Coming into the Desert Classic, Adam Long had played in just five US PGA Tour events, making only one cut: at the season-opening Safeway Open in October. There was no reason to believe that the 31-year-old would be a factor this week in Palm Springs, even after he went 63-71-63 to grab a spot in the final group with Phil Mickelson and Adam Hadwin. Surely, Long would just be along for the ride on Sunday, gaining valuable experience he’d lean on the next time he found himself in this position.
But on the 72nd tee Long found himself in a three-way tie with Hadwin and Mickelson, in need of an accurate tee shot. He missed the fairway, and caught a bad break as his ball was well below his feet on his approach shot. Long proceeded to hit the shot of his life to 13 feet, then drained the right-to-left birdie putt to claim his first PGA Tour event in his sixth career start. Suffice to say, he was in shock.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 21, 2019
“I’m in disbelief right now,” said Long after signing for a final-round seven-under 65. “I don’t really know what just happened, but I’m thrilled.”
Long proved he was up the challenge right from the start, making back-to-back birdies to begin his round and turning in three-under 33. On the back nine he chipped in for birdie twice, once at the par-4 12th on PGA West’s Stadium Course and again at the par-4 15th. He made four birdies on the back nine in total, including the winning birdie at the 18th, which he had a good feeling about after getting a read off Mickelson’s birdie effort.
“I got a pretty good read off Phil’s putt,” said Long. “It was one of those putts that you stand over and you just know you’re going to make. You can’t control that, but when you have that feeling, it’s a good one.”
Long, who had missed four consecutive cuts, is the third first-time tour winner of the 2018-’19 season. The victory is his first professional victory on any tour, and it earns him a spot in this year’s Masters. Perhaps most importantly, he’ll take home $US1,062,000, nearly doubling his career earnings as a professional in one week.
Despite some poor putting, Mickelson battled to the end, making consecutive birdies at 15 and 16 to tie for the lead. But the issues with the flat stick proved to be too much to overcome.
“Terrible putting day, one of the worst I can recall in a while,” said Mickelson, who fired a three-under 69 with 33 putts. “It felt awful with the putter. I hit a lot of good shots today though, but I just couldn’t get the ball to go in the hole.”
As for Hadwin, it’s another unfortunate near-miss at the Desert Classic, where he’s now finished T-3 or better three consecutive times.
Talor Gooch, who failed to register a top-10 last year in his rookie season, carded an eight-under 64 to finish along in fourth.