The End of the Beginning

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Charley Hoffman concluded the fall portion of the 2014-15 season by winning the OHL Classic at Mayakoba. The PGA TOUR returns Jan. 9-12
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American Charley Hoffman fired a final round 66 to post 17-under 267 to win the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in Playa del Carmen, Mexico in the final event of the 2014 portion of the 2014-15 PGA TOUR season. Hoffman held off Shawn Stefani by one shot as Danny Lee and Andres Gonzales filled out the podium another shot further back on 15-under. The 54-hole leader, Jason Bohn, limped home with 74 to finish T7.

This was the final event of the 2014 portion of the 2015 season. The TOUR takes the holidays off and returns to action on Maui for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions the first week of January.

The best part is I get to change my Twitter avatar back to something more interesting than me in a P$@due shirt. I lost a bet to O late in the season and my punishment was having that picture as my avatar. Glad that’s over. Congrats O but man, that was gross.

Back to business for the last time as I go inside Hoffman’s win.

Why This Doesn't Surprise Gamers:

Hoffman’s other two wins on TOUR both came at sites where plenty of birdies were necessary to win. He won 2007 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic in the desert on 17-under. He won the 2010 Deutsche Bank Championship on 22-under that included an opening round 64 and closing round 62. He was 14th last year in par breakers and was 40th in adjusted scoring. He was 33rd in strokes gained tee-to-green, 44th in strokes gained putting and 34th in the all-around category. He made 21 of 25 cuts last season.

Why This Surprises Gamers:

Hoffman missed three of his final six cuts to wrap up his 2013-14 season after his T3 at QLN so he didn’t exactly finish on a high note. He finishes in that stretch were T67, T30 and T53 and he did not make it to Atlanta. As the new season began Hoffman opened with MC in Las Vegas which is never fun for a former UNLV player. He followed that with MC at McGladrey before he finished T35 at Sanderson farms after a final round 75. In short, there weren’t ANY clues that he was going to pop up this week. Unless you pick your roster based on OWGR only I’m not sure why he would have been in the lineup this week. In two previous starts at Mayakoba he finished T69 and T31 with nothing better than 67 to show for his efforts.

How Hoffman Won This Week:

Hoffman showed he was the class of the field down the stretch on Sunday and it was his irons that did the talking. He stiffed flag after flag and if his normally trusty putter would have cooperated he could have won by a few more. Hoffman had the advantage down the stretch as had the previous experience closing out a tournament where Stefani and Danny Lee had not. The nerves were everywhere and Hoffman held his the best. Even his crooked tee shot that was dormie against a palm tree on the final hole was calmly whacked into the fairway. That shot was hit left-handed with his right-handed club turned upside down. That was pretty cool, confident and calm.

He began the day 11-under and four shots behind Bohn but his bogey-free opening nine of 32 put him directly in the fight. He made only one bogey on Sunday, on the final hole which was one of only six on the week. His 21 birdies were good enough for T3. Once again, fairways here didn’t prove to be crucial as Hoffman just hit 43% of them on Sunday and still shot 66. He was T33 on the week in fairways but was fourth in GIR. Once again it shows that resort courses and rough usually don’t go together. Similar to English last year, Hoffman bombed his way to victory as he was fifth in driving distance. He played the weekend 67-66 and only made three bogeys.

Moving Forward:

Hoffman told the Golf Channel in his post round interview that he has an interesting situation to resolve beginning at Kapalua. He recently parted ways with his old caddy and the guy he lined up for this week couldn’t go because of an injury. He “borrowed” David Toms’ loop for the week and he won for the first time in four years. Now, he’s in a predicament. His caddy is obviously a big deal in his game or he wouldn’t have spoken at length about it after the round. He bettered his money total in 2013 and 2014 but he’s never cracked $2 million since 2010. He’s well on his to that number this year. Based on the above I would be more interested him in salary games than trying to time the next time he’s going to go 64 or 65 on the weekend to win. He’s steady, plays plenty and will have plenty of confidence hitting 2015.

With This Win:

He racks up 500 FedExCup Points, $1.098 million and his first trip to Kapalua since 2011.

Déjà vu All Over Again?

After 28 wins in 45 events last season, Charley Hoffman joins Bubba Watson, Ryan Moore, Robert Streb and Ben Martin as the USA won five of the seven events to open the new season. Sang-moon Bae (Korea) and Nick Taylor (Canada) filled out the other two trophy presentations.

In seven events only Bae, Martin and Moore closed their 54-hole leads.

After 13 first-time winners in 2013 there were only 10 last year. After seven events in 2015, Martin, Streb and Taylor have broken through.

