The cheerful Californian grabbed the spotlight at the Deutsche Bank Championship on a picture-perfect, late-summer day with some big rewards at stake. His victory Monday not only clinched one of the 70 spots in the BMW Championship starting Thursday, he moved up to No. 2 in the FedEx standings.
Hoffman also boosted his chance, nonexistent before the tournament, for a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team but had to wait a day to find out if Corey Pavin made him one of the four captain’s picks.
So where does his runaway, 5-stroke win after a final-round 62 rank in his career?
“It’s a no-brainer,” said the 33-year-old Hoffman, whose only other victory was in 2007. “Best ever.”
Maybe now when people see that long hair trailing from his cap they’ll recognize him for his skill rather than just his style.
“I guess golfers tend to sort of all look alike and I try to stand out a little bit for my sponsors and myself to sort of showcase my personality,” Hoffman said. “Good golf always makes you stand out a little bit better.”
He blasted in from a bunker. He holed birdie after birdie, 11 in all. He needed just 22 putts. And he left the rest of the field chasing a golfer whose playing partner sensed after three holes that it would be Hoffman’s day.
It wasn’t Phil Mickelson’s.
If he had finished fourth, Mickelson would have become No. 1 in the world for the first time in his career, knocking Tiger Woods from his usual perch. But Mickelson made triple bogey on the 10th hole and double bogey on the 17th. He came in 25th with a final-round 76.
“I shot 1-under on the front (nine) and was going to try to make a move on the back, but it wouldn’t have mattered,” Mickelson said. “Charley played some great golf.”
Woods was pretty good and stayed at No. 1 for the 274th straight week.
He finished tied for 11th with a final-round 69, giving him three rounds in the 60s for the first time in a tournament this year. He was expected to be one of Pavin’s picks for the Ryder Cup, scheduled to be announced Tuesday.
“I figured something out today” about his putting, Woods said. “Once I got my speed dialed in, I was hitting it, and I think I one-putted the last seven holes, which is a good thing.”
Hoffman putted like a man hurrying to lift the winner’s trophy and finished at 22-under 262, matching the tournament record set by Vijay Singh in 2008.
Starting the final round four strokes behind Jason Day, Hoffman had five birdies and two bogeys on the front nine. Then he really started rolling with six birdies and three pars on the back. The crowd cheered when he walked up the 18th fairway. It roared when he sank a 19-inch birdie putt to wrap up a spectacular final round.
“To tell you the truth, I didn’t have any clue how many birdies I made,” Hoffman said. “I was just trying to keep making birdies. I knew Jason was playing all right.”
Day shot a 71 and finished tied for second with Geoff Ogilvy (66) and Luke Donald (69). Ogilvy played with Hoffman and had an outstanding day, but by the 15th hole he knew he’d never overtake a player who missed the cut in his first 15 tournaments as a pro on the Nationwide Tour in 2000.
“I had the best seat in the house to watch that,” Ogilvy said. “He hit great shots all day. He putted really well, and as soon as he got himself in trouble he’d go and hole a bunker shot or something like that. So it was a pretty class act and he never looked like doing anything but winning after about three holes.”
Hoffman began the tournament 59th in the FedEx standings. His primary goal was to stay in the top 70. Now he’s No. 2. After the third playoff tournament outside of Chicago this week, the field will be reduced to 30 for the tour championship in Atlanta two weeks later with a $10 million bonus on the line.
He also gained entry into all four major tournaments after not getting into any this year. That includes his first Masters at Augusta National.
Hoffman started his climb early with four straight birdies to catch up to Day. On the 11th hole, he thought he was in trouble with a 4-iron shot that appeared to be headed for a bunker short of the green. But it cleared that, went through rough and ended up 3 feet from the hole. Then on the 13th, his shot from the bunker found the cup for a birdie.
It was a curious development for a player who attributed an injured wrist to working on his bunker game too much in the offseason.
“That’s a little ironic,” he said. “My stats for last year were borderline horrendous.”
If several golfers had better numbers on Monday, they might be heading to the next tournament. Instead, Steve Marino shot a 76, and John Rollins had a 79 to fall out of the top 70. Kris Blanks finished with a 70 and appeared to narrowly make the field in Chicago until Charlie Wi birdied the last hole, knocking him to the 71st spot.
Scott Verplank, who withdrew Saturday because of a wrist injury, is No. 70 and planned a cortisone shot Monday night in hopes of playing.
Hoffman is playing very well, having finished in the Top 10 in four of his last six tournaments to markedly improve his FedEx position.
“If I missed the cut last week, who knows if I’m even” playing the Deutsche Bank, he said. “Played decent last week and just got it going this week.”