Golf

Masters contender Charley Hoffman ready to end trend of bad Saturdays

Charley Hoffman, left, and Brian Harman relax at the 17th tee box during second-round action of the Masters on Friday, April 10, 2015 in Augusta, Ga.
Charley Hoffman, left, and Brian Harman relax at the 17th tee box during second-round action of the Masters on Friday, April 10, 2015 in Augusta, Ga. TNS

Charley Hoffman is playing in only his second Masters, and will be in the final pairing Saturday with 36-hole leader Jordan Spieth. Even though Hoffman is trailing by five shots, he has no intention of altering his style or his strategy.

“I’m not going to be able to catch him in two holes,” Hoffman said. “So I’ve got to keep doing what I’m doing — hitting fairways and giving myself opportunities for birdie. … Jordan’s playing great golf, so sometimes you get in the lead and you sort of maybe change your game plan a little bit. I just sort of kept my game plan and kept trying to make birdies. I was able to do a pretty good job of that.”

Hoffman, a seemingly laid-back Californian, came into the Masters after 11th-place finishes in his last two events on the PGA Tour, but said stumbles on both Saturdays at those tournaments cost him a chance for a better result.

“I can’t say why I played bad on Saturday the last couple of weeks,” he said. “I felt comfortable but got off to a couple of bad starts, bad breaks. But I don’t see that coming tomorrow at all, and hopefully it doesn’t.”

TIGER OPTIMISTIC AFTER 69

Tiger Woods, as always, insisted he still has a chance to contend on Sunday, even if he is 12 shots off the lead despite an encouraging round of 69 on Friday.

“There’s not a lot of guys ahead of me,” said Woods, tied for 18th at 2-under 142. “And with 36 holes to go, anything can happen, you know. So we have a long way to go. So many holes to play and so many different things can happen. And we don’t know what the conditions are going to be tomorrow.”

Woods does know that all the hard work on his short game during his recent two-month hiatus from the game seems to have paid off. He’s chipping this week like the Tiger of old, and his putting has improved, as well.

“I’m very proud of what I’ve done, to be able to dig it out the way I have,” he said. “I was at a pretty low one in my career, but to basically change an entire pattern and put it together and put it in position where I can compete in a major championship like this is something I’m very proud of.”

CRENSHAW’S EMOTIONAL EXIT

Ben Crenshaw received a rousing reception wherever he went Friday during his final round in the Masters. A two-time champion, he announced before the tournament that he would not long play in the event, ending a 44-year run at Augusta National.

His reception at the 18th green was particularly moving. His long-time Masters caddie and great friend, Carl Jackson, was unable to carry his bag this week because of a broken rib, replaced by his brother Bud Jackson. But Carl Jackson was at the 18th green dressed in club caddie garb flanked by Augusta National chairman Billy Payne and vice chairman Joe Ford. And when Crenshaw tapped in for a bogey on his final-round 85, Jackson walked out on the putting surface, and he and Crenshaw had a long embrace.

Crenshaw’s teary-eyed wife Julie and his three daughters were there, as well, along with many other friends and relatives and players such as defending champion Bubba Watson and two-time major champion Nick Price.

“I can’t believe I’ve been here 44 years,” Crenshaw said. “It’s been a great part of my life. It’s been fun to be part of.”

WATSON FALLS SHORT

Tom Watson, now 65, shot 71 in the first round and became the oldest player to post a sub-par round in the Masters. Sadly, he followed that up with an 81 on Friday and missed the cut for the fifth straight year after finishing 18th in 2010 at age 60.

“Shooting under par and having a chance to make the cut, that was the height,” he said afterward. “The low was today with the way I played. I just didn’t perform. Who knows. It’s like a thermos. Some days it’s hot. Some days it cold.”

Best quote of the tournament so far had to come from Arnold Palmer, talking about his penurious friend and longtime foe Gary Player.

“He’s got deep pockets and short arms and never bought me a lunch,” Player told Palmer.

Responded Player: “You wouldn’t give the ducks a drink if you owned Lake Okeechobee.”

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