Rookie Hoffmann hoping not to 'hit the wall' in San Diego

January 23, 2013
Fred Albers,

Morgan Hoffmann must have been a Boy Scout. He certainly arrived on the PGA TOUR prepared for his rookie season.

The All-American from Oklahoma State worked on the flop shot, his knockdown wedge and the two-hop/stick ‘em, but his preparation went beyond just swing technique.

Hoffmann did some advance scouting.

He made a special trip to California to become familiar with the courses. Before arriving in Palm Springs, he had already seen the three venues used in the Humana Challenge in partnership with Clinton Foundation. Hoffmann knows all about Torrey Pines North and South, and he’s walked the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am trio of Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Monterey Peninsula.

The West Coast Swing is often a brutal introduction to the PGA TOUR for rookies. They play nine different courses in a four-tournament stretch. There are three courses used at the Humana Challenge, two at the Farmers Insurance Open, one at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and three at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

Consider the plight of the rookie. He’s feeling his way around for the first time. The new guys are unfamiliar with hotels, restaurants, caddies and courses.

Where does he register? Where’s the locker room? Is this a good place to stay? Is that too much to spend on airfare? How much do you tip in the locker room? Is lunch really free?

All those questions are posed before a rookie hits a single shot in Hawaii. Then, the transition from Hawaii to the West Coast can be exhausting.

The adrenaline from your first PGA TOUR event has drained your system. Many have missed the cut and are already down some $10,000 in the ledger book after travel, hotel and caddie fees.

After an all-night flight from Hawaii, the players arrive jet lagged into Palm Springs. Veterans know the routine and courses, but the rookies have to rush to become familiar with three different layouts.

Go to any of the West Coast event, and just before sunset, you will see rookies trying to cram in one more practice round and one more driving range session moments before darkness.

That’s often a mistake. Why?

Some players hit their best shots on Tuesday and Wednesday of tournament week and are fatigued by the weekend. It’s not just physical exhaustion; there is plenty of mental fatigue that goes into learning three different courses in a short period.

And yet, how can you fault any player for working too hard?

It’s a lesson that’s only learned by experience, and that’s the worst teacher of all. Learning through experience gives a student the test first, and the lesson later.

Many of the rookies hit the wall this week in San Diego. With two missed cuts, there are panic lessons on the range, the temptation to switch equipment or change caddies. Throw in nine different courses in a four-week stretch, and you can understand why the stress level mounts for the uninitiated.

That’s why Hoffmann spent a little extra time and money for some advance scouting.

Of course, that doesn’t guarantee success.

Hoffmann’s made one cut -- he finished 67th in Hawaii -- and he is ranked 124th in FedEx Cup Points. However, Hoffmann gave himself the best chance at success by arriving on the West Coast already familiar with the courses.

Rookies would do well to follow the motto of the Boy Scouts: Be prepared.


Quick Start: This may be a week to post some low scores early, and then hang on to that number. Weather could be a factor. There is a 70 percent chance of rain on Friday, and the weekend will be colder, with a Sunday high of 60 degrees. You will hear players grumbling about receiving the bad end of the draw this week in regard to tee times.

Traffic flow: With two courses in play for the first two rounds, organizers could stack the field with premier pairings, and not create traffic flow issues. Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods will be playing at the same time, but on different courses. Tiger goes at 10:30 a.m. local time on the South Course with Nick Watney and Rickie Fowler, while Phil has a 9:30 a.m. local time start on the North Course with Bubba Watson and Brandt Snedeker.

Tiger time: How much of a difference does having Tiger Woods attend your event make? Tournament Director Peter Ripa says attendance is expected to increase by 30 percent over last year. The pressroom was made 15 percent larger to accommodate increased coverage, and television ratings are expected to double.

Winner, winner: In 2012, I picked Brian Gay to win The Humana Challenge and just missed the prediction by 52 weeks. Last year I had Nick Watney winning the Farmers Insurance Open, so let’s follow that trend and go with Watney again. He got off to a slow start last year -- he's undergoing swing changes -- but since last fall, he has been consistently in contention, posting two wins.

For the season: Albers has called one winner (Dustin Johnson) and had a top-25 finish and a top-50 finish.

Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here.