Hoch doesn't see it that way.
'It's been my worst year ever,' Hoch said after his tie for 70th in the 72-man field at the American Express Championship. 'Other people can maybe do what I've done, but I can't stand it. I expect too much of myself.'
Hoch has been a model of consistency throughout his 24-year career on the PGA Tour. He finished in the top 40 on the money list 20 times, and the only time he was outside the top 100 was the year he had shoulder surgery and missed most of the season.
This year, he has been hampered by an injury to his left hand, and went four months without making a cut.
His only good weeks were the Match Play Championship, where he ran into Tiger Woods in the quarterfinals (Woods was 7 under through 13 holes), and the Ford Championship.
His hand started hurting on the range at Doral, and Hoch nearly withdrew until a few minutes before his tee time. He wound up beating Jim Furyk in a playoff.
'I should be smart enough to know when I shouldn't be playing, but I continued to play and it put me in bad habits,' Hoch said. 'You think it's getting better because it's not getting any worse. The times it was hurting me enough to stop, I did.'
A review of Hoch's statistics confirm the worst.
He is last among 197 players in the all-around ranking (a combination of all major statistical categories), and he isn't in the top 100 in any category except the obscure 'three-putt avoidance.' He's tied for 62nd.
'Go look at my stats. You cannot believe how bad they are,' Hoch said. 'I'm not in the top 100 in any category except the world ranking and the money list.'
He is 50th in the world ranking, 52nd on the money list.
Hoch is playing in Las Vegas this week but might not play again the rest of the year except for Disney -- and only because he lives in Orlando.
MICKELSON SERIOUS DOWN THE STRETCH
Phil Mickelson never missed the Tour Championship while playing a full schedule, and he's not about to let that streak end without a fight.
Mickelson is playing the Las Vegas Invitational this week, and he has told organizers he plans to play at the Funai Classic at Disney and the Chrysler Championship in Tampa.
Mickelson is 35th on the money list.
'I'd like to make it,' Lefty said last week at Capital City Club.
As for the two Florida tournaments, Mickelson said he is planning to play them, but it's 'day to day.'
PRESSURE ON CLARKE
Ernie Els was one putt away from being a lock to win his first Order of Merit on the European Tour.
Els closed with a 67 at the American Express Championship and tied for 12th, which nearly gave him an insurmountable lead over Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland.
If Ignacio Garrido had missed a 5-foot par putt on the final hole, Els would have risen to the 11th spot and made just enough money to clinch the title. Now, Clarke must win the Madrid Open and the season-ending Volvo Masters to beat Els by about $425.
Els is done playing in Europe for the year.
'It's probably the fullest season I've played in Europe,' Els said. 'I said from the get-go, it's not one of the goals I've chosen in my career, but if it comes around, it will be great.'
Still, it would be a meaningful feat.
Fellow South African Retief Goosen won the Order of Merit the last two years. And Els has spent 10 years devoting time to both tours, more than any other current player. He says next year, he will focus more on the PGA Tour.
'I paid my dues,' Els said.
Duval trades the clubs for a rod
David Duval might be in a bad slump on the golf course, but that isn't the case when he puts a rod and reel in his hand.
While fishing last month in British Columbia, Duval landed a king salmon that measured nearly 50 inches and weighed between 45 and 48 pounds.
'I'm not sure if it was a record,' Duval said Monday. 'But it had to be close.'
Refreshed by a seven-week break, Duval returns to the PGA Tour this week at the Las Vegas Invitational.
Tiger Woods wears some shade of red in the final round. Masters champion Mike Weir dresses in black from top to bottom.
It started with the Bob Hope Classic, where Weir won by two. He wore a white shirt when he won at Riviera, then went back to black at the Masters and has stuck with it ever since in the final rounds.
Will he wear it the rest of his career?
'I might if it keeps working,' Weir said. 'With the exception of the PGA, where I had a bad fourth round, I've played most of my best golf on Sunday this year. I'm really not a superstitious guy, but that's one thing I'm a little bit sticky about right now.'
DIVOTS:If this week is any indication, qualifying for the Tour Championship could be tight. Rocco Mediate is in 30th place by $54 over Robert Allenby. ... Ryder Cup captain Hal Sutton has decided to play in the UBS Cup on Sea Island in November. ... Juli Inkster slightly injured her right shoulder while moving out of her northern California house for renovations, causing her to miss the Safeway Classic in Portland. She returned last week and tied for 14th at the Longs Drugs Challenge. 'I don't think my body is used to manual labor,' she said. ... The TPC of Scottsdale, home of the Phoenix Open, is the latest golf course to increase its yardage. The 7,070-yard track will be more than 7,200 yards. Among the changes is a new tee on the par-5 15th that will leave a second shot from about 235 yards to the island green.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Going into last week, Tiger Woods had made only four putts longer than 25 feet, last on the PGA Tour. He made three of them at the American Express Championship.
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