Survival stories: Pride, Hoffman, moving on

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September 03, 2012
Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents

NORTON, Mass. -- Charley Hoffman said he had no clue. Nada. Zero.

He didn't know if he was 59th, 69th or 79th in the FedExCup. Hoffman just knew he had a putt of 11 feet, 5 inches to finish off a disappointing back-nine 42 that cost him a chance to win the Deutsche Bank Championship for the second time in three years.

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The putt somehow found the bottom of the cup. As he walked off the green, Hoffman's 20-month-old daughter, Claire, found his arms and suddenly he was smiling as he headed toward the scoring trailer.

That's where Hoffman learned the putt was the difference between a trip home to Las Vegas or a detour to Indianapolis for the BMW Championship and the third leg in the FedExCup Playoffs. Hoffman, who had started the day ranked 42nd in the projections, had made the top 70 who advance with one spot to spare.

"I didn't expect to be playing next week," he said. "Really shooting 42 on the back nine, I don't think I deserved to play next week. I guess I've got another chance. I guess that's what the Playoffs are all about."

When Hoffman got to 13 under through eight holes on Monday, though, he was thinking about that sizzling 62 he shot in the final round on the way to his 2010 victory at TPC Boston. But he went bogey-bogey-quadruple bogey as he made the turn and everything unraveled.

"Disappointment. Total disappointment in the way I played," Hoffman said when asked his emotions after he signed his scorecard. "I wanted to be in this golf tournament. Obviously, I made it through. I don't know how. I didn't know (the final putt) was worth anything. I pretty much got lucky and it went in.

"There were no nerves because I had fried them all."

Hoffman, who started the week ranked 83rd, might have been speaking for the other eight players -- Jeff Overton, Bryce Molder, D.A. Points, Troy Mattesson, Matt Every, Chris Kirk, Charl Schwartzel and Dicky Price -- who moved into the top 70 on a roller-coaster Monday, too.

Kirk, for example, said he was "shocked" when he finished off a round of 72 on Monday afternoon -- for two reasons. Shocked that he played his first 13 holes in 5 over to fall outside of the top 70 and then "very shocked that I managed to dig myself out of it," he said.

After the stumbling start, Kirk needed birdies on four of his last five holes to climb back inside the top 70 and earn his spot in the BMW Championship. He drained a 43-footer at the 14th hole, tapped in from 15 inches at No. 15, made a 23-footer at the 17th and converted from 5 feet at No. 18. Done deal.

"It just shows how crazy this game is, I guess," Kirk said.

Crazy, indeed. The former Georgia All-American had been one shot off the lead after the first round and tied for fifth after the second. But he played his first six holes in 5 over on Sunday on the way to a 75, then continued the downward spiral in the final round.

"To be honest with you, I think I had just about given up with five holes to go," Kirk said. "I played so well the first few days and then yesterday was just a struggle all day, and then today just didn't seem like I could get anything right, not making any putts, not hitting shots I wanted to, not hitting fairways. I had gone all the way from 9 under back to even par, so I had fallen pretty far. I guess it just shows, you never know."

Now that his spot at Crooked Stick is assured, Kirk feels the pressure is off. There's no cut next week and only the top 30 advance to play in the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola where the $10 million man will be decided.

"I feel like I can really free wheel it now," Kirk said. "There's definitely no pressure on me anymore. I came into the Playoffs last year, I think I was 33rd at the start of the Playoffs, so I really kind of put a little too much pressure on myself to make the TOUR Championship probably.

Overton birdies No. 12

Jeff Overton holes this 50-foot birdie bid to help him advance to next week's event.

"This year has been the total opposite. I was about 130th in the middle of the summer and played well to get myself in decent position, and then I've had two decent weeks to kind of keep going, and hopefully I can just have a great week next week."

While Hoffman was disappointed when he came off the 18th and Kirk was in shock, Pride actually admitted to being "very confused." After all, this is his first appearance in the FedExCup Playoffs, and there were still players on the course who could have knocked him out of the top 70.

"I really want to play next week, obviously," Pride said at the time. "But I'm not stressed because I went out there and did what I was trying to do today. That's the big thing. It's either going to work or it's not. Let's face it, I've had a great year and I've done better than I have in a long time, so there are a lot of positives.

"If I get knocked out it's going to hurt, and I will use that for motivation in the offseason to work really, really hard."

Turns out, he did what he had to do. Pride, a staunch Alabama fan, said he was "doing the Nick Saban" on Monday and trying not to look at the scoreboard. He just wanted to execute the shots -- which he did, making all-important birdies on his last two holes on the way to a 68 -- and make the Crimson Tide coach proud.

"It was good to play like that and be in the heat when I wanted to get something done and play solid and accomplish some things," Pride said.

When John Merrick eagle chip stopped 20 inches from the pin at the 18th hole, Pride was a lock at No. 70. He has added incentive, too. His wife is from Muncie, Ind., which is just over an hour from Indianapolis, and a good friend from Alabama, Tony Pancake, is the director of golf at Crooked Stick.

"I was real excited," Pride said. "I felt for John. I played with John the first couple days. I know how good he's playing, and he just missed doing it. It would have been tough, but I would have taken it."

Pride isn't the only one who'll need extra tickets this week. Overton was born in Evansville, Ind., and now lives in Bloomington, where he went to college. He was a student at IU the last time he played a golf tournament in his home state and was an 8-year-old "who didn't even know what golf was" back in 1991 when John Daly won the PGA Championship at Crooked Stick.

"It's kind of been circled on the schedule of things to do this year, and just I really wanted to get in there," said Overton, who moved from 83rd to 40th when he tied for seventh Monday, his first top-10 since April.

The 29-year-old knew he'd put himself in a good position to realize his goal over the first three rounds. But Sunday night as he pondered the FedExCup possibilities, Overton found himself thinking about the worst he could shoot in the final round and still advance rather than looking to continue the momentum.

"But Phil (Mickelson) on the first tee was great," Overton said. "He said, let's have a good day, we'll go make a whole lot of birdies, and it kind of just clicked in my mind a little bit and shot a few under, and it was a fun day."

Not as much fun as this week in Indianapolis likely will be.

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