Morgan Hoffmann might be the most interesting guy in golf that you don’t know. He has his pilot’s license, owns a six-seater, one-engine plane that he uses to fly himself to tournaments. He stays at hotels with kitchens, so he can cook his own meals to eat when he’s both on and off the golf course. He was a defenseman in ice hockey for seven years.
“I’m an adrenaline junkie,” said Hoffmann. “Golf, it’s hard to be calm out there but it really helps me focus and it’s a challenge for me. Off the course I like doing a lot of fast action kind of sports and I get my fix off the course. During golf it’s the hardest game I think to play and I love a challenge so it’s fun for me.”
At the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, the first-round leader followed up his six-under 66 with an even more impressive seven-under 65 for a 13-under total at the halfway mark to hold a three-shot lead at the time he finished.
Hoffmann, who held the 18-hole lead for the first time in his career, played like a veteran, trying to build on his lead in the second round. He made a sizzling nine birdies, but added two bogeys to his card. He’s making it look easy.
“I’m trying to birdie every hole out there so it was good,” said the 25-year-old Hoffmann. “You know, just hitting great putts and good shots into the greens really helps. It’s nice to hit some greens for a change. This year hasn’t been that great and it’s a good change.”
On top of everything else, prior to his round on Thursday, he learned from his family that his 97-year-old grandmother had passed away.
“Mentally I’m in kind of a weird state right now,” said Hoffmann after his round on Thursday. “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 and so I just went out there and had a good mentality today.”
Hoffman hasn’t had the best season so far. In nine starts, he’s missed four cuts and posted a couple middle-of-the-pack finishes. His best week so far came a few weeks ago at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, where he placed T17 in the limited field, no-cut event.
After missing the cut at the Valspar Championship last week, Hoffmann flew back to Jupiter, Florida, where he resides now, and spent 12 hours each day over the weekend grinding on the driving range. He said that he just tried to hit a bunch of cut shots — which is a bit of a challenge for him because his natural ball flight is a draw.
“I have to make a very conscious effort on every swing to stick to this cut routine because it’s a little different for me but it feels great when I trust it and I hit a few shots that were pretty bad but I recovered well and, you know, if I stick to the one feeling that I have it should work out,” said Hoffmann.
Hoffmann, who played many junior golf events at Bay Hill, feels comfortable at the course and doesn’t mind taking the aggressive play, which is obviously paying off.
“I’ve been playing here since I was a kid, AJGA, Golf Academy for Gary Gilchrist,” explained Hoffmann. “We always had matches against each other and play a lot of aggressive shots.
“I’m pretty comfortable hitting a bunch of shots into the greens and going at kind of tucked pins because I kind of seen it before which it’s really nice.”
As the saying goes, when it’s your week, it’s your week. Hoffmann encountered some trouble on no. 12 when his drive hit the cart path and careened into the trees on the right side. He didn’t have much of a shot, but he punched out, aiming for the front bunker. From there, he had a pretty straightforward bunker shot and hit it pretty close to make a birdie.
“There was no shot to the green from those trees — that was kind of a fun hole, nice to hit some shots under trees and out of some rough sometimes,” said Hoffmann. “No, it’s good. It was definitely a good save for birdie.”
Hoffmann is looking forward to the pressure he’ll surely face while leading Arnie’s tourney headed into the weekend.
“It’s a course I’m comfortable on really helps and playing well on top of that is really great,” he said. “My caddy and I are having fun out there. We have a nice confidence and flow going so hopefully can carry it through the weekend.”