FedExCup: Hoffmann, Palmer East Lake bound
September 07, 2014
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
- Morgan Hoffmann's incredible weekend allowed him to continue his unprecedented FedExCup journey. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
CHERRY HILLS VILLAGE, Colo. – Morgan Hoffmann’s PGA TOUR card was in danger just three weeks ago. A missed cut at the Wyndham Championship meant he had to spend the weekend sweating out the conclusion of the final event before the FedExCup Playoffs.
Hoffmann had to sit at home, unable to control the final result. When the dust settled at Sedgefield Country Club, he was 124th in the FedExCup standings; the top 125 qualified for the FedExCup Playoffs and retained their playing privileges for the 2014-15 season.
Hoffmann has made the most of his opportunity and made history in the process. His third-place finish at the BMW Championship completed an unprecedented run through the FedExCup Playoffs, one that will culminate with his first appearance in the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola.
He leapt from 68th to 21st in the FedExCup this week, joining Ryan Palmer as the only two players to crack the FedExCup’s top 30 at Cherry Hills Country Club.
Hoffmann is the first player to play his way inside the FedExCup cut line at each Playoffs event (moving inside the top 100 after the Barclays, inside the top 70 after the Deutsche Bank Championship and the top 30 after the BMW Championship).
He's jumped more than 100 spots in the FedExCup in three weeks -- including his career-best finish at the BMW, where he shot 62-63 on the weekend -- to qualify for his first TOUR Championship. His 15-under 125 over the BMW Championship’s final two rounds was six shots lower than anyone else in the field.
“This whole FedExCup has been a bonus,” Hoffmann said. “Nothing to lose, carefree and just go … fire at pins. That’s basically how I was playing.”
He fired at plenty of pins in the final two rounds at Cherry Hills, making 17 birdies and an eagle. He didn’t move into the FedExCup’s top 30 until the second-to-last hole, when he hit a 250-yard second shot to the par-5 17th, then holed the 16-foot eagle putt.
“He knows how to get on the gas pedal and stay on it,” said Rickie Fowler, Hoffmann’s college teammate at Oklahoma State. “He’s not scared. He’s always been a good ballstriker. This opens a lot of doors for him.”
Qualifying for the TOUR Championship not only keeps alive Hoffmann’s FedExCup hopes, but qualifies him for next season's first three majors (Masters, U.S. Open, Open Championship) and the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship.
Hoffmann wasn’t the only player who was clutch over Cherry Hills’ famed closing holes to qualify for the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola. The FedExCup’s top 30 qualify for that elite field. Hideki Matsuyama started this week at No. 30 and was in danger of slipping out of the TOUR Championship when he played his first 16 holes Sunday in 1 over.
“I just wasn’t playing well,” he said. “That’s what was causing me the most stress out there.”
His chances didn’t seem to improve when he hit his tee shot at the par-5 17th into a fairway bunker. He planned to lay up as he walked to his ball, but changed his mind once he saw that he had a good lie. He hit 4-iron from 228 yards, then two-putted for birdie from 14 feet. He added another birdie at the last hole, his 9-iron approach bouncing off the flagstick before stopping 7 feet from the hole.
“I was really worried. I knew I had to hit a good shot there,” Matsuyama said about his second shot at No. 17. “I wasn’t going to make it (to the TOUR Championship) if I didn’t. It was do or die.”
Matsuyama is the second Japanese player to qualify for the TOUR Championship (Ryuji Imada, 2008).
Palmer played his way into the top 30 despite a tough finish at Cherry Hills. He was tied for the lead after a birdie at the par-5 11th, but played the final seven holes in 5 over, including a double-bogey at the 13th after he shanked his second shot. He still tied for fourth, his seventh top-10 of the season. This will be Palmer’s second TOUR Championship appearance (2010).
“It will hurt for a little while. Not very long, though,” Palmer said.
Two players had to drop out of the top 30 to make room for Hoffmann and Palmer. Stuart Appleby and Keegan Bradley were the unfortunate ones. Appleby, who finished 46th at the BMW, dropped five spots to 31st in the FedExCup, 14 points out of the top 30.
Bradley started this week at No. 28 in the rankings, but was finished after uncertainty about a ruling in the first round. He took a drop for an embedded ball on the 18th hole, but later withdrew because of confusion about whether the ball had embedded in its own pitch mark.
“It is eating me alive,” Bradley said at the time. He had qualified for the TOUR Championship in each of his previous three seasons, but finished 33rd in the FedExCup standings. Harris English finished 32nd in the standings after making a quadruple-bogey 7 on the par-3 12th on Sunday; he finished 31st in last year’s FedExCup.
Graham DeLaet, who played his first TOUR Championship last year, had moved inside the projected top 30, but his chances were undone by a triple-bogey at the par-3 15th, where he hit his tee shot into the water. Chesson Hadley was making a move after a front-nine 30, but made two bogeys and no birdies over his final nine holes.
Playing for precious TOUR Championship spots sets the stage for fantastic finishes. This year’s BMW Championship was no exception.
Here's one last look at the players moving both in and out of the top 30 at Cherry Hills:
MOVING IN Pre-BMW rank Player BMW position Score Post-BMW rank 68 Morgan Hoffmann 3rd 72-72-62-63 -- 269 21 37 Ryan palmer T4 69-64-67-71 -- 271 23 MOVING OUT Pre-BMW rank Player BMW position Score Post-BMW rank 26 Stuart Appleby
T46 71-71-70-71 -- 283 31 28 Keegan Bradley WD WD 33