Morning Read’s Bob Harig revisits the question he asked Tiger Woods about being paired with a little-known PGA Tour rookie at the Wyndham Championship.
The question, admittedly, was unfair. Not only to Tiger Woods, but in retrospect, to Tom Hoge, too. In fact, it was prefaced with that very disclaimer. “Do you know Tom Hoge?’’
Hoge, who won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on Sunday, was clearly unknown at the time. The year was 2015 and Hoge, now 32, was a rookie on the PGA Tour without much success.
To think that Woods might know who he is seemed somewhat ridiculous. Why would he? There are dozens of new players on the PGA Tour each year, and Woods — who was playing a very limited amount — certainly could not be expected to know them all.
But I asked him anyway.
Yep, that’s me in a little video clip that the PGA Tour and others sent out from the 2015 Wyndham Championship. Woods was a surprise late entrant in a year in which he had missed the cut in three consecutive major championships. He was making a last-ditch effort to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs.
And then he shot a second-round 65 at Sedgefield Country Club to tie for the 36-hole lead with . . . Tom Hoge.
Hoge, then 26, had all of two career top-10s to that point and had never led following any round. A big weekend lay ahead for him, as he was 131st in FedEx Cup points and in need of a high finish to make the playoffs.
Woods, playing for just the 11th time in 2015 after myriad issues, was, well, still Woods. Greensboro, North Carolina came alive with his presence in the tournament and he responded by playing some of his best golf of a frustrating year.
Hoge was just minding his business, playing well, earning a final-group pairing for the first time. And it happened to be with Woods.
“Tiger, this is probably unfair but have you ever heard of Tom Hoge? Do you know who he is? Would you recognize him.’’
Tiger: “No, I wouldn’t. What is it, or him? Or What? I don’t know.’’
This was greeted by a good bit of laugher and a big smile from Woods.
“The guy you’re tied with?’’
“No, I don’t know. Never met him, never seen him. Don’t know anything about him.’’
At the time, Hoge had played just 79 rounds on the PGA Tour. Woods had 79 victories. And it in no way was meant to disparage Hoge, who just happened to be the unknown player who was going to be paired with the most famous one in the world.
By that point in his career, Woods began to slowly embrace the idea that players a good bit younger than him might be somewhat flummoxed by getting paired with him.
During his comeback from spinal fusion surgery in 2018, Woods saw this on numerous occasions, and typically embraced it, spending a good bit of time after rounds not only signing autographs for those whom he just played with, but also posing for photos, meeting family members.
“There are so many guys out here I don’t know,’’ Woods said that day in 2015. “I’ve been hurt, I haven’t played that much and then you’re playing smaller events, a lot of guys from the Web.com (now Korn Ferry Tour) are in the events. You go up and down the range, they’re all early 20s and you just…it’s just funny because I look on a Champions Tour leaderboard and I know every one of those guys because I played against them and I played with them.
“Now I come out here, I don’t really know a lot of people.’’
Woods would get to know Hoge a bit during that third round, although Hoge fell out of contention with a 72, describing the day as “a blast’’ and “that it was crazy and great and just gives me the drive to work harder and get better.’’ He ended up tying for 38th, missing out on the FedEx Cup playoffs. Woods eventually finished tied for 10th, his best of the year and one that was believed to be the start of a comeback from his first back surgery.
Instead, he missed most of the next two years.
Hoge, meanwhile, kept persevering. His career was filled with twists and turns. A native of Fargo, North Dakota, he won his state open (The Bobcat North Dakota Open, in 2017, was an event that did not offer World Ranking points). He also won a Canadian Tour event. That was in 2011
But along the way, he picked up more experience, got to play with Woods again, and kept learning.
“Being in the hunt, I played a couple of times with Tiger on Sundays, and you really can’t practice for those moments,’’ Hogan said after his Pebble Beach win; he was also in contention two weeks ago at the American Express and is playing this week at the WM Phoenix Open. “The energy, the excitement that you have in your body.
“For me the takeaway is always kind of hard to quiet my mind, quiet my hands, that sort of stuff with putting. Every day’s a little bit different, but when you’re getting in that situation once or twice a year it’s hard to play your best golf on those Sundays.
“So I felt like for me to get a win and to be sitting here, finally, I needed to do it more often and get up there in the mix a little bit more often, which it’s hard to say, but I’ve been doing that pretty well here now this whole season so far, going back to last fall. Just being there a couple of weeks ago in Palm Springs I had a little bit of those same nerves, excitement, that energy off the start and I calmed down pretty fast and I felt pretty good the whole day.’’
In the process, not only did Hoge beat Jordan Spieth, but Patrick Cantlay, too. He got his first PGA Tour victory, two-plus year exemption, and an invitation to his first Masters.
Tiger learned about Hoge long ago. Now many others know him as well.