Charley Hoffman has won four times on the PGA Tour, but he might be best known for one round in a major championship where he didn’t even finish in the top 20.
Hoffman’s 7-under-par 65 in difficult weather conditions in the first round of the 2017 Masters Tournament was so exceptional that he led the field by four shots. It came on a day when the average score was 74.978, the highest since 2007 for an opening round.
“Not that the world doesn't watch the PGA Tour week in and week out, but let's be honest: The amount of media that goes into the Masters is arguably the biggest in all golf,” Hoffman said. “There's a lot of people who saw that round. I don't want to be known for the one great round. I want to be known for playing four and be able to put a green jacket on. It was obviously great to watch Sergio (Garcia) win last year. It was great for the game of golf, but hopefully I can put that jacket on in the next few years.”
Hoffman couldn’t keep up with Garcia and runner-up Justin Rose in the end. He hung in there with 75 in the second round to remain tied for the 36-hole lead and played in the final pairing of the third round.
But a 72 under much improved weather conditions in the third round allowed others to pass him and left him two shots off the lead. He finished tied for 22nd after a final round 78.
“I just didn't execute,” Hoffman said of the final round, where he shot 41 on the back nine. “I sort of lost focus on the back nine, which I look back and wish I had over and could do differently.
“I understand what happened,” he said. “When you're in the mix of a tournament for 61 holes or something like that and you get out of it. … For the lack of a better phrase, the wind was out of my sails and I didn't finish the golf tournament like I wanted to. I learned from that and go forward and hopefully have a chance to win again.”
He should, considering his strong record at Augusta National in four appearances. In 2015, he was in the final group of the day in the third round and eventually tied for ninth.
“I've been there a few times, and that's what you love and enjoy,” he said. “I thrive on those experiences. ... Obviously I haven't closed the door like I've wanted to, but it's something I'm going to try to do for a few more years. It's one of those golf courses that fits my eye.”
That was evident last year from his opening 65, which featured nine birdies in winds that gusted to 30 mph at times.
“Looking back, obviously, it gets better and better,” he said of the 65. “When you're doing it, you're sort of lost in the moment. You're executing shots. When it gets windy and hard at Augusta, you've only got one option, one shot to hit and I was able to execute that shot and was able to make those putts. It was a fun round.”
It wasn’t so enjoyable on the weekend, when his game wasn’t nearly as sharp.
“That's what makes Augusta so tricky,” he said. “When you don't execute, you shoot the mid-70s round. You always see a guy playing well at Augusta because if you execute there, you can make birdies. But if you don't execute there, you make doubles and bogeys. That's why I love the place.”