After a 78 in round one of the Players Championship, Tom Hoge wasn’t expecting much for the rest of the week, so he made arrangements to return home.
He had American Airlines flight 2465 booked from Jacksonville back to Dallas, leaving Friday afternoon at 2:59 p.m.
His game had other plans.
He turned around and fired a 68 in round two Friday morning, leaving him teetering on the cutline at two over. Then the weather showed up, forcing the completion of the second round to Saturday morning and Hoge had to stick around another day to learn his fate.
He booked the same flight for Saturday afternoon but canceled it again when he made the cut on the number.
“I felt like my game was in good order, as silly as that is to say, that I could have missed the cut,” Hoge said after the round. “But I was excited to get back out there once I did have a tee time.”
If Hoge encountered any cancelation fees, we think he more than made them worth it.
The World No. 33 set Sawgrass ablaze with 10 birdies and no bogeys for a third-round 62, breaking the course record.
“It’s been nice to cancel a few flights,” Hoge said.
He surpasses the previous course record of 63 which was shared by Fred Couples, Greg Norman, Roberto Castro, Martin Kaymer, Jason Day, Colt Knost, Webb Simpson, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka. (Knost was caught on camera watching Hoge break his record and you won’t regret taking 16 seconds to watch it)
Hoge said he had no clue how historic his round was until playing partner Shane Lowry told him after he holed his final birdie on TPC Sawgrass’ 9th hole (his 18th) and went to scoring.
“I didn’t even know it was a course record until after we got done in the scoring there,” Hoge said. “Today was going to be the day to do it if you were going to out here because it was soft with little wind, so you felt like you could make birdies and keep trying to make birdies. So just felt fortunate and tried to take advantage of it the best I could.”
After difficult conditions for the first two rounds where the field averaged nearly 73.8 in round two, the passing storm Friday softened up Sawgrass. Players took advantage, dropping the course scoring average more than four shots to under 69.6, the lowest of any round in tournament history.
But no one capitalized like Hoge.
Starting on the back nine, the Texan got things going when his hybrid second shot on the par-5 11th rolled up to 13 feet, leading to a birdie. He then fired a laser off the tee at the drivable par-4 12th, settling just seven feet from the flag, leading to another two-putt birdie.
He made the turn at five under after three more birdies, including at the difficult 18th where he followed Justin Thomas’ eagle hole-out. He then made three more birdies in a row on holes 2-4 before running into trouble on No. 6.
His drive went right, into the pine straw and he had to get up and down from 91 yards to keep his bogey-free run going.
However, it wasn’t until he drilled a 24-foot birdie putt on No. 8 that the course record looked in real jeopardy.
On 9, the longest hole on the course, Hoge laid up after driving it in the fairway and then hit a wedge to 10 feet. His 10th birdie of the day never left the center of the cup.
“I had a lot of putts today that I felt like were pretty straight on the reads,” he said. “Just seems you get a little bit easier putts, a little bit better numbers with some irons so things just kind of work out to get to that point.”
As well as Hoge played, he actually pointed to his round Friday as nearly as good when asked if Saturday’s round was one of his best ever. He said this was not his first course record, but couldn’t remember exactly how many he has to his name. Tough problem to have.
“I shot 61 in a qualifier in college at Southern Oaks just south of Fort Worth,” he recalled. “I remember that one. Might have one up in Canada somewhere around Toronto. Played with some friends up there. But I don’t know. That was long time ago, those North Dakota days.”
Actually the only problem Hoge really had Saturday? He’s not too happy with the player dining at the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He said he prefers to eat sweets for breakfast which have been nowhere to be found this week.
“It’s actually my complaint here this week is the food is too healthy in player dining,” Hoge said to a chorus of laughter in the media center. “There’s a QR code for us; I logged that complaint. They need some food like the rest of the obese people in America eat.”
He settled for some vegetables on Saturday morning, but by the time he finished, after vaulting from T65 to a tie for 8th, just six strokes back, he wanted something more substantial.
“I’m pretty hungry right now,” Hoge said. “I’m ready for a cheeseburger or something.”
He’ll start the final round at 1:05 p.m. with David Lingmerth.
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