If Augusta National gave out green jackets after the first round, Charley Hoffman’s closet would contain its share. From 2015 through 2019, Hoffman’s opening-round scoring average in the Masters was 69.5 and he was a combined 17-under – the best score to par in the tournament during that span, by three strokes over Jordan Spieth, seven over Phil Mickelson and 11 over Justin Rose (via stats guru Justin Ray of 15th Club).
Hoffman’s best performance during that run took place in 2017, when he carved a brilliant 65 in breezy conditions to stake the largest first-day lead – four strokes – since 1941.
But the hot starts were only that. Though he had the lead in the third round and trailed by just two after 54 holes in 2017, Hoffman imploded with a 78 on the final day to finish T-22. A green jacket, no, but it is one of six career top-30 finishes.
You can’t win the Masters, though, if you don’t play, which brings us to this week.
At 111th in the Official World Golf Ranking and winless this season, Hoffman is currently without an invite to this year’s tournament. That means the only way for him to get into the field next week at Augusta National is to win this week at the TPC San Antonio.
Fortunately, Hoffman is in the right place.
In 14 career starts at the Valero Texas Open, Hoffman has never missed the cut while racking up more than $US3.7 million in the event. More impressive is that he has 11 finishes of T-13 or better, which includes a victory in 2016 when he birdied the final hole of regulation to edge Patrick Reed by a stroke.
This year, Hoffman has been up and down. Since withdrawing in back-to-back starts at the American Express tournament and Farmers Insurance Open because of a back injury, then missing the cut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, the four-time tour winner has finished in the top 20 in three of his past five starts.
As for the Valero, the last time it was played was in 2019 after last year’s edition was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The runner-up that year? Hoffman, of course.