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January 24, 2012

Charley Hoffman


MARK STEVENS:  Charley Hoffman, coming back home this week to play in the Farmers Insurance Open.  You want to talk about your thoughts on the week and playing in front of the home crowd, and then we'll take some questions?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN:  Yeah, obviously, it's a little different feel this week.  Year‑in and year‑out, Tiger's been here, so I think the buzz is still up, a new tournament director.  I think Farmers has done a great job getting the community behind this event.  Since they've taken over, I think they're doing a great job with that.
Rickie Fowler and I are doing a clinic.  So pretty busy week for me.  My foundation event was yesterday, so there were some early mornings getting my practice up out here.  This morning, playing the North course.  It's in excellent shape, little soft from the rains the last couple days.  But it's in as good of shape as I've seen it pretty much ever.  It's going to be a fun week.
I haven't been out on the South course yet.  Expectations are pretty high.  I hit the ball real well last week.  Didn't make a lot of putts, but so far the practice in the last couple of days I've put in out here, the greens are back on Poana, I like putting on Poana greens.  Even though they're a little bumpier than traditional greens, but I feel comfortable on them.  So I feel like I'm going to have a good week.

Q.  How does the rough look?  Because I was out here a couple weeks ago, and they said it was really stunted by the cold that we had.  What's it look like?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN:  You know what, let's put it this way.  Last year was as bad as I've ever seen it.  Like I said, I've only played the North course.  So there are some spots out there which is traditionally the way the rough's been here at Torrey.  You can catch some spots where you're going to be wedging it out, but you'll catch some spots where you're going to be all right.
I think it's like that.  The greens are pretty soft.  So I would say the scores are going to be pretty good for the most part.  But I think the North course actually plays harder if it's soft because it's harder to keep those wedges close to the hole because they're spinning so much from the fairways.
So, I mean, it's going to be good to see.  But to answer your question with the rough, I think it's fine for the most part on the North course.
I think I talked to Tom Wilson, tournament director, that the south isn't where it was last year.  But you don't really need to have that rough on the south to make it a hard course.

Q.  Is the fairway a little wider on the North?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN:  Yeah, someone else asked me that.  I don't know.  I think it may be.  But I think just the penalty of not hitting the fairway not as much, so I think it looks a little wider.  For the most part, I think they're pretty close for the most part.

Q.  Yeah, because I know they got so many complaints last year they were going to try to make an effort?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN:  Maybe a cut or two.  They're not huge fairways by any means, but today the wind was down.  What makes the fairways for me so hard to hit on the North course are the crosswinds.  Every ball goes North and South, and the winds usually coming out of the west, so that makes those fairways hard to hit if there's a breeze.

Q.  No belly putter this week?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN:  No, belly putter this week.

Q.  I heard you just saying you feel like it does help you somewhat with feel?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN:  It helps me technically with my stroke.  There are a few things that my stroke instructor and I worked on with the stroke.  I love it from let's say 10 feet and out, which if you're talking to most people, it's the opposite.
Inside 10 feet I struggled, I guess, because just we call it the art of putting, the feel, sort of how much to break and how much to hit it.  When you set up to a belly putter, you're pretty much locked in the line that you're there.
If you don't have much feel and you've got your line perfect, it's great.  I guess it was an experiment.  I guess I'm a guy that sort of gets over it and sort of feels the putt in the hole.  That's how I make short putts.
So the two together didn't work.  Not saying that if I can find a way to sort of blend those together‑‑ the belly putter I think is an advantage.  You're going to set up the same every time.  You're going to put the ball in the same position, and there are some definite positives to a belly putter.  But for me as of right now, it's not a right fit.

Q.  You've always been such a good putter.  So how has this affected your confidence?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN:  None.  It's not affected it at all.  I was out there putting with a short putter in the foundation event yesterday and fine.  This morning, fine.  It's just a different feeling.
I was locked into giving it a try, committed to it, and it was an experiment that I wouldn't say failed.  I'm not saying that it would never happen again, because I think there are some definite positives to it.
But I can feel the line and see the line with the short putter, because it's just what I'm used to.  It actually helped me.  My rhythm on the longer ones is better with the shorter putter now.  So the things I need to work on with the short one‑‑ actually, it worked the way we thought it was going to work.  Initially it was going to be a project just to practice with and we liked it so much.
But I never really had the pressure of making the three‑footers in the golf tournament with the short putter and all that stuff or the long putter.
So it was an experiment that I gave the whole three rounds.  Saying for how poorly I putted and only missing the cut by a shot, gives the fact how actually good I hit it last week.  So I'm pretty excited.

Q.  Who are you working with on your short game?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN:  James Sieckmann out of Oklahoma.  I've been with him the last few years.

Q.  How did the clinic help you coming back?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN:  Farmers approached Rickie Fowler and I are with the same agency.  He had a deal with Farmers and they approached us being local guys to do a clinic for them.  Sort of a community outreach and get the community in junior golf and support them.
I mean, I'm all for getting the community involved in this tournament and reaching out a little bit to everybody and trying to give back as much as I can to San Diego because they've given so much to me.

