By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
EDISON, N.J. -- Charley Hoffman used the week before The Barclays to get back to basics -- particularly in regards to his putting stroke.
Working with his former UNLV coach Dwaine Knight, Hoffman said he "went simple" in trying to correct an erratic putter, which has hampered him in a frustrating year in which he has just one top-10 finish.
Perhaps he found something. Thanks in part to a stretch of six consecutive one-putt holes, Hoffman shot a 5-under 66 in Thursday's first round at Plainfield Country Club. That left him just two shots off the lead held by Harrison Frazar.
Here's all you need to know about how effective Hoffman was with his putter in the first round: He ranked first among all morning wave finishers in Strokes Gained-Putting. Coming into this week, Hoffman ranked 143rd in that category for the year.
"Putter's the main thing I haven't really had this year and what I've always been very good at is putting," he said. "But I haven't made those 10-12 footers to keep your round going or get your round going."
On Thursday, he made five putts between 10-20 feet, including one from 18 feet, 7 inches at the par-4 ninth. That was one of eight birdies Hoffman posted in the first round.
Hoffman also has a new putter, although he said it is similar to the Titleist Red X that he uses.
For Hoffman, who ranks 49th in FedExCup points, his improvement on the greens couldn't come at a better time. He'll enter next week's Deutsche Bank Championship as the defending champ, and would love nothing more than to post a second straight win at TPC Boston to boost his chances of winning the FedExCup.
He just needs that simple flatstick to keep working.