Grandma dies, then Hoffman takes lead
ORLANDO, Fla. — Morgan Hoffmann's day began with news that his 97-year-old grandmother died Thursday morning. It ended with his first lead on the PGA Tour.
Hoffman began his round with a 35-foot birdie putt on No. 10 and finished it with a 9-iron that touched the hole before stopping inches away for birdie. He also holed a bunker shot for eagle on the par-5 sixth, leading to a 6-under 66 and a one-shot lead in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
It all was a lot to chew on for the 25-year-old Hoffmann, who cooks his own meals to eat on the golf course (bison steak was for lunch Thursday).
"Mentally, I'm in kind of a weird state right now," he said. "My grandma passed away this morning, so I'm just pretty chilled out there and loving life right now. Just wish my family the best at home. My whole family texted me and said, 'Nanny is playing golf with pop up there,' which was pretty cool."
Hoffmann hopes to attend a memorial service for Dorothy Lionetti in Ft. Lauderdale on Saturday night. It should be a short trip considering Hoffmann pilots his own plane that he recently bought from his buddy David Booth, who plays left wing for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
He was inspired to be a pilot after meeting with the tournament host during the Palmer Cup in 2009.
Hoffman, clearly, is not the garden variety PGA Tour player.
"I have a lot of stuff you guys didn't ask," he said with a perfect smile.
Not to be forgotten was his golf. He had a one-shot lead over five players, including Ian Poulter and Kevin Na. The group at 68 included Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson and Brandt Snedeker.
Poulter, who made an eagle from just off the 16th green, had his own distraction. His 3-year-old son was taken to the hospital Wednesday night with a low oxygen level and pneumonia. It was a long night, with a bit of a scare, but Joshua was doing better Thursday morning.
"I suppose it was a blessing, last tee time off," said Poulter, who was in the afternoon group of starters.
Hoffmann also is headed to Augusta National for the first time, courtesy of making the Tour Championship last year on the strength of a pair of top 10s in the FedEx Cup playoffs. He just hasn't followed up on his finish at the start of this season, with no top 10s in nine tournaments.
But after missing the cut at Innisbrook, he spent 12 hours at home in south Florida hitting balls and trying to hit cut shots to stop the aggravating two-way miss. The work appears to be paying off. He missed only two fairways and four greens, none by a great length.
Twelve hours on the range can be exhausting, and when asked if he had at least stopped for lunch, Hoffmann shared his culinary preferences.
He cooks the night before and packs six small meals to eat during the day. The only thing missing is the cutlery, even for a bison steak. "Barehanded it," he said. He limits his carbohydrates to brown rice and sweet potatoes, along with some vegetables. On the road, he picks hotels with a small kitchen.
"I just figure it's better than eating candy bars or protein bars," he said. "I have real food out there."
JTBC FOUNDERS: At Phoenix, top-ranked Lydia Ko shot a 6-under 66 for a share of the lead in the suspended first round of the JTBC Founders Cup.
The 17-year-old Ko rebounded from a three-putt bogey on the seventh hole with a 12-foot birdie putt on the eighth and finished with a par to join Tiffany Joh, Sophia Popov and Kim Kaufman atop the leaderboard at Desert Ridge.
The start was delayed four hours because of rain and wet conditions on the Wildfire layout.
WEB.COM CHILE: At Santiago, Chile, California rookie Tain Lee fired an 8-under 63 to take the first-round lead at the Chile Classic. Lee, 24, was in the first group off the first tee and took advantage of the benign conditions at the Club de Golf Mapocho, the only public course in the country.
Lee kept it simple, hitting plenty of fairways and greens en route to his career-low round. He opened with birdies on the first three holes and added another at the fifth hole before his first stumble on the following hole resulted in his lone bogey of the day.
Ashland's Jason Allred was 3 over par. He started on the back nine, made the turn at 1 under, then bogeyed four holes on his second nine.