In a matter of moments, the scope of an entire golf tournament can flip, and Sunday at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am was a prime example.
The most clinical version of Jordan Spieth was on full display all weekend long, as he ball-striked his way around the iconic cliffside design. Through 70 holes, he held a one-shot lead over Tom Hoge, a 32-year-old pro who has never won in 200-plus starts on the PGA Tour. With one swing from Spieth and one swing from Hoge, mere minutes apart, the Pro-Am was upended from Spieth’s 13th-career Tour win to Hoge’s first.
Spieth “flushed” his approach into the par-3 17th, coming up one yard short of clearing the bunker — according to broadcaster Colt Knost — leaving a tricky up and down. Hoge, one shot and one hole back, nearly holed his approach into the 16th, leaving a tap-in for the tie. Spieth missed his par putt on 17. Nine minutes later Hoge made his birdie putt on 17.
Around the time Hoge’s putt dropped, Spieth found his ball under the famous fairway tree on 18, crunched his hybrid into the ground and sent his ball skidding into the fairway bunker. He was two down and out of options. The tournament Spieth looked to have stolen from the field was stolen right back from him, really in just a swing or two.
“Just picked the wrong shape of shot on 17,” Nick Faldo said on the broadcast. “Hit it center on the wind, it could be a different story.”
It was easy for Faldo to doubt Spieth, especially in the hindsight. But it also is hard to poke a hole through Faldo’s analysis. Faldo, it seems, wanted a fade from Spieth. Spieth elected for a tight draw with an 8-iron and came up agonizingly short.
“I felt like I hit a lot of shots exactly where I wanted to and it just — couple yards here or there, couple inches here or there on the greens,” Spieth said on the broadcast after. “I don’t think I need to change anything, just keep doing what I’m doing, and a lot of times those will lip in.”
Hoge, on the other hand, played crisp, clean, near-perfect golf on the way in. A smooth 5-wood off the 18th tee. A smart layup into the fairway. An 8-iron that bounced at the flag and two putts to more or less clinch his long-awaited first title. When Beau Hossler’s final approach flared into a bunker, it was all but over.
“It feels pretty good. Almost a little bit in shock,” Hoge said. “It’s been so long since I’ve won anything, I almost forgot to celebrate there on 18.”
Hoge had made 202 starts on the PGA Tour, and finally a victory. With it comes his first invitation to the Masters at Augusta National. It was a long time coming, and he was reminded about that afterward.
“I’ve always kinda got myself in position and then just felt a little uncomfortable on Sundays out there,” Hoge said. “Finally today I felt great the whole day. Felt real calm kinda standing over those putts you need to make down the stretch. It’s awesome. You work through so many hard times, but to be here and finally pull one off feels incredible.”
Seconds later he hoisted the trophy for the first time. There was a lot more of that coming for him Sunday night.