Hoge winds up in unexpected spotlight

By Chip Alexander
Published on
Hoge winds up in unexpected spotlight

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The Tiger Woods press conference was about to end Friday at the Wyndham Championship when he was asked if he would recognize Tom Hoge.

Woods smiled. "No, I wouldn't. What is it?"

Woods was told it was a "who," not a "what." Hoge, a PGA Tour rookie and Statesville native, was the one who shared the second-round lead with Woods at 11-under 129, one shot ahead of Davis Love III and Chad Campbell.

That Tom Hoge.

Not that Woods, who had a 5-under par 65 on Friday, seemed surprised, embarrassed or apologetic about it.

"Don't know him, never seen him, don't know anything about him," Woods said, smiling again. "There are so many guys out here I don't know. I've been hurt. I haven't played that much."

Or won. Not in the past two years. Woods' last victory was in the 2013 WGC Bridgestone Invitational, the last time the world's former No. 1 player led a PGA Tour tournament after 36 holes.

Hoge, 26, has two top-10 finishes this season, has won more than $667,000 and is 133rd in the FedEx Cup standings. That's 54 spots ahead of Woods, who needs a victory or solo second-place in the Wyndham to finish in the top 125 in FedEx Cup points and qualify for the four-event playoffs that begin next week.

When Woods shot a 64 Thursday in his first Wyndham round, thousands marched with him, urging him on at Sedgefield. Hoge teed off late in the day, played before a handful of fans and earned a share of the first-round lead with an 8-under 62.

Hoge was an early starter Friday but again played in the shadows, while shooting 67. Former Wyndham champion Brandt Snedeker provided the early buzz, carding nine birdies and rolling in a 52-foot putt on his final hole for a 9-under 61. That score tied the course record and got Snedeker within two shots of the lead.

Then there was Love, who had a 66. The former North Carolina All-America, who will captain the U.S. Ryder Cup team in 2016, has twice won the tournament -- both at Forest Oaks Country Club outside Greensboro. Like Woods, he needs a victory to reach the FedEx Cup playoffs.

That subject came up Tuesday when they were side-by-side on the practice range.

"That's what Tiger and I talked about, that we have to win," Love said Friday.

Playing with confidence, often using a 2-iron off the tees, Woods had an eagle at the par-5 15th and five birdies, offsetting a pair of bogeys.

Campbell had a 65 Friday when sunny conditions and a light breeze caused the Sedgefield greens to dry and regain their speed and bite.

Hoge, who played college golf at Texas Christian, began his round at the 10th hole and bogeyed at the 12th and 14th holes. But he had five birdies the rest of the way, and just like that he was in the lead.

"Obviously a new position for me," Hoge said. "I'm just trying to put four good rounds together this week and see where it puts me."

Snedeker won the Wyndham in 2007, the last time the tournament was played at Forest Oaks before the move to Sedgefield. He also has Wyndham as a primary sponsor, adding more pressure to perform well this week.

Snedeker was not pleased with a 70 in the opening round and was seen on the putting green in the gloaming.

"Just a little hitch in my stroke," he said. "But I made a lot of putts and got myself back in the tournament."

Snedeker moved up 98 spots on the leaderboard, hitting 16 greens in regulation and needing 25 putts after 30 in the opening round.

The 36-hole cut, set at 3-under 137, claimed a few casualties. Smithfield's Neal Lancaster was the hottest player on the course early Friday after birdies on six of his first eight holes, but a run of late bogeys led to a 68 Friday and 140 finish.

Also missing the cut were Raleigh's Chesson Hadley (70-139), former Green Hope High standout Brendon Todd (72-141), Charlotte resident Johnson Wagner (70-138) and Billy Horschel (70-138), last year's FedEx Cup champion.

Snedeker tied for fifth in the Wyndham a year ago and was fifth at Sedgefield in 2008. Why so good?

"It's just Greensboro," he said. "I love the golf course. We've always have a good time, a relaxing time. It bleeds over into the golf."

It has for Woods this week. And that man Hoge.

This article was written by Chip Alexander from The News & Observer and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.