PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Jordan Spieth knew what to expect long before he ever saw Tom Hoge play golf.
Hoge had shown him how to play craps in 2015 during the John Deere Classic, and what Spieth took away from that evening was Hoge was not the kind of player who would back down when the stakes were high.
They were plenty high Sunday in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am as Hoge, one of seven players who had at least a share of the lead in the final round, had another chance to win for the first time on the PGA Tour.
At his side was Patrick Cantlay, the FedEx Cup champion and No. 4 player in the world. Two shots ahead of him with five holes to play was Spieth, a three-time major champion and former No. 1 player in the world.
Hoge delivered all the right shots. He made two tough birdie putts on the 11th and 14th to stay in the game. His 9-iron came inches from going in on the 16th. And then the 32-year-old from North Dakota made the biggest putt of his career, a 20-foot birdie on the par-3 17th that carried him to a 4-under 68 and a two-shot victory over Spieth.
“I waited 11 years for that,” Hoge said, the crystal trophy at his side, still surprised enough to contemplate the win in his 203rd start on tour sends him to the Masters and moved him to No. 39 in the world ranking.
He called it “unexpected” for a couple of reasons. With a mad scramble at the start, he thought his double bogey from a bunker on the par-3 fifth might be too much to overcome. And when he realized he was still in the game, he still had Spieth to overtake.
“You always expect him to keep making birdies,” Hoge said.
Spieth was expecting it, too, and was surprised he didn’t win. The turning point came at the 17th with an 8-iron Spieth thought was his best swing of the day. It came up short in the bunker, and he missed a 5-foot par putt.
Hoge saw the miss — he didn’t know if it was for par or birdie. Only after he made birdie and realized he had a two-shot lead on the par-5 18th did he realize his time had come.
He had been a runner-up twice in his eight years on the PGA Tour, one other time missing a playoff at the Sony Open by one shot. That was the year Spieth first mentioned Hoge and said, “When he gets in contention, he will not back down.”
Such was the case on Sunday.
“He’s somebody that I knew when he was on the heels I needed to make birdies, he wasn’t going to falter,” Spieth said. “So between him and Patrick behind I never felt secure and therefore I tried to keep playing aggressively as well.”
Hoge finished at 19-under 268 and earned $1,566,000. He had only two seasons where he won more money, his biggest in 2020 with just over $1.85 million.
Spieth looked like a winner when he birdied the 12th and 13th holes, and he reached the 15th tee with a two-shot lead. Only after his bogey on the 17th did he learn he needed eagle to have any chance, and a sandy lie from under the tree in the fairway kept him from reaching the green. He made par for a 69.
Hoge had to wait for Beau Hossler, one of three players who shared the 54-hole lead, who needed eagle on the 18th to force a playoff. Hossler sent his fairway metal right into a bunker, blasted out long and three-putted for bogey for a 71 to finish alone in third.
Cantlay opened with two birdies and was still atop the leaderboard until a bogey at the eighth that left the final three hours wide open.
Cantlay didn’t make another birdie until the 18th when it was too late. He spent most of the back nine scrambling for par and his luck finally ran out on the 15th and 16th hole. He shot 71 and tied for fourth along with Troy Merritt (67).
Joel Dahmen (72) and Andrew Putnam (73) also had a share of the lead during the final round. They were in the group that tied for sixth.
Hoge hit the ball so pure on the back nine that he had a birdie putt from inside 20 feet on every hole until he got to the 17th, and that’s where he made the biggest putt of his career.
“It’s awesome,” Hoge said. “I’ve worked through so many hard times.”
Hoge, who played college golf at TCU, has been on the PGA Tour since 2015. He started out on the Canadian tour, where he won in 2011. His most recent victory of any kind was the North Dakota Open on his home course in Fargo in 2017.
“I’m almost a little in shock,” Hoge said. “It’s been so long since I won anything that I forgot how to celebrate.”
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