Pilot Hoffmann soars to first-round lead

By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2015, 10:17 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Morgan Hoffmann nearly dunked his final approach shot Thursday en route to a 6-under 66 that gave him a one-shot lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.


Hoffmann is the most interesting 20-something you probably know nothing about.

For starters, his maternal grandmother, Dorothy Lionetti, died in her sleep Wednesday night in Fort Lauderdale. She was 97.

Hoffmann, 25, learned of her passing only a few hours before his first-round tee time. He described himself as “kind of in a weird state right now.” He received a group text from his family that his grandparents were now playing golf in heaven. That made him smile.

He remembered Lionetti as “really positive,” and an unbelievable cook. She always made homemade pasta.

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Perhaps it’s that home cooking that has rubbed off on him, because for the past month Hoffmann has brought his own meals to the course. And we’re not talking PB&Js. During the opening round here he chowed on bison steak, broccoli and sweet potatoes. His caddie hauls around the meals in a Tupperware container and cooler. No utensils and plates, either.

“Barehanded it,” he said proudly.

On the road, he books only extended-stay hotels with a kitchen. He’s trying to pack on about 15 pounds of muscle, to get up to his fighting weight of 185. His plan was derailed when he got food poisoning in Hawaii and lost 10 pounds. The culprit was late-night pizza, not his own work.

How Hoffmann even arrived here at Bay Hill and at other tournament sites is another interesting story – he flies there himself.

When Hoffmann met Arnold Palmer at the 2009 Palmer Cup at Cherry Hills, they talked for an hour about flying. Hoffmann took ground school in college and received his pilot’s license. He’s been flying for four years.

About six months ago, he received his first plane, a six-seat Piper Lance, a hand-me-down that he got “very cheap” from NHL player and best friend David Booth. (And yes, Hoffmann plays hockey, too.)

Traveling at 200-mph cruising speed, the flight time from Jupiter, Fla., to Orlando was about 30 minutes. Good call, taking the scenic route. The spring-break traffic here is horrible.

Seriously, Hoffmann’s golf game might be the least interesting thing about him – and that’s saying something, since the guy reached the Tour Championship a year ago.

Struggling with a two-way miss for the majority of the 2015 season, Hoffmann spent two 12-hour days on the range at The Bear’s Club last weekend – an 8 a.m. arrival, with a departure at dusk.

He has always tried to hit a straight ball, which sounds ideal, except when his swing goes awry it can bring in trouble on both sides of the course. After the two marathon sessions, he now consistently hits a cut. Voila.

In the opening round he made three birdies, holed a bunker shot for an eagle-3 on the sixth hole and then nearly holed his approach on No. 9, his last of the day, which led to a tap-in birdie and the outright lead.

Of his emotional day, Hoffmann leaned back in his chair and said, “I’m appreciative of being alive, you know, and how you take things for granted and it’s just so crazy how life goes.”

And what a fascinating life it is.

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U.S. Amateur playoff: 24 players for 1 spot in match play

By Associated PressAugust 15, 2018, 1:21 pm

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Cole Hammer and Daniel Hillier were tied at the top after two rounds of the U.S. Amateur, but the more compelling action on Tuesday was further down the leaderboard.

Two dozen players were tied for 64th place after two rounds of stroke play at Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill. With the top 64 advancing to match play, that means all 24 will compete in a sudden-death playoff Wednesday morning for the last spot in the knockout rounds.

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They'll be divided into six foursomes and start the playoff at 7:30 a.m. on the par-3 17th at Pebble Beach, where Tom Watson chipped in during the 1982 U.S. Open and went on to win.

The survivor of the playoff will face the 19-year-old Hillier in match play. The New Zealander shot a 2-under 70 at Spyglass Hill to share medalist honors with the 18-year-old Hammer at 6 under. Hammer, an incoming freshman at Texas who played in the 2015 U.S. Open at age 15, shot 68 at Spyglass Hill.

Stewart Hagestad had the low round of the day, a 5-under 66 at Pebble Beach, to move into a tie for 10th after opening with a 76 at Spyglass Hill. The 27-year-old Hagestad won the 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur and earned low amateur honors at the 2017 Masters.