Hoffman backed up the bomber profile this year as he was 26th last season in driving distance. It didn’t hurt that he was top five in GIR and 12th in putts per GIR. Hoffman was 132nd in driving accuracy and 20th in total putting. Bomb, gouge and putt reigns for the second year in a row.

Harris English finished T37 in his attempt to be the first player to defend their title here. Defending champs are now 0-7.

Hoffman also backed up the profile of mid-30s winner that we had seen before the youngsters of Huh and English the previous two years.

Ken Duke had the low round of the week with 63 on Friday.

After playing in the rain on Saturday, Sunday was absolutely gorgeous. The last two winnings scores on this course were 21-under (tournament record) in wet conditions last year and 17-under this year. #Easy #ResortCourse

Hoffman has been in the top 10 in two of the last three years at Harbour Town, a course I looked at for past performance.

Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys

Bae got the youngsters (under 30) on the board first in 2014-15 followed by Martin and Streb, both 27.

I annually keep track of the age of the winners on TOUR because I’m an ageist.

Hoffman, 37, joins Bubba Watson (36) and Ryan Moore (31) on the board for the prime time guys (30-39 years)

The old guys (40 and over) were led by Jerry Kelly 47, who was fifth; Ken Duke 45, and Fred Funk, 58, also hit the top 10 at T9. #ResortCourse

Hindsight

What I learned from the finishers in the top 10

Shawn Stefani: His second, second-place finish in his last 13 events; Came in trending in the right direction with T41 and T25 in his last two; His four rounds in the 60s for the first time ever; His 21 birdies and only five bogeys were strong. #Buying

Danny Lee: He was looking to make it back-to-back winners for previous Mark McCormack honorees as he was the No. 1 amateur in 2008. Nick Taylor, who won last week, was the 2009 recipient. Lee birdied the final seven holes on the front to turn in 29 but the nerves took over on the way in. He made a great putt to save bogey on No. 12 but the putter went ice cold after that and the ball-striking wasn’t much better. He didn’t make a birdie on the back nine but led the field with 23 circles on the week. He was second in putts per GIR and seventh in fairways. Lee was second to Chesson Hadley in Puerto Rico, another course with Paspalum greens and fairways, as he posted 19-under. He had three top 25s last year in 28 attempts. He now has two T13 or better in his last three events.

Andres Gonzales: It took 49 events on TOUR to crack the podium and Gonzales did just that with his T3 finish. It’s just his second top 10 and sixth top 25 as he goes for his third tour on TOUR. Another UNLV grad, Gonzales has begun his third tour with five cuts on the bounce and is currently 21st on the FedExCup Points list. He’s probably not happy to have six weeks off. He’s funny on Twitter; he’s got a reputation as a fun-loving guy. I’ll keep an eye out as he’s won on the Web.com in 2012 and 2014 plus a Canadian Tour victory in 2009. Interesting indeed…

Jerry Kelly: The first of three OLD dudes in the top 10, Kelly had only one top 25 in his six previous trips to Riviera Maya (T6, 2009). Last week he closed with 66 at SFC so he was primed and ready to go this week. After opening with three bogeys on Thursday he only made two more the rest of the week so he was ready! He didn’t hit a ton of fairways or greens and was only T29 in putts per GIR but, as usual, he ground out his best finish since T3 at John Deere last summer. He was T9 at Puerto Rico and third at the Sony Open. #ResortCourses

Brice Garnett: Like Gonzales, he’s perfect (5-5) to open the new season and his solo sixth is his best result since T7 at the Shell Houston Open. Weird, that was Stefani’s best finish before this week as well. He’s now made 25 off his last 33 cuts so add him to your season-long teams and enjoy the ride.

Tony Finau: Another week, another top 15 as Finau fired 65, the co-low round on Sunday, to jump 19 places to T7. His first season on TOUR has begun T12, T7, T14, MC and T7 again this week. He hits it a mile and he can putt. He leads the TOUR in birdies and is in the top five in par four and par five scoring. So much for the Web.com guys needing a break!

Jason Bohn: The 54-hole leader was on a streak of seven consecutive rounds in the 60s before his 74 on Sunday saw him finish T7. Gamers would have happily taken this before the week started. But after his T2 last week and T3 here last year PLUS the 54-hole lead the T7 stings a bit, especially to the OAD’s like myself who were dreaming of sugarplums last night. I’ll never complain about a top 10, especially from a guy who I won’t use down the road, but man, what could have been…He plays great on courses where he plays great; a true course-horse.

Will MacKenzie: His closing 66 moved him from T26 to T9 for his second top 10 in three starts in the new year. He began the week sick as a dog but got better as he flushed the bug out of his system. His Saturday 74 killed any chances of winning but he’s started strongly for the second year in a row. That’s not flukey. He was T12 here last year so he backed that up nicely this year. That’s not flukey either.

