By Chris Langrill
Special to the Idaho Statesman
At the end of the day, Chesson Hadley had a smile on his face.
But it took awhile for that smile to come to fruition.
Hadley began the fourth round of the Boise Open five strokes off the lead, but the Raleigh, N.C., golfer birdied three of the final four holes to rally down the stretch and win the golf tournament Sunday at Hillcrest Country Club.
“It’s stressful,” said Hadley, who finished at 16-under after shooting a final-round 65 on Sunday. “Your heart is beating out of your chest, you’re trying to breathe, you’re trying to get it under control.”
To make matters worse for Hadley, he had to wait for four groups to finish their rounds before he knew he had nailed down the win and the $180,000 check that came with the victory. It was Hadley’s fourth victory on the Web.com Tour.
“I kind of came out of nowhere,” Hadley said. “There were a lot of guys that I had to beat, to leapfrog and get into first place.”
Jonathan Randolph, playing in the final pairing, stood on the 17th tee knowing he needed to make up two shots to force a playoff. He finished par-birdie, and Hadley finally allowed himself to soak in the win.
“You know the … chance that you’re going to win is 90 percent, 95 percent but you cannot think that way,” Hadley said. “If I were to go into a playoff, Randolph or whoever it would be, would have such an advantage over me, because there could be a letdown, and he would be ecstatic.”
But the playoff didn’t come to fruition, and Hadley is heading back to the PGA Tour next season. He leads the Web.com Tour Finals money list with $207,000 after two of the four events in the Finals. The lanky Georgia Tech graduate lost his PGA Tour card in 2016, and has now played his way back on to golf’s biggest stage.
“Next year’s about taking the next step,” Hadley said. “I think next year will be a big year for me.”
It will also be a big year for Tyler Duncan. The 28-year-old Purdue graduate led after the second and third rounds, but he was one of the players Hadley passed on his way to victory.
But Duncan, like Hadley, was smiling at the end of the day. That’s because he had bumped up his earnings in the Finals to $43,157, more than enough to ensure a PGA Tour card of his own next season. It will be a whole new world for Duncan, who finished in a tie for fifth at 12-under.
“It’s pretty unbelievable,” Duncan said. “It’s just something I haven’t felt before. It’s difficult, because the way that I finished is a little disappointing, but this is a great feeling.”
And he’s going to be experiencing another great feeling in the near future: He’s getting married soon.
“I’m just looking forward to the wedding (on Oct. 21) and the PGA Tour,” Duncan said.
As for Randolph, all he could do at the end of the day was tip his hat to Hadley.
“I did everything I could do, and kudos to him,” said Randolph, who has played 52 PGA Tour events and earned his way back on the Tour as he finished one stroke behind Hadley (and netted an $88,000 check).
Meridian resident and former Boise State golfer Troy Merritt shot a final-round 68 to finish in a tie for ninth at 11-under. Merritt has earned $22,375 in the first two events of the Web.com Tour Finals.
“It takes $32,000 to $35,000 to get your golf card back in these four events,” Merritt said. “So, a couple more solid weeks and we’ll be back on the PGA Tour.”