ORLANDO – Putting has held Charley Hoffman back in 2016-17. Big Time.
Hoffman currently ranks 188th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting for 2016-17. He’s giving up .582 strokes per round to the field this season.
It’s been especially brutal of late, as Hoffman lost 2.328 strokes per round on the greens last week in a missed cut at the Valspar Championship. Two weeks earlier in a missed cut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, he came in at -2.638 shots per round in strokes gained: putting.
Even in his T-4 in between at the Genesis Open, Hoffman lost .510 strokes per round to the field on the the greens.
“The putting, you look at the stats, and it hasn’t been very good,” Hoffman said.
The good news: This week there’s been a turnaround of pretty large proportions.
Hoffman fired a 6-under 66 on Friday at Bay Hill Club & Lodge, shooting to 10 under and a one-shot lead through 36 holes at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
He did so gaining roughly 2.5 strokes on the field putting for the day (the exact number will fluctuate until all groups are finished). That follows an opening round in which he posted at roughly +1.44 in strokes gained: putting.
It’s an incredibly quick flip. And it came via a simple adjustment.
Hoffman was chatting with his caddie, Brett Waldman, earlier in the week about how he’d been having trouble once he reached the green.
“(It was basically), I’ve been putting poorly, let’s check a few things out,” Hoffman said.
In the early-week check, something became apparent to Walden: Hoffman’s aim was off.
The 40-year-old had been aiming his putts left of where he intended.
“If you don’t aim right, it’s hard to start the ball where you’re looking,” Hoffman said.
Once that was ironed out, all Hoffman needed was a shift in mindset. The four-time PGA Tour winner has largely excelled as a feel player, and that’s no different on the greens.
But in light of the revelation on aim, Hoffman has paid a little more attention to detail at Bay Hill.
“It’s one of those, I use a line on my ball, and your line’s not perfect, then you might adjust,” Hoffman said. “Just where is the putter actually aiming instead of going with all feel.
“Just a little more focus on detail, I guess, instead of a little more focus on feel. I’ve always been a big feel player, but if it feels off a little bit, you’ve got to fix it.”
So far, Hoffman’s step toward detail has allowed him to flourish. The putting change was something that seemed to “click” for him when the problem was noticed, and the numbers back that up.
In Friday’s 66, Hoffman rolled in two putts over 30 feet for birdie.
It seems a bit perplexing that Hoffman didn’t check in on his issues earlier considering the extent of his recent woes. Hoffman, looking for his first PGA Tour win since last year’s Valero Texas Open, noted that admitting you’re off can be a difficult step.
“Sometimes it’s hard for me to accept I’m not doing something right,” Hoffman said. “But (this change) is working well the first couple of rounds.”