RBC Heritage: “Uncomfortable” Tom Hoge shining at Harbour Town

Scottie Scheffler currently holds the title of best ball striker on the PGA Tour, but his recent play has led many to compare him to Tiger Woods in his prime.

Other great iron players on tour include Collin Morikawa, Max Homa, and Ludwig Oberg, but Tom Hoge, who has only one career win on the PGA Tour, currently has a stroke approaching the green. It ranks second behind Schaeffler in terms of gains.

Hoge has been a solid iron player over the past few years, but it didn’t feel like that this week at RBC Heritage. In fact, he felt quite the opposite through his 36 holes at Havertown.

“This week was the most uncomfortable I’ve felt with an iron in my hand so far this year,” Hoge said after his second round of 7-under 64.

“I feel like I’m getting a little bit better every day, but hopefully I’ll get an idea of ​​the situation this afternoon.”

Tom Hoge hits his second shot from the 18th fairway at the 2024 RBC Heritage.
Photo by Andrew Reddington/Getty Images

Instead of relying on exquisite ball striking, Hoge began to rely on a red-hot putter. He currently ranks first in putts gained and strokes at RBC Heritage. That explains why he ran off the course on Friday tied for the lead with Morikawa and Sepp Straka at 11 under par.

“I felt like I made some really good putts today, and that was the key,” Hoge said.

“I still have a little bit of work to do to feel really comfortable hitting the ball, so I’m going to go practice a little bit this afternoon, but I feel really good around the greens, so I want to keep going.” ”

Hoge’s second round started with an impact on the par-4 first hole. There he sunk a 15-foot ball for birdie, a foreshadowing of things to come.

Birdies continued on the second par-5, and Hoge completed the front nine with birdies on the 6th, 8th, and 9th holes. He sank 49-foot putts on those three holes to finish at 5-under 31.

The Fargo, North Dakota, native then made five straight pars before birdieing the par-5 15th and closing it out with another par breaker on Harbor Town’s famous final hole.

“My speed is [on the greens] This week has been really good so far,” Hoge said.

RBC Heritage

Tom Hoge lines up his putt on the 18th green during the second round of the 2024 RBC Heritage.
Photo by Andrew Reddington/Getty Images

“It’s become a lot easier to watch the putts and their speed, so that’s the big key here.”

Given the narrow, tree-lined fairways, small green complex, and emphasis on target golf, you’d think Hoge’s excellent ball-striking acumen would lead to success at Harbor Town.

Good iron players and good scramblers usually shine at the RBC Heritage, held annually in Harbor Town since 1969.

However, in six starts at Hilton Head, Hoge only made the cut four times, with a tie for 25th place being his best finish in 2021.

“I feel like I should come here and take a chance, but it certainly hasn’t happened in years. Every time I watch it, I get a little more used to some of these lines,” Hoge said. explained.

“Looking back, I played a little too aggressively on some of the greens here, so this year I played a little too aggressively on some of those difficult holes, par 3s, [the par-4] No. 8, some of them I hit just to give myself a chance off some of the green edges. ”

Despite being uncomfortable with his approach, his conservative thinking has led to his success so far in 2024. If Hoge can find something with his irons, he could probably score his first win since the 2022 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

If he does, it will be his second win on the PGA Tour and he will feel uncomfortable in the winner’s circle. But that feeling will be welcomed, unlike his current feeling as he faces the daunting iron shots required at Harbor Town.

Jack Mirko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through.Be sure to check it out @_PlayingThrough Cover more golf. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko In the same way.