Blayne Barber: Another week, another new course for our Web.com grads and like Finau, Barber doesn’t seem to mind. He closed last week with 66 to finish T9 last week at SFC and he fired 67 to wrap up T9 this week. He even signed the proper scorecard! After fantastic iron play the last two weeks he went ice cold from the tee and into the green this week (T52 GIR) his putter picked up the slack as he was T8 in putts per GIR. He’s now played five TOUR events as a pro and hit the top 10 twice. He won on the Web.com last year and added five other top 10s to that. I’m not finding the downside.

Carlos Ortiz: I faded him this week because I thought the pressure and moment might be too big for a guy without a ton of golf under his belt. With him and countryman Oscar Fraustro BOTH hitting the top 10 it looks like they fed off the crowd instead of being intimidated by the moment. This was only his 24th event as a pro and if you don’t know he won THREE times on the Web.com last year, your opponents thank you. The next step will be a performance like this in hostile territory.

Oscar Fraustro: He began on the Canadian Tour before playing his way to the big leagues on the Web.com. I’m not going to go out of my way to pay attention unless he puts together multiple performances down the road. He’s never had a podium finish on any TOUR. He was MC here in 2012 and T49 last year so he’s got this place figured out!

Nicholas Thompson: One from the Sleeper section of the preview column that banged a top 10 with T9. Thompson entered the week off of T22, T21 and T35 so the form was there. He opened 68-65 before playing the weekend in even par. This was his first top 10 since Colonial last spring (T3), his only top 10 last year. He’s a bargain in salary cap games and he plays a ton. In his early 30s he should have most of this figured out. Worth a flier if you need a deep roster spot.

Ken Duke: Here’s why we love and hate fantasy golf in one sentence: MC, T67, T4, MC and T9 this week. His T4 involved closing 66-66; his T9 needed a second round 63. Let me know when you get it figured out. This was his first attempt at Mayakoba.

Fred Funk: He’s 58. He has socks older than most of you. He obviously likes this track but I’m not sure I can trust a 59-year old here next year. I’ve learned that he’s the Tom Watson of the OHL.

Chalk Dust

A quick recap of what happened to the Chalk from my preview column

Robert Streb: He only made five bogeys. He was T7 in fairways and made 50 pars. He was nine-under on Saturday when he made a QUAD on No. 12. Four-wheelers NEVER help momentum. Ever. T37.

Jason Bohn: See above, T7.

Mark Wilson: MC after 72-75. He’s MC here the last two years.

Charles Howell III: The fantasy gold standard in the “off-season” events busted probably EVERYONE with MC. He hadn’t finished outside the top 20 in the last four years and that includes T6 last year. He was T14 last time out at SFC so that made it sting a little more. Barf.

Rory Sabbatini: 73-66-76-66, T56. He fired a pair of 65s last year to finish T3. Those pesky crooked numbers kill on easy courses. Has any gamer who has put stock in Sabbatini ever been paid off? I didn’t think so.

Ben Martin: My counter-culture pick in Group 1 hit less than 50% of GIR to MC. I’ll stick with the sheep from now on. Wait, what? NO CHANCE! T37, where English finished, didn’t cost me this week.

Chris Stroud: After top five finishes in the last three tries at Mayakoba, Stroud put all four rounds in the 60s to finish T23.

David Hearn: The Canadian chipped in for birdie on the final hole to finish T16. That’s T7, T14 and T16 in his last three. Maple syrup for my me and Crown Royal for my horses!

Brian Stuard: Opened with 69 and went backwards from there to finish T71. He made more bogeys than birdies and he LED THE FIELD IN FAIRWAYS. I guess being 76th, or LAST, in GIR didn’t help anything.

Fabian Gomez: Closed with 67 to move up 17 spots to T23 as he birdied four of the last five. The Argentine has posted T8, T14 and T23 in three tries this year. Bueno.

Justin Thomas: He backed up his T4 at SFC with a very respectable T23 this week. He’s just a pup but his pedigree is nothing short of excellent. Nine of his first 16 rounds on TOUR have been in the 60s. Stay tuned.

Coming TUESDAY Afternoon

A nap.


The TOUR is on hiatus so I won't have Range Rover or Playing the Tips until we pick back up in January.


Coming Wednesday


Withdrawl?

The chat season, like the TOUR season is on hiatus until Kapalua in early January. We'll pick up our normal Wednesday chat schedule in 2015. Meanwhile, follow Rob (http://twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf) and Glass (http://twitter.com/mikeglasscott) on Twitter for all off-season news, rants and ramblings plus some special features.