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Hammer in position (again) to co-medal at U.S. Am

By Ryan LavnerAugust 14, 2018, 10:37 pm

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Cole Hammer is in position to go for a rare sweep in this summer’s biggest events.

Two weeks ago, Hammer, an incoming freshman at Texas, was the co-medalist at the Western Amateur and went on to take the match-play portion, as well.

Here at the U.S. Amateur, Hammer shot rounds of 69-68 and was once again in position to earn co-medalist honors. At 6-under 137, he was tied with 19-year-old Daniel Hillier of New Zealand.

“It would mean a lot, especially after being medalist at the Western Am,” Hammer said afterward. “It’s pretty special.”

No stroke-play medalist has prevailed in the 64-man match-play bracket since Ryan Moore in 2004. Before that, Tiger Woods (1996) was the most recent medalist champion.  

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On the strength of his Western Am title, Hammer, 18, has soared to No. 18 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He credited his work with swing coach Cameron McCormick and mental coach Bob Rotella.

“Just really started controlling my iron shots really well,” said Hammer, who has worked with McCormick since 2015, when he qualified for the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay as a 15-year-old.

“Distance control with my wedges and all my iron shots, playing different shots, has become really a strength in my game. I’ve really turned the putter on this year, and I’m seeing the lines and matching the line with the speed really well. I think that’s been the key to my summer.”

A two-time New Zealand Amateur champion, Hillier is ranked 27th in the world. He said that, entering the tournament, he would have been pleased just to make it to match play.

“But to come out on top, it’s amazing,” Hillier said. “Cole is a really good golfer and has been playing well lately. So, yeah, I’m in good company.”

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Tee times, TV schedule, stats for Wyndham Championship

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 14, 2018, 9:55 pm

It's the last tournament of the PGA Tour's regular season as the top 125 in the FedExCup points list advance to next week's playoff event. Here's the key info for the Wyndham Championship. (Click here for tee times)

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Purse: $6 million

Course: Sedgefield Country Club (par 70, 7,127 yards)

Defending champion: Henrik Stenson. Last year he defeated Ollie Schniederjans by one stroke to earn his sixth career PGA Tour win.

Notables in the field

Henrik Stenson at the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Henrik Stenson

• Missed the cut last week at the PGA Championship

• Six top-10 finishes this year, including T-5 at the Masters and T-6 at the U.S. Open

Sergio Garcia

• Eight missed cuts in last 10 PGA Tour starts

• Currently 131 in FedExCup standings (33 points back of 125th)

Webb Simpson

• Five top-10 finishes in this event since 2010 (won in 2011)

• 56 under par in last five years in this event (best of any player in that span)

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Faldo: Woods told fellow Masters champ 'I'm done' in '17

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 7:42 pm

Fresh off his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship, it's easy to get caught up in the recent success and ebullient optimism surrounding Tiger Woods. But it was not that long ago that Woods even hitting another competitive shot was very much in doubt.

Six-time major champ Sir Nick Faldo shed light on those darker times during a recent appearance on the Dan Patrick Show when he relayed a story from the 2017 Masters champions' dinner. The annual meal is one of golf's most exclusive fraternities, as only the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club is allowed to dine with the men who have each donned a green jacket.

Last spring Woods had not yet undergone spinal fusion surgery, and Faldo explained that Woods at one point turned to an unnamed Masters champ and grimly assessed his future playing chances.

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"I know he whispered to another Masters champion, two Masters dinners ago, 'I'm done. I won't play golf again,'" Faldo said. "He said, 'I'm done. I'm done, my back is done.' He was in agony. He was in pain. His leg, the pain down his legs, there was nothing enjoyable. He couldn't move. If you watched footage of him, he couldn't even get in and out of the golf cart at the (2016) Ryder Cup when he was a vice captain."

But Woods opted for fusion surgery a few weeks later, and after a lengthy rehab process he returned to competition in December. His 2018 campaign has been nothing short of remarkable, with a pair of runner-up finishes to go along with a T-6 result at The Open when he held the outright lead on the back nine on Sunday.

After apparently even counting himself out, Woods is back up to 26th in the latest world rankings and appears in line to be added as a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup next month.

"What he's been able to do is unbelievable," Faldo said. "To turn this aruond, to get this spine fusion, it's completely taken away the pain. To have this mobility is absolutely amazing. Great on him, and great for golf."