Q.  What are your memories of Balboa as a kid?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN:  My memories are there are some really, really tight holes out there.  I remember coming into 18 and it's maybe the narrowest fairway.  It's a short par‑5, but the narrowest fairway I've ever seen.  I know it changed.  There used to be like a drive hole that was 16, I think they changed it into a par‑5 now.
On top of those cliffs, some very narrow tee shots.  I know I didn't hit it very straight.  That's what I remember about Balboa.  Playing the Union Tribune Championship, And one of the biggest events that we played in junior golf.  I don't know if it's still called the Union Tribune.  It may be called the Phil Mickelson or something.

Q.  Unfortunately, not.
CHARLEY HOFFMAN:  Yeah.  But that's what I remember from Balboa.

Q.  Did you win?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN:  I'm not going to say yeah, but I probably won one of those through some age group.

Q.  Have you been out there in a while?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN:  I have not.  Someone asked me yesterday, the last time you were out there, could you carry the ditch on the driving range?  And I said probably not.  But I remember the mats off the driving range and hitting into the park almost out there.

Q.  It's in really spectacular condition.  They put in a new irrigation system and all of that.  Tell me about Rickie?  Do you guys have much of a relationship off the course at all?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN:  I would say somewhat of a relationship.  He played nine with me this morning.  He came to my foundation and helped me out with my foundation event last night, came to the party afterwards.
Rickie Fowler, if you could say a bad word about Rickie Fowler, there must be something wrong with you.  He's a great kid.  Good head on his shoulders.  Great ambassador to golf.

Q.  What makes him great?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN:  He gets it.  He get that's he's a marketable guy.  He takes time for the fans.  He's a great golfer, a better person.  I mean he doesn't think he's bigger or better than the game.  He loves to play golf.
I don't know if he gets it is enough, but he understands the time commitment and what goes along with the sponsors and so on and so forth.

Q.  Because that's the thing I think people‑‑ like today at noon he's got his EA Sports thing, and then he did your thing last night.
CHARLEY HOFFMAN:  We were up‑‑ not up, but I know Rickie didn't leave the house where we had our foundation event until at least after me, and that was 11:30, and we were both in the locker room at 6:45 this morning.
I know it's rare that we stay up that late, but that shows his commitment to the foundation, San Diego Junior Golf, and helping out a friend, for sure.

Q.  He means something like at this junior clinic today, you're a big name in town.  But he's this kind of transcend ant figure now amongst‑‑
CHARLEY HOFFMAN:  Yeah, you guys, the media, put him into that.

Q.  We absolutely did.
CHARLEY HOFFMAN:  Yeah, but he's a great kid.  He's marketable.  I think we'd love to see him win a couple more times, but I think his time is coming.

Q.  What do you think of his game?  Obviously you've played with him before.  But do you think there is something that's holding him back gamewise?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN:  I really don't think there is anything holding him back.  Obviously, he's struggled a little bit on Sundays.  I can't tell you the reason for that.  If there is a way you mold a player growing up, I think it's him.  He didn't just play golf.  He played other sports.  Sort of like me.
When he practices, he goes on the golf course and practices.  He doesn't beat balls on the range.  He enjoys playing golf.  He likes to play golf, and he also practices also on the range and all that stuff.  But you don't learn how to hit golf shots on the driving range.  You learn how to hit golf shots on the golf course.
As a kid, that's what he liked to do.  I don't think he understood why he was doing it, but I think he learned more how to play golf and get the ball in the hole being on the golf course.  He definitely has a very unique golf swing that repeats itself.  He's confident in what he does.

Q.  Besides you and Rickie, who were the name guys yesterday that you would say are kind of the upper echelon guys that were at your event?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN:  Phil came out, Phil Mickelson.  He came out and supported which is, I mean.

Q.  Did Phil play?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN:  He did play.  They were in and out.  Obviously, it was raining, so I don't think they finished all 18 holes.  But he was out there.  I mean, I was surprised to see him when I finished.  He came in and said thanks and walked around and said thanks to some people.
He was out there, a very generous person.  He doesn't have to come out here and do that.  It's his day off, and in his hometown he could have been with Amy and his kids and hung out.  But it says a lot about who Phil is and what he wants to do for the community of San Diego also.
He was out there, Chris Reilly, I mean, we had a couple of Charger players, Nate Kaeding, Dave Ben, Adrian Gonzalez was out there.  Golfers we had‑‑ I'm going to I don't know if I said Mallinger and Lundie, I mean, Scott Simpson.  We had old, young.  We had it all.
Pretty much everybody I asked came out and played.  There weren't many no's.  If there was a no, Pat I know‑‑ Perez usually tries to play, but he had to do a military clinic yesterday so he wasn't able to make it, which was unfortunate.  But pretty much if you played San Diego Junior Golf and weren't doing something, they played.

