card. “Everything just kind of lined up in Puerto Rico.
“It was unbelievable how well I was hitting it that week. It was just one of those weeks where I was on fire. You just ride the confidence.”
In many ways, the PGA Tour has been what Hadley expected. It’s tough in every way from the travel, to the courses, to the level of competition.
“It’s pretty much exactly what I thought. The courses are harder, which is the biggest difference. The fairways are narrower, the rough is tougher, the greens are faster,” he said. “On the Web.com, you try to make as many birdies as you can. The PGA is about making as many pars as you can.
“It’s very different trying to do that when you’ve been taught your whole life to go make birdies. You shoot one-under per round on the PGA Tour, and you’re going to make so much money it’s scary … probably make every cut. It’s hard to get as excited about pars as about birdies, but that’s what you have to do.”
If you don’t know much about Hadley, he might read as outright depressed.
He’s not. He simply knows himself well enough to know it’s time for a break.
First, he’s looking so very forward to playing in the Open, with his wife and son along for the ride. Amanda has missed just a couple of his pro tournaments.
The fact that a couple of his former college teammates are at Royal Liverpool is a deluxe bonus. Castro was a senior at Tech when Hadley was a freshman, and Tringale was a teammate on The Flats for three seasons.
“It’s my first major; I was pretty excited [to learn that he qualified],” he said. “Cameron is my best buddy. I talk to coach [Bruce Heppler] about once a month. I see Kuch all the time. Roberto … we play practice rounds some times.
“What’s super great is I have two more years on PGA tour after this year finishes up, and that’s huge. Again, I know it’s going to come.”
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