Hoffmann plays with new-found purpose at Honda
February 22, 2018
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
Morgan Hoffmann grabs birdie on No. 9 at Honda
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Morgan Hoffmann is playing for more than trophies.
He hopes to find a cure for muscular dystrophy after being diagnosed with the disease in November 2016. The 28-year-old has started a charity to fund research while still chasing the PGA TOUR dreams he’s had since childhood.
“I could become a recluse and feel bad for myself, but what’s that going to do?” Hoffmann said Thursday, after shooting a first-round 67 at The Honda Classic. “I love being out here and I love playing on the PGA TOUR and that’s my dream, and to help people ultimately is my goal. I think I can do really special things with this platform.”
Contending at the PGA TOUR stop in his adopted hometown will help him spread the word. He is back on the leaderboard one year after finishing runner-up to former Oklahoma State teammate Rickie Fowler. He trails another Oklahoma State alum, Alex Noren, and Webb Simpson by one stroke after the first round of this year’s Honda Classic.
Hoffmann announced his diagnosis in a December article on The Players’ Tribune. He has a charity event planned for Aug. 20 in his native New Jersey.
“It was tough to hear,” he said about the diagnosis, “but I think we’re going to do a lot of really good things with the charity that I’m starting, hopefully find a cure.”
Thursday’s good round came after a difficult stretch. He missed the cut or withdrew in his previous six starts, but he made just one bogey Thursday. The disease has led to a loss of swing speed, but Hoffmann didn’t blame it for his recent struggles.
“I’ve lost a lot of speed in my swing but my swing is still there,” he said. “I’m on plane. It’s not like it’s really killing my golf game.”
In 2014, when Hoffmann qualified for the TOUR Championship, he ranked 78th in clubhead speed and 48th in driving distance. He’s 184th and 101st in those statistics this season. He’s lost more than 5 mph of clubhead speed in that span, dropping from 114 mph to 108.8.
That hasn’t stopped him from trying to win his first PGA TOUR title. He just has other sources of inspiration now.
SHOT OF THE DAY
Shot of the Day
Louis Oosthuizen's walk-off birdie is the Shot of the Day
Alex Noren, who’s known for an unceasing work ethic, wasn’t done after his first-round 66 that gave him the lead after morning wave. “I’m going to go and maybe play some holes on another course and try to figure out how to play all these different iron shots because this golf course is an iron paradise,” said Noren, who made five birdies and just one bogey Thursday. He ranks ninth in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green this season, but he wasn’t happy with Thursday’s ball-striking. “I hit a lot of wayward shots,” he said. Noren is playing his first season as a PGA TOUR member. He’s 33rd in the FedExCup, including a playoff loss to Jason Day at the Farmers Insurance Open. Noren and Webb Simpson share the first-round lead.
Justin Thomas attended the final round of last year’s Honda Classic only to congratulate Rickie Fowler on his win. Thomas had missed the cut, one year after finishing third. He’s back in contention at PGA National once again after shooting 67 in the first round. He’s coming off a T9 finish at the Genesis Open, his best finish since winning THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES in October.
Daniel Berger, who grew up in south Florida, shot a bogey-free 67 while playing alongside Thomas and Sergio Garcia (72). Berger lost a playoff to Padraig Harrington at the 2015 Honda Classic during his Rookie of the Year season. “I’m a different golfer now than I was then,” said Berger, a two-time PGA TOUR winner. He missed just three fairways and five greens Thursday. He hit his tee shot at the par-4 sixth hole into the water but was able to save par after hitting his ball out of the water and getting up-and-down.
Tiger Woods played the best round of his young comeback, shooting an even-par 70 in Thursday morning’s breezy conditions. He hit 7 of 14 fairways and 10 of 18 greens, but mostly avoided the big misses that have plagued him. For more on his round, click here.
CALL OF THE DAY
QUOTABLESIt can make you look bad in a heartbeat.You can see the Tiger effect when you come out here. There’s thousands of people.
Low round: 66 by Alex Noren and Webb Simpson. Both players made five birdies and just one bogey.
Longest drive: 371 yards by Kevin Tway on the second hole. He was left with just 70 yards for his second shot to the par-4, but he hit his approach shot to 30 feet and made par as part of his 3-over 73.
Longest putt: 63 feet, 9 inches, by Graeme McDowell. He made the lengthy putt for birdie on the par-3 17th hole as part of his even-par 70. It was one of just nine birdies on the hole.
Hardest hole: The 193-yard, par-3 17th hole played to a 3.59 scoring average, allowing just nine birdies compared to 68 over-par scores. There were 18 double-bogeys and four "others."
Easiest hole: The par-5 third hole played to a 4.71 scoring average. There were two eagles and 59 birdies on the hole. Tiger Woods' double-bogey was one of just two on the hole.