Q.  What are your thoughts because you're one of the players on the panel now, what are your thoughts of the discussions about the Q‑school versus Nationwide?  How do you personally feel about which‑‑
CHARLEY HOFFMAN:  That's a tough one.  To tell you the truth, I'm 50‑50 on it.  I see both sides of it.  I live by if it's not broken, don't fix it sort of thing.  I think we're producing great players through the qualifying school and the system like that.
But is there a better system that you can come up with?  Maybe, unless you try, you really don't know.
Then you get the side of they're trying to‑‑ obviously, Nationwide contract only goes through this year, I don't know all of that stuff.  Obviously, looking for a new sponsor for that TOUR.  They need to make that what they want or something they want and more marketable to them.  So the only way to get through the TOUR is to go up to the Nationwide Tour.
There are little avenues and ways that these young players‑‑ because I'll tell you the big thing.  Make sure the young players like a Rickie Fowler or guy like Peter Uihlein who just turned pro, make sure they have access to the TOUR also.
So we're trying to get it right.  I don't‑‑ the first time if it goes through, who knows if it's going to be right.  It may go back.  It may not.  I think everybody's pretty eager on maybe trying to make the change to make it a little better and more enticing for a sponsor.  I have no clue how it's going to all work.  But there is a big discussion on that.
To tell you the truth, I see both sides of the story.  I understand both sides, and I don't think‑‑ I don't think there can be a wrong decision.  If they keep it the same, it will be great.  If they change it, it will be great.

Q.  Really the balance is it's one week of six rounds of Q‑school or is it a season on the Nationwide as far as what you're proving, right?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN:  Yeah, pretty much.  It's not proven that if you come from the Nationwide Tour you're going to be a better player.  I think it turns some good players out, but there are some good players that went to the Nationwide Tour and then went to Q‑school and got the TOUR card back through Q‑school and then succeeded.
You can argue both sides forever, and you're never going to get a solution.  Who knows, this other way could be way better than the way we have it, but I think we're all stuck in the way we've done it for years and years and years.  Who knows if that was the right way.  Maybe if we would have been doing it the new way, if it does go through, no one would want to go back to the other way, that's for sure.

Q.  You mentioned Uihlein or Fowler, whatever, do you think that there should be room then for the amateur?  Because I know there was talk about an amateur finish and you went through this here many years ago.  If you finished high at Torrey Pines as an amateur, that even if you didn't get the money, you got the credit for where you placed.  Kind of the money equivalent, in essence, so that would reward performance also.
CHARLEY HOFFMAN:  I've never heard that before.  So that's new to me.  No, my initial response was no, I don't think they should get credit.  But I do think there should be some sort of sponsor invite system or somewhere where the amateur has access ‑‑ or not amateur, but a young gun player should have some access to the TOUR via a sponsor invite if the sponsor would like, which they do.
They have unrestricted sponsor invites and stuff like that.  But I think there is a limited number of seven sponsor invites.  I don't know if I'm right on that number.  I think that number should be bigger or even go away.  If the sponsor wants, we'll say a young kid at Cantlay or something like that to play an event, I think Cantlay shouldn't have to choose between Farmers, Zurich, AT&T or whichever one.  If the sponsors want them, let them pick 20 events he wants to play in.  That's how I feel there.

Q.  We're live on a couple of holes on PGATOUR.Com this week.
CHARLEY HOFFMAN:  Which ones are those, so I remember.

Q.  So specifically the par‑5, 13th hole.  That's going from like 540 up to 614 yards.  Or if you could give us your approach tee‑to‑green and maybe depending on where that tee is as well?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN:  Well, I think it's a horrible 614‑yard hole.  We'll start there.  I think it's a great risk‑reward hole.  If you hit a great drive off that tee from short yardage you have a pretty challenging green to hit.  You can make some birdies.  You can make it exciting for the fans.
I'm not a huge fan of having no ability to go for a par‑5, we'll say, on a 600‑yard hole.  It's boring.  It's not fun for the fans.  You're hitting somewhat of a tough wedge shot up a hill that probably plays 10 yards uphill.  It's hard to hit a real good shot close.  I personally think the long hole makes the hole really boring, and probably really boring for TV if they set up back there.
You set up at 540 or whatever and make it exciting watching guys go for it, having Eagles.  Hitting a nice play hazard left and bunkers.  I think there's much more excitement on a short hole.

Q.  Then on the 16th hole, the par‑3 is another hole that we're covering.  That goes from 193 to 223 yards.  I think they've got‑‑
CHARLEY HOFFMAN:  Multiple tees.  They've got left and right.  It's a tough hole.  It's obviously a beautiful hole overlooking the ocean out there on the canyon.  No matter what yardage they play that hole, it's tough.  I think it's better a little shorter, personally, because I think you can get a little more aggressive with your shot than you pulling a little more penalty.
I think if you're at 230 yards, your hand is pretty much played that you're going for the center of the green and you're just trying to make a par.  You give a guy 180 yards and maybe he'll try to shoot at the pin and catch a little bit of the hazard or something to the left.
I like the little shorter, little more aggressive for TV and for fun.

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