By Art Stricklin
ATLANTA, Ga. – Former Oklahoma State All-American Morgan Hoffmann completed a dream ending to his best-ever season on the PGA Tour, reaching heights he had never scaled before, setting PGA Tour history, and setting himself up for a better 2015.
Hoffmann, whose best ever finish on the Tour was a top five in last year’s Byron Nelson Championship, barely qualified for the Tour this year by finishing 117th in 2013. But he caught fire in historic fashion by becoming the first player to ever begin each of the four FedEx Cup events out of the running and qualify for the following week all the way to last week’s Tour Championship.
Mentally and physically tired from five straight weeks of grinding, Hoffmann failed to break 70 in any of his four rounds in the season-ending event here, but still felt his year, most importantly his career, had found a winning formula.
"I just tried to say aggressive. It was nice to go back to kind of the college mentality of playing with Peter Uihlein and Rickie Fowler and Kevin Tway, just messing around at Karsten Creek and going pretty much for everything.
"It was kind of just trying to play like it’s my home course every week. I haven’t known the course at each stop we’re at, but we’re just trying to go out there and have some fun," he said at historic Eastlake Golf Club in Atlanta.
That approach allowed him to finish 26th on the 2014 FedEx Cup points standings, earn $1.595 million dollars this year and most important qualify for the 2015 Masters Tournament for the first time in his career and a host of other invitational events for next year.
"This whole FedEx Cup series has been a bonus to me," he said. "It’s a dream come true. From the beginning of the season, this is my major goal, to get to the finals in Atlanta. And it’s a true honor to be here. And especially coming from 124, just sneaking in the Playoffs. I put a lot of hard work in it this year. It’s finally paid off."
Hoffmann turned pro in 2011 and played some Web.com events in 2012 before playing a limited PGA Tour schedule in 2013, barely earning his card for ’14. He looked in danger of losing his playing rights at the Tour’s highest level next year, especially after missing the cut in the final regular season event, Wyndham Championship.
But thanks to player movement and drops ahead of him, he squeezed into the FedEx Cup playoffs and gained his playing card for next year by one spot and 10 FedEx Cup points.
"After that tournament, I sat down and had a long talk with myself. Sometimes I can be really hard on myself and I just decided what I need to do, how I needed to do it and what it was going to take."
Once the four-week playoff run start, Hoffmann showcased the fire and success he had displayed during his OSU tenure.
He finished tied for 9th at The Barclays near his high school home course in Ridgewood, New Jersey that lifted him into the top 100 for the following week. Hoffmann followed that with a T33 at the Deutsche Bank event in Boston which put him in the top 60 for week three were he followed with a T3 in the BMW tournament at Cherry Hills in Denver who put into the Tour Championship.
With his T27 finish in the Tour Championship, he finished with a total of $923,950 for the four-week run along with the chance to play in events for next year he had only watched on TV in the past. His spot as 98th in the Official World Golf Rankings was the highest of his brief career.
"It’s basically just carefree, free wheeling it. Going out and trying to not have any expectations and, as I said earlier, going back to kind of college play, where there’s no scoreboards out there, just going out, having fun, and going out pretty much every flag and just trying to do the best I can every shot."
To celebrate his historic run, Hoffmann will take some time off, for the first time since early August, spend some time with his family and friends in New Jersey and maybe even mix in some time at OSU for a Cowboys football game.
But he enters the 2015 PGA Tour season able to set his own schedule, continue to seek out the long list of OSU PGA Tour winners and rise in pro golf’s highest levels.
"It’s been fun and hopefully I can learn from it and keep it the rest of the next year. Make some putts and keep riding the train."