Charley Hoffman has been a better player than his record shows over his 16-year PGA Tour career, especially during the first three days of a four-day tournament. He’s usually been the player to set the pace and fade, and his final-round performance through the years has been a burr in Hoffman’s saddle, a demon he longed to exorcise.
Hoffman took a huge step in erasing that reputation on Sunday when he rolled in a 10-foot putt on the final hole to post a 3-under-par 69 in the final round and outlast Patrick Reed for a one-stroke victory at the Valero Texas Open, played under warm and windy conditions on the relentless Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio.
Hoffman finished at 12-under-par 276 and fashioned four birdies and just one bogey on his final round. He bogeyed the par-3 third hole but answered back with a birdie on the par-4 fourth and never blinked down the stretch, forging a 3-under 33 on the back-nine.
Hoffman has now won four times on tour. He led after the second round of the Shell Houston Open just three weeks ago but faded to a tie for 33rd after going 6-over in the last two rounds.
“It’s nice to close a Sunday out because it’s been a rough month and a half,” the 39-year-old Hoffman said. “I had good feelings coming into this week and knew I needed to close the door. I knew I was close coming into the back-nine and I needed to make a few birdies to have a chance coming in along with a couple of par saves.”
With Hoffman up by a single stroke on the 18th fairway, both he and Reed went for the green in two on the 595-yard par-5. Reed’s ball came to rest just right of the putting surface up against the collar of the rough, while Hoffman found the bunker to the back-left of the green.
Reed (who also had a 3-under 69 on Sunday) almost holed his 76-foot chip and settled for birdie that gave him a momentary share of the lead.
Hoffman then blasted out of the bunker to 10 feet and – after looking at the putt from every angle – calmly rolled it in for the winning birdie, punctuating the performance by letting out a yelp and punching the air.
“I said to myself, ‘let’s finish this here, let’s not play anymore,’” Hoffman said. “ I actually didn’t know what the group behind us was doing because I hadn’t seen a scoreboard in a while but I knew if I made birdie I had a good chance to win.”
Reed had a chance to tie Hoffman on the par-3 16th, but missed a nine-foot birdie putt. Then he had a seven-footer for birdie on the par-4 17th hole to pull even again but never even touched any part of the cup with his putt.
“With the way I was hitting the ball on Friday, the way I hit the ball Saturday and missing a lot of short putts today, I’m shocked I even had a chance,” Reed said. “I’m still a loser. I’m tired of finishing in second and Top-5s and Top-10s. I need to close out tournaments and get Ws. I put the pressure on Charley as much as I could and he won the golf tournament. He played pretty solid all day.”
Chad Collins (69) finished alone in third place at 10-under, while Kevin Chappell (68), Ryan Palmer (69), Martin Pillar (70) and third-round leader Ricky Barnes (74) finished tied for fourth.
Brendan Grace of South Africa (67), Harold Varner III (69), Tom Hoge (a fourth-round best 65) and Jon Curran tied for ninth. First- and second-round leader Brendan Steele limped home with a 3-over 75, finishing in a tie for 13th.
Since moving to TPC San Antonio in 2010, Hoffman is now 43-under-par, despite TPC San Antonio’s scoring average being above par every year the tournament has been played here. Hoffman hasn’t finished outside the top-13 since the tournament moved to this venue in 2010.
The 2015-16 season had been a struggle for Hoffman in the final rounds. Coming into play on Sunday, his final-round stroke average of 74.75 was 5.02 shots worse than his first-round average and more than three shots worse than his second- or third-round scoring average.
Among the Tour, Hoffman ranked 200th in final-round scoring average and the score he carded Sunday was the first time he shot better than 73 in his past six final rounds.
“I haven’t been able to take that lead or near the lead and sustain it throughout my career for the most part,” Hoffman explained. “And not doing it hurts. The reason I play this game is to get into contention. I have those feelings. I love the way your body feels when you’re in contention.
“To be able to go through that period in the last month and a half and close the door like I did, it’s a very good, gratifying feeling.”
Top image: Charley Hoffman reacts to his putt on the 18th hole during the final round of the Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio AT&T Oaks Course on April 24, 2016 in San Antonio, Texas. Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images.