LA QUINTA, Calif. – You can not blame the Sunday Desert Classic gallery presented by Workday for thinking of Adam Long as nothing more than the other guy from the last couple with Phil Mickelson and Adam Hadwin.
Mickelson, a Hall of Famer and hugely popular desert player, and Hadwin, a Canadian who is very supportive of the valley's snowbirds, received huge applause throughout the day.
But in the end, it was Long, playing only his sixth PGA Tour event, which beat the two favorites of the public to win his first PGA Tour title.
Long, a 31-year-old rookie, made a 13-foot birdie on the last hole to win a brilliant under-65 game at the PGA West Stadium. That put him at 26-under 262 for the tournament, a shot ahead of Mickelson and Hadwin. Mickelson burned the bottom edge of the cup on the 18th with a bird attempt at 39 feet, while Hadwin could only climb up and down a bunker behind the green to get himself out.
"I mean, I had nothing to lose, I was there amusing myself trying to sneak into the fairways and the greens, to give me the paces of the sea." Bird and watch them, "says Long. "It's fun to watch Phil play, I've never seen him up close, and it's a different game from mine, by far, but I just tried to focus on what I had to do and I I was lucky to be able to do this putt there at the end. "
Long's victory was amazing not only because it was his sixth start on the PGA Tour and his fifth start in 2018-19, but also because he had missed the cup in his previous three editions of the season and tied for 63rd at the Safeway Open in his only other start this year.
Mickelson, twice winner in the desert, stumbled on a 69 final, but surprised Hadwin and Long with a birdie at the 16th hole. Hadwin finished with a 67 but played the last seven holes in six par and a bogey. It was Hadwin's fourth consecutive year in the top six of the tournament and the second time as a finalist.
Long, who played two 63-game heats during the week at La Quinta Country Club and the Nicklaus tournament course, made an early birding statement on the first two holes. He added a birdie to the ninth hole, but he was only 22, behind Hadwin at 25 and Mickelson at 23.
Mickelson started his day with a three-shot bogey on the first hole and he never improved much on the greens.
"I had a terrible day putting, one of the worst I can remember at all times," said Mickelson. "Started on the first hole with a small 4-foot uphill and 3 mets from the green there.
"And I missed a few short ones on the front and a few birdie chances, but the putter did me a lot of pain," said Mickelson. "However, I did a lot of good things today, but I was not able to get the ball into the hole."
Hadwin, looking for the decisive victory in the wilderness, was perfect for 11 holes, with six birdies to take a three-shot lead over Mickelson to 26 under par. But Hadwin's match started to crumble a bit, the Canadian star having missed a birdie on the 12th, lost the green on the way to a boguey on the 13th and missed another chance on the 15th. That's another loss heartbreaking for Hadwin and the large Canadian population in the desert who promises him his loyalty from the first tee shot.
"To be honest with you, it's like playing in Canada." The Canadian Open is still under additional pressure, "said Hadwin. "You want to win in front of them, it would have been a special moment if I could have succeeded but there is still next year, I suppose."
Long-range birdies on 12, 14 and 15 to match Hadwin at 25 under. But Hadwin and Long both missed the mark on the normal-5 16th, perhaps the only time of the week that Long felt like playing in his sixth PGA Tour tournament. Hadwin and Long made pars while Mickelson missed a 15 foot eagle putt that would have given him the advantage.
When the trio raked the 18th hole, he created the drama of the last hole. Long missed the fairway but recovered with a strong approach. Mickelson hit the fairway in impossible position, his iron near the pin at the bottom of the green. Hadwin bounced across the green and into the bunker.
When Long's putt went into the hole, the gallery's applause that was for Mickelson and Hadwin now belong to the graduate of Duke University.
"It's pretty exciting – I mean, I was, I was not even on the field next week in San Diego, I was a replacement," Long said. "So we're going to go one week at a time, but yes, it's exciting and I want to change my life, but that changes my career for sure."