ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - Until Adam Svensson sank a 6-foot eagle putt at the 15th hole of his second round, he appeared to be in danger of missing the cut at the 2022 RSM Classic. Winning his first PGA Tour tournament wasn't a thought in his mind.
"I was just trying to make the cut," he said. "I didn't want to go home when I knew I was playing this well."
So, Svensson first grinded out the cut, then vaulted into contention with a 62 on Saturday and fired a 6-under 64 at Sea Island Resort's Seaside Course on Sunday to win the RSM Classic by two strokes over Brian Harman, Callum Tarren and Sahith Theegala.
"I knew if I just kept doing what I'm doing I will work my way up, but to come out on top, it's unbelievable," Svensson said.
The 28-year-old Canadian's slow start at Sea Island's Plantation Course, a 1-over 73, was the highest opening-round score by a winner since Jon Rahm at the 2020 BMW Championship. It left him T-108 entering the second round and he was seven strokes back at the start of the weekend. The last player to be outside the top 100 through 18 holes and go on to win was Ian Poulter at the 2018 Cadence Bank Houston Open. It didn't hurt that Svensson played the last 52 holes bogey-free.
"It's been a dream of mine since I was 10 years old, 8 years old," Svensson said. "It's just incredible."
Svensson's ball striking has never been questioned, but ever since he began working with putting coach John Graham a year ago, he's made leaps and bounds on the greens. This week, he led the field in Strokes Gained: Putting.
"When you have confidence when you're putting, you feel like you can make everything and those two-, three-footers, you just bang them in," he said.
Svensson, bundled up in a winter hat and windbreaker on an unseasonably cold day in the Golden Isles, was on fire with his putter. He holed more than 150 feet of putts in the final round. After failing to make birdie at the easy par-5 15th hole and watching Harman and Theegala join the tie at the top with Tarren, Svensson canned an 18-foot uphill, left-to-right birdie at 16. He walked it in from more than 2 feet out and pumped his fist as he assumed sole possession of the lead.
One hole later, he stuck an 8-iron to 10 feet at the par 3 and pumped his fist again - this time with authority - as his ball circled the cup to give himself a two-stroke cushion.
"It looked like we'd have a four-way playoff and next thing you know it wasn't even close," the winning U.S. Presidents Cup Captain Davis Love III and RSM Classic host said.
Svensson, who closed with a 6-under 64 for a 72-hole total of 19-under 263, earned his PGA Tour card for the first time in 2019. He showed flashes of brilliance but lacked consistency. He concedes that he relied on talent alone and didn't work hard enough at his game. Too many weeks he'd finish a tournament, go to the bar and nurse a hangover for a day or two.
"If you're doing that," he said, "you're falling behind."
He spent a humbling season on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2020, but considers it a blessing.
"It changed my path," he said.
During that time he looked himself in the mirror - "probably after one of those hangovers," he said - and decided he had to make some changes if he wanted to reach his full potential. He committed to treating golf like a job and "made a choice to give it 100 percent." The changes included quitting drinking, or as he put it, "no more going out with the boys."
"It's turned my life around," he said.
Svensson turned his week around with a flurry of birdies on the weekend and earned his first trip to the Masters - or any major for that matter. One person who didn't doubt that Svensson had the ability to get to the winner's circle was his caddie A.J. Montecitos.
"I told him when I first got on his bag that we'd win in six weeks," Montecitos said. "I was wrong. It took him 10."
Story originally appeared on GolfWeek