Put the words Long Blonde Hair, California native, and Sand together in a sentence and you’re first thought would be beach bum. But Charlie Hoffman was anything but a bum on Monday at the Deutsche Bank Championship in TPC-Boston. Starting the day 4 back of leader Jason Day, Hoffman carded an amazing 62 in the final round to finish 22-under and win by 5 shots over Geoff Ogilvy, Luke Donald, and Day.
Poor guy. Only had 5 pars the whole round. Mostly because he had 11 birdies and two bogies! And I think I may have to look into this Celtic Green thing. He had green glasses, green on his hat, green pants, green shoes. And it paid off because he had spectacular luck. A couple of his shots were headed for the bunker but somehow miraculously cleared the hazard and invariably left him with a relatively straight putt for birdie. Does just wearing green bring the luck of the Irish?
But then again, maybe getting into the bunker wouldn’t have been such a bad thing. Hoffman saved his neck multiple times from the sand. I thought the best shot of the day was his bunker shot on the 13th, a 450+ par 4. Faced with an awkward uphill stance and the ball below his feet Hoffman blasted his shot – and about a yard of sand – out of the bunker, then watched his ball head straight for the hole. That birdie – which just as easily could have been a bogey – was the turning point in the round.
What I liked about Hoffman’s bunker play was the way he got his weight to the left side and then got into an athletically balanced stance. Very solid with the lower body. That allowed him to make a good, aggressive swing. Then throughout the swing, and especially the downswing, he never let his left leg straighten. His left leg stayed flexed and athletic throughout the entire swing. That’s a key mistake many weekend warriors make. When they straighten their left leg on the downswing they either hit the ball thin, or their center of mass moves backward, shifting their weight to the right, and they hit it fat and leave it in the trap. Keeping his weight on the left side throughout the downswing allowed Hoffman to release the club, which generated more club head speed and put more spin on the ball, allowing him to stop it on those fast greens.
It turns out he’s spent a lot of time recently improving his bunker play. So much so that earlier this year he was out for 5 weeks with a wrist injury due to so much practice in the sand. Well, it certainly paid off for him. His stellar bunker play was the margin of victory at the Deutsche Bank Championship.
One other thing I liked about Hoffman’s game: his 3/4 backswing. He keeps everything nice and short, and his swing is very connected. Not a lot of extra moving parts, which means fewer things to break down and less dependency on timing.
The long hair? He says he let it grow long to be different, to stand out. Shooting 62 in the final round of a major tournament is a great way to stand out, and maybe give him a shot at the Ryder Cup team. Still, I think I’ll go spend a little time in the bunker on my athletic stance and keeping my left leg from straightening. See if I can’t bring a little luck my way.