Going into last year’s Valero Texas Open, Charley Hoffman had fallen into a frustrating habit. He kept starting off hot to get into contention, and then losing his game on Sunday, as illustrated below:
Five Starts Before The Valero
1. WGC-Cadillac: Round 1- 68, Round 4- 75 (+7)
2. Valspar Championship: Round 1- 69, Round 4- 75 (+6)
3. Shell Houston Open: Round 1- 64, Round 4- 76 (+12)
4. The Masters: Round 1- 71, Round 4- 74 (+3)
5. RBC Heritage: Round 1- 68, Round 4- 65 (-3)
It was a disturbing trend that he reversed at the Valero, when he started with a 66, and did what he needed to in round 4 with a three-under 69. Unfortunately, in the lead-up to this year’s Valero, Hoffman has fallen back into that deleterious pattern.
Last month at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Hoffman got off to a fantastic start, with five birdies to just one bogey for a four-under 68. In his final round, however, Hoffman bogeyed 5, 7, 8, and 9 on the front nine, which lead to a round 4 73. He lost to Marc Leishman by a single stroke.
Then at The Masters, Hoffman looked like he was playing a different course than everyone else, dominating Augusta to the tune of a seven-under 65 and a four shot lead, on a day where only two other players were under par.
He followed it up with a poor round 2 (75), and an average round 3 (72), but off the strength of that incredible round 1, was still in contention. Sunday ended up being his worst round of the tournament, as he ended up shooting a six-over 78 and dropping to T22 for the week.
Hoffman has shot par or worse in each of his five rounds since that unbelievable round one at The Masters, playing the rest of that week +9, and then missing the cut at last week’s RBC Heritage after opening with a pair of two-over 73s.
Being the defending champion in San Antonio should give him confidence, but if he is going to go back-to-back, he will need to putt much better than he has this year. During the current season, Hoffman ranks 156th in strokes gained putting, a considerable drop from 105th last year, 90th in 2015, and 45th in 2014.