Before we move on to the Tour Championship, we need to spend one more post on the BMW Championship. We need to give Morgan Hoffman his due.
Hoffman earned his Tour card after finishing 19th on the 2012 Web.com money list. That gave him a card but not a lot of status and he only got into 20 events. He only made 11 cuts but he made the most of them, earning $871, 000 and a chance to try again in 2014.
And you would have to argue that he made the most that start too. He got into 27 events and made $671,972, but more important, he managed to just eek into The Playoffs. He needed to be 125th in FedExCup points and he finished 124th.
That got him into The Barclays where he needed to finish 100 or better in FedExCup points to advance to the Deutsche Bank. He finished T9 and 72nd in points.
In order to qualify for the BMW Championship he needed to finish 70th in points. He finished T35 in the tournament and 68th in points.
And finally, he needed to finish 30th or better in points to get to the Tour Championship and that’s where this story really begins because going from 68th to 30th was a pipe dream.
It didn’t look very good after the first two rounds. He shot 72, 72 and sat stalled at 4-over. Sergio Garcia had the lead at 8-under. And then something clicked. Or did it…
“It’s funny, after the first two days I didn’t really hit it much better on the weekend than the first two days. Made a couple bigger numbers on Thursday and Friday and obviously, more putts went in on the weekend. So, it was just a lot of fun. Kind of tried to stay positive and go out there with the same swing and try and kill it.”
What he meant by “obviously” is that he went nuts on the weekend and shot 62, 63 to set the low 36-hole score of the 2014 PGA Tour season and secure the 21st spot on the FedExCup points list. Really impressive. Amazing to be sure.
Saturday he had 9 birdies and a bogey. Sunday he pumped the drama up by bogeying the 2nd and, believe it or not, double bogeying the 5th. Fortunately he birdied the intervening holes, so he was only 1-over on the day. No matter, he routinely reeled off 6 birdies through 14 and then made a dramatic eagle-3 on the par-5 17th. A real showman, this guy. And once his exploits started to show up on the broadcast, the whole thing took on an air of inevitability. Could he actually pull this off?
“It wasn’t in my mindset on the course, like, oh, I got to get inside the Top-30. I think I had more of a number kind of goals on certain holes to take me there slowly. The game plan worked out. I’m pretty happy.”
So was he thinking that he had nothing to lose as he played or was he thinking that this could actually happen for him?
“No, absolutely. That’s a perfect way of putting it. Nothing to lose, carefree, and just go out and fire at pins. That’s basically how I was playing and pretty much the whole time during these playoffs.”
Can you imagine the elevated state of consciousness that he achieved that allowed him to just go for broke on every shot on every hole for 216 holes? Not a care in the world or bobble in emotion as he looked for every pin on each green and then blithely went for it.
In fact, he probably didn’t do that on every hole because he made some messes in the first 36; 6 bogeys and 2 double bogeys. But going into each shot with that intention was reinforced with each failure because it allowed corrections and refinements that settled the issue of his certainty that he could do it if he just played freely.
And for his efforts, not only did he earn $788,950 for those first three tournaments, he won a chest bump from his good friend Rickie Fowler and entry into all the big tournaments in 2015:
“I walked out of the scoring tent and Rickie pretty much chest bumped me, and he’s like he knew exactly what’s going on. And it’s going to be really exciting to play in the Majors with him next year. And growing up playing against each other in junior golf, it’s going to be so much fun. And it’s always been a dream of mine to play in the Masters. So can’t wait.”
Since he came from such long shot positions along the way and killed it on those last 36 holes, he has to be named to the Popup Players‘ list: an exceptional performance by an unexpected player.
And at its best, this is what golf is all about: recognizing the possibility in yourself and then calmly realizing it. And then looking back and saying, “Wow. That was pretty good…and so worth what I had to do to achieve it.”