ATLANTA (Reuters) - Little-known American Morgan Hoffmann is still pinching himself over a “dream come true”, having qualified for this week’s Tour Championship finale at East Lake Golf Club in stunningly unique fashion.
In just his second season on the PGA Tour, Hoffmann became the first player ever to book his place in the elite field of 30 for the fourth and final FedExCup playoff event after being outside the ‘cutline’ in the previous three.
The 25-year-old appeared to have virtually no chance of advancing after opening with successive scores of two-over-par 72 at last week’s BMW Championship but soared up the leaderboard into third place after shooting 62 and 63 over the weekend.
“It’s a dream come true,” Hoffman told reporters at East Lake on Tuesday while preparing for Thursday’s opening round at the season-ending event. “From the beginning of the season, it was my major goal, to get to the finals in Atlanta.
“It’s a true honor to be here, and especially coming from 124th (in the FedExCup standings), just sneaking in the playoffs. I’ve put a lot of hard work in it this year. It’s finally paid off.”
Hoffman squeezed into the playoff opener, The Barclays, ranked 124th among the 125 players who qualified and advanced from the next two events, the Deutsche Bank Championship and the BMW, after starting each of them outside the FedExCup cut line.
“Coming into (last) week, I know I had to finish either first or second, maybe third,” he said of the challenge that had faced him at Cherry Hills outside Denver.
“The first two days I played great, and I just had a couple of weird shots and some unlucky things happened. Shooting two over, two over obviously isn’t the best play, but I had a positive attitude going into the weekend.
“I knew if I swung the same as I did the first couple of days and just dropped a couple of putts, then good things can happen. And I just kind of rode the train.”
Hoffmann, who has yet to win on the PGA Tour, said his improved “positive” attitude dated back to the Aug. 14-17 Wyndham Championship, the final event of the regular season, where he missed the cut.
“The last 10 weeks of the regular season I had a lot of pressure on myself,” said the New Jersey native. “I knew I was playing great golf and it just wasn’t clicking. I wasn’t making the putts I needed to, wasn’t hitting the shots I needed to.
“It was really frustrating so, after missing the cut at Wyndham, it was kind of an end-all, be-all, absolute epiphany, a kind of sit down and beat myself up’,” said Hoffmann, who has recorded two top-10s in 31 starts on the 2013-14 PGA Tour.
“I looked at every part of my life ... and it really transformed where I went from there. That weekend of Wyndham, I worked really hard. I wrote down a lot of things and kind of changed my lifestyle coming into the playoffs.”
A great deal still would need to go Hoffmann’s way if he is to end his dream playoff run this week by clinching overall FedExCup honors and the mind-boggling bonus of $10 million.
Sitting 21st in the FedExCup standings, he would have to win the Tour Championship on Sunday and hope that players ranked above him perform poorly at East Lake.
Editing by Frank Pingue