Although Tom Hoge isn’t from Minnesota, he could be. He won back-to-back state amateur titles more than a decade ago, and while he still lives in his native Fargo, ND, he has adopted Minnesota as a second home.
“I’d love to come back here,” Hoge said. “I just feel comfortable being in the area. I think it helps a lot of play in this wind rising a few hours away here and in Fargo. It helps to understand that it’s a few shots out there.” How much will it affect?
That familiarity helped Hoge on Thursday as gusting winds made for tough conditions in Round 1 of the 3M Open at the TPC Twin Cities in Blaine. While many players struggled to adapt, Hoge managed right on his way to 4-under 67.
“It was a good day for me,” said Hoge, who is only two strokes behind leaders Scott Piercy and Sungjae Im, both of whom shot 6-under 65. “The course played really hard with the wind out there. Usually these par 5s are pretty catchy. It’s totally different in this wind.”
The only flaw on Hoge’s scorecard came after his loss to Green at number 18, his ninth hole of the day. After making a perfect shot to clear the vast lake, an eagle was placed near Hoge from about 34 feet. He trailed it by 4 feet, 4 inches, only to smoke his birdie putt from the top of the hole. He missed the par put and tapped his bogie put before leaving the beat with a fore-put.
“Honestly, I laughed that way,” Hoge said. “I didn’t feel like I hit that bad of another put. I got a huge gust of wind right in the middle of the put and it drove it down the slope. You can’t do anything but laugh. I did Never hit a put like this.”
Fortunately for Hoge, he took the turn, answered with a birdie at No. 1, then followed it up with a birdie at No. 2. This put the round back on track and for the rest of the way he was in complete control.
“I think I hit all 18 greens, so it was a good day,” he said. “I gave myself a lot of opportunities and stayed out of trouble.”
That has been the name of the game for Hoge this season. He won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February, his first PGA Tour victory in eight years on the world’s toughest tour. He finished top-10 at the PGA Championship in May to go along with some other solid performances.
That success in the spring has helped Hoge remain steady in the FedEx Cup standings despite some struggles in the summer. He entered the 3M Open after missing six consecutive 36-hole cuts, including last week at The Open Championship in St Andrews, Scotland.
“It makes it a little bit easier to get through some of these parts,” Hoge said. “You don’t need to press much. I know what I’ve worked on in the past will take me out of it and get me back in perfect form.”
Perhaps the 3M Open in their honorary home state could serve as a launching pad. He would certainly welcome going into the FedEx Cup playoffs next month.
“I thought I started playing a lot better last week at St Andrews, even though I don’t score as well as I wanted to,” Hoge said. “I think it’s starting to spin here for me, and hopefully it’s the right time when we get into the playoffs.”