Two and a half feet isn't much. People have been served noodles longer than that. Two and a half feet is less than a man's stride, not as long as a three-iron. Yet 2� feet was all that lay between Scott Hoch and some very sweet redemption.
Two and a half feet of Georgian mother earth was all Hoch had left on a drizzly April evening to win this year's Masters golf tournament and the immortality—to say nothing of the silver—that goes with it. All he had to do was roll his Titleist 30 inches across the lush bent-grass green into a hole, and a whole lot of wrong would be right.
Two and a half feet? You could get Hoch out of REM sleep, turn on a floodlight and hand him a lampstand, and he could make 99 out of 100 putts from 2� feet. He hadn't three-putted once in this Masters, and if you know Augusta's greens, you know that's like two-putting a Ventura off ramp. This was Hoch, as in stroke.
The putt was just about in the leather, a gimme—as in, Gimme the green jacket, boys. I feel a speech coming on.
The 33-year-old Hoch knew what this shot meant. It meant his first win in the U.S. in five years. He had won only three PGA tournaments lifetime, and two of those victories were in the Quad Cities Open. The Masters would look very nice on his r�sum�.
This is a man who, when he entered his first PGA tournament, in 1980, wrenched his back going up some stairs before he could play an official round and had to sit out five months. This is a man who in 1982 was hogtied for an hour in his hotel room in Tucson while wondering if he was going to die. An intruder had announced himself as a policeman, held up Hoch and his wife, Sally, at gunpoint, and tied them up. He then threw Scott into the corner of the room along with the furniture cushions. "I figured they were to muffle the shots when he killed me," says Hoch. When the gunman finally left, he and Sally were poorer but alive.
Even Hoch's brass rings seemed to turn green. When he won the Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average—70.08—in '86, he was roundly roasted. Critics complained that Hoch not only had not won a PGA event that year, but also had lowered his average by entering marshmallow events. "The ancient and honorable Vardon Trophy is in danger of becoming a joke," Thomas Boswell wrote in Golf magazine. "And that rhymes with Hoch."
Not everyone, however, loves a good wreck. This is a man who was named Least Popular Golfer in a poll of Tour players conducted last spring by the
Dallas Times Herald. According to Charles Cooper, a Times Herald assistant managing editor at the time, of the 157 Tour pros the paper canvassed, about 50 returned ballots, and Hoch got the most votes.
Hoch and his agent, Dick Madigan, have declared the poll bogus, claiming that only three players actually wrote in Hoch's name. But Cooper, Dave Burgin, then editor of the Times Herald, and the paper's golf writer Greg Stoda all swear Hoch was the loser, even though they didn't keep the exact figures. "It wasn't like it was close," says Cooper.
Hoch was stung. "It really hurt," he says. "It was cruel. It hurt my family and my friends. I don't know why they did it."