Early season wave puts Masters and British Open within reach for Hoge – InForum

FARGO — It came down to the 17th hole, really, in Tom Hoge’s battle against Hudson Swafford on Sunday afternoon in the final round of The American Express PGA golf tournament. Swafford nailed it while Hoge, playing a group behind, recorded a birdie.

Still, Hoge’s second career runner-up puts him on the cusp of another step on the PGA Tour ladder.

There’s a long way to go for this year, of course, but Hoge is currently 64th in the Official World Golf Ranking. The top 50 released the week before The Masters receives an invitation to Augusta from April 7-10.

There are 12 tournaments on the PGA Tour schedule between now and the Masters and it’s uncertain whether Hoge will play every weekend. But he is in line for other elite status tournaments.

The top 64 on Monday’s World Golf Championships – Dell Technologies Match Play World Rankings qualify for this pool of 64 players from March 23-27. The British Open is also in sight, with one of the qualifiers ranked in the top 50 of the world rankings eight weeks before the July 24-27 tournament in St. Andrews.

Hoge has never played in The Masters, Dell Match Play or the British Open.

“You never think, yeah, he’s gonna take it to the next level,” his dad, Chuck Hoge, said on Hot Mic with Dom Izzo. “But I never think he won’t, also because for Tom there are these different levels of golf, whether it’s high school to a college scholarship to then Web.com. Each time he managed to take this step and I am extremely proud of him for that.

Tom has made eight of 10 cuts since the start of the PGA Tour calendar season in late September. The two cuts he missed, he was pennies in both after two rounds, so it’s not like there was some kind of explosion. He is 10th in the FedEx Cup standings which will come into play later this year in the FedEx Cup playoffs.

The top 125 players qualify for the event in three tournaments with points earned during the season carried over into the first two tournaments. The more points in January, for example, the better the chance of reaching the FedEx Cup finals which is narrowed down to the top 30 players.

It was his second top five finish in his last three tournaments after a tied fourth place finish at the RSM Classic in late November. This one was performed in front of a small contingent of followers, including Kevin and Corrine Dahl of Willmar, Minnesota, who took advantage of a winter vacation to watch Hoge.

They followed him while running the course a few years ago at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. The Dahls have daughters who attended North Dakota State and established a territorial connection with Hoge.

“I’ve followed him online for years because he’s a kid from Fargo, North Dakota,” Kevin Dahl said.

They followed him on the 18 holes on Sunday. Hoge was in the final couple. On the first tee, Kevin Dahl wondered how loose Hoge was going to be and he got his answer by watching Hoge around an honorary spotter who had the privilege of walking inside the ropes with the players.

“They must be people who have done good in the community and I noticed Tom went over there and shook his hand,” Kevin Dahl said. “I thought, that’s pretty cool. Here he is in the last group, takes the time to walk around, introduce himself and say thank you. That’s a real Midwestern guy right there. I was probably more nervous than him.

Swafford eventually won the tournament with an eagle on the par-5 16th. Hoge stayed in touch with an unlikely birdie after landing his shot on the cart path to the right of the fairway. Dahl had front row seats for his approach which was a beauty shot.

“My thought at the time was, oh come on Tom, you gotta finish in the top 10,” he said. “He has a tree in front of him. He makes this incredible shot to miss that tree and land in front of the green. It was a golf shot.

Hoge birdied 17 and made a par of 18 to finish singlehandedly second. Swafford won by two strokes.

“We knew if he could finish second on his own, that would be huge,” Dahl said.

About Walter Bartholomew

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