PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Standing on the 18th tee, Morgan Hoffmann couldn't have hoped for much more in his first competitive round at the U.S. Open. Through 10 holes, the 20-year-old Oklahoma State All-American and U.S. Walker Cupper was two under par, garnering a fair amount of TV time as he at one point held a share of the lead. Bogeys on the 11th and 17th holes dropped him back to even par, but the amateur from Wyckoff, N.J., still looked poised to post a decent number on a day where scoring was anything but easy.
And then the par-5 18th bit him.
After hitting a driver into the fairway, Hoffmann tried to hit a low cut 3-iron around one of the two cypress trees along the right of the fairway. The ball shot higher off his club than he anticipated and hit the tree deflecting left into the Pacific Ocean.
"I never saw it," Hoffmann said of the shot. "I had no idea where it went and then was told it was in the water."
Playing his fourth shot, Hoffmann had 156 yards to the hole but wound up overcooking a 7-iron, pulling it into the water left of the green as well.
Things didn't get much better after that. His sixth shot plugged into the bunker right of the green and he couldn't get the ball out with his seventh shot. His eighth finally landed on the green and when he holed the 10-footer for a 9, he couldn't help but grin at the irony.
"I was just happy to finally get the ball in the hole," said Hoffmann, whose final score turned out to be a four-over 75.
"It's a shame because he was having a great round, one that could really do a lot for his confidence," said Gary Gilchrist, Hoffmann's swing coach.
To his credit, after signing his scorecard, Hoffmann remained as calm as if he had shot a 70. He insisted he wasn't going to let the poor play on the home hole overshadow what otherwise had been a fantastic day.
The funny thing, Hoffmann said afterward was that "18 is my favorite hole on the course. I was looking forward to it all day. To play it like that is disappointing."
-- Ryan Herrington