HONOLULU (AP) — Tom Hoge felt it was an easy decision to take a 5,000-mile detour between Maui and Honolulu so he could watch his alma mater, TCU, play for the national championship in football against Georgia. That didn’t end well for him or the Horned Frogs.
Another easy decision for him was booking the flight.
He left Maui after a tie for third in the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua that paid him $840,000. And he still flew coach.
“I always fly coach. That’s normal for me,” said Hoge, who said he had seat 25A on the way back to Hawaii.
At least it was an exit row.
Hoge, a native of North Dakota, has never felt much reason to splurge on anything, except maybe the occasional craps table. And he’s easing up on that at the urging of his wife, Kelly, whom he jokingly refers to as the “warden” when it comes to his craps habit.
“I always get an exit row and I get upgraded half the time,” Hoge said. “I try to hang onto some of this money we make, right?”
It’s not all about the money. Hoge turned down an offer last year to join Saudi-backed LIV Golf, an offer that Fire Pit Collective put at eight figures.
He won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am last year for his first PGA Tour victory. He’s not into the Player Impact Program, and he would just as soon play golf courses he likes than only those with a $20 million purse attached.
Hoge, who finished 10th at his first Tour Championship, made just over $5.3 million last year with his FedEx Cup bonus. His actual career earnings are $13.2 million.
He is in his ninth year on the PGA Tour, and he has made the FedEx Cup postseason four of the previous eight years. Only once did Hoge fail to get his card back through the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, and that year he got into enough events to make it work.
“I’ve always taken the approach whenever my career comes to an end — for me, it’s always been trying to get that next year, and the next year — that whenever I’m done, whatever I want to do next is not based on money. I’ll have freedom to make a decision.”
That might not be anytime soon.
Hoge already has three top 10s this year, including Kapalua, and is No. 16 in the FedEx Cup. He is a career-high No. 30 in the world ranking, and he will be headed back to the Masters in April.
There was one time he got a little crazy with his money.
“It’s been a while,” Hoge said. “I bought a fancy car when I was a little younger. I was lucky because I hadn’t made much money in my career at that point. I realized it didn’t do a lot for me.”
The tour has a relationship with BMW, so he bought an X5 M. This was after a 2018 season in which he crossed the $1 million mark for the first time.
“I still have it,” he said. “It gets the job done.”
As for his love of craps, that remains a work in progress.
“I’m trying to get rid of that one,” he said. “That doesn’t pay the bills.”
STARS SIT OUT
The LPGA Tour opens a new season in Florida with the Tournament of Champions. Now if it can just find the champions.
The field at Lake Nona features only three of the top 10 in the women’s world ranking, which could be a product of a stop-and-go start to the 2023 season. After this week, the LPGA Tour takes off for an entire month before starting its first Asia swing in the Honda LPGA Thailand.
Lydia Ko, the LPGA player of the year and No. 1 in the world, ended 2022 by getting married. Jin Young Ko of South Korea originally was in the field but withdrew.
Major champions Minjee Lee (U.S. Women’s Open) and In Gee Chun (Women’s PGA) also are not going. Lee is from Australia and would face a trip to and from Florida for one event.
Also missing from the top 10 is Lexi Thompson, for good reason — she didn’t win last year.
Among those playing is Nasa Hataoka of Japan, who recently signed an endorsement deal with Hilton Grand Vacations. She joins a group of ambassadors that include LeAnn Rimes.
Danielle Kang is the defending champion.
LIV Golf has poured $300 million into the Asian Tour, and there are at least seven tournaments this year that offer $1 million or more in prize money.
The International Series all offer $2 million or more.
The boost is reflected in who signed up for the final stage of qualifying this week in Thailand.
Matt Every, a back-to-back winner at Bay Hill, is among those in the final stage. So is Sangmoon Bae, another two-time PGA Tour winner whose career was slowed by mandatory military service that he faced right after the 2015 Presidents Cup.
Also playing is a familiar name without any status — Dru Love, the son of Davis Love III.
They will be joined by Steve Mario and Alvaro Quiros at Lakeview Resort & Golf Club. The top 35 players after the 90-hole event that starts Wednesday earn Asian Tour cards.
Right about the time Adam Scott was shaking off the rust, it’s time to take a month off.
Scott came to Kapalua and the Sony Open from his native Australia, where he had not been since after the 2019 Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne because of travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Because of a schedule that is packed with $20 million elevated events, he wants time off when he can get it. So he left Oahu for Down Under and won’t return until the Genesis Invitational at Riviera.
Why not return at the WM Phoenix Open, also an elevated event? Turns out that will be the one he is allowed to skip to collect his Player Impact Program bonus of $2 million (he finished 17th).
“Well, I don’t have a good reason for you,” Scott said. “The embarrassing reason is I actually thought it went Phoenix, Pebble, LA. So I didn’t even consider it from the beginning.”
The schedule instead goes Pebble Beach, Phoenix and then Los Angeles.
More than just a tight schedule, this is the first time Scott is traveling with his wife and three children. He pulled the kids out of school and hired a tutor for them to do home-schooling. And how’s that going?
“I haven’t heard any complaint, so it has to be good,” he said.
U.S. Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson has announced that Davis Love III will be one of his assistants in September in Italy. It will be the fourth time Love is an assistant. He also was captain twice. … The British Masters has rotated host duties to a number of players, such as Lee Westwood and Danny Willett over the years. Now six-time major champion Nick Faldo has been appointed a long-term host of the Betfred British Masters. It is played at The Belfry. … Cozen O’Connor, a Philadelphia-based international law firm, is the latest company to offer a sponsorship deal to players on the PGA Tour and LPGA Tour. It is sponsoring Brendon Todd and Ally Ewing for the next two years. Both will wear the firm’s logo on the crest of their shirts. … Nelly Korda has joined the Swoosh family by signing an apparel deal with Nike. … The Latin America Amateur Championship returns next year to Panama at the Santa Maria Golf Club. It was held in 2017 at Panama Golf Club.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Minjee Lee, Jin Young Ko, Brooke Henderson and Nasa Hataoka are the only LPGA Tour players who have finished in the top 10 after every year since 2018.
“If I was 18, 19, 20, if you said I’d only won four times and hadn’t won a major at 41, I would not have agreed with you. But I can honestly say I feel like my best golf is in front of me.” — Aaron Baddeley, who at 18 beat Greg Norman and Colin Montgomerie to win the 1999 Australian Open as an amateur.
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