HOFFMAN RIDING WAVE OF VICTORY.
SAN DIEGO - Charley Hoffman's long, golden locks sit just on top of his shoulders. His white Titleist cap is different from the norm, with lime green lettering, covering what he jokingly insists is not a mullet.
Hoffman's surfer-dude style is the one thing that made him unique on the PGA Tour. Until Sunday.
With family and friends in his gallery, the 30-year-old won his first PGA Tour title at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. Hoffman received a $900,000 paycheck for the win, an interview with Jim Rome on Tuesday morning and a little bigger fan base.
Now, he's more than the guy with long hair.
``I've had this (hairstyle) for 2 1/2-3 years,'' Hoffman said. ``I guess I do it to be different than everyone else out here. Everybody sort of looks the same. I try to wear different colored shirts just to stand out a little bit. I don't like being the same as everybody else. I'm just sort of a free spirit, playing some golf.''
The eccentric Hoffman, a San Diego native, is expected to stay in a groove this week at the Buick Invitational. He first played Torrey Pines as a 13-year-old on the junior golf circuit and is the only golfer to play the tournament three times as an amateur. He even made the cut in 1996. In 2001, he lit up the tougher South Course and carded a 67 but followed with a 77 on the easier North Course.
His prowess on the South Course could come in handy, since that's the site of next year's U.S. Open.
It's also not a bad place for an encore.
``I couldn't have planned a better course with all the stuff that's going on that usually doesn't go on,'' Hoffman said. ``I'm familiar with the golf course. I don't need to go out and grind it out on this golf course, because I've played it so many times. It's definitely a huge advantage for me to be able to come home to this golf course.''
Hoffman will have to hold off Tiger Woods, who has won here four times, but seven of the world's top-ranked golfers aren't playing. It's especially puzzling since Torrey Pines is home to a major next season.
Woods, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh are the only top-10 players in the tournament.
Last year, Hoffman was ranked in the top 10 in driving distance, averaging 304 yards. When he was grinding it out on the Nationwide Tour, his ability to hit the long ball made him believe he'd succeed on the PGA Tour.
His win propelled him to 92ndin the world rankings, an incredible jump from 197 in which he passed three other players named Charles.
He's also in the top 10 on the money list and third in FedEx Cup points.
Not bad for a boy who surfed, skied and played soccer. The Hoffman family went to the beach at least once a week every summer, so he spent a considerable amount of time on a surfboard. Still, Hoffman doesn't claim to be an expert in the sport, even though he looks like one.
He wants to be an expert in golf, evidenced by his lofty goals.
Hoffman and fellow tour golfer Chris Riley, another San Diego native, made a bet last year on the driving range when Hoffman had just landed his PGA Tour card.
``Chris was sort of saying that he could never be top 10 in the world, and I was saying that I could,'' Hoffman said. ``I hadn't even played a Tour event yet. And he pretty much said, `You're not going to be top 10 in the world.' And I said, `We'll see. I'm going to try to see if I can get there. That's where I want to be.' And I'm slowly stepping up in that direction.''
Getting to be an interview subject on Rome's show is a start. It was a thrill for Hoffman, who listens to the show if he's near a radio and has always thought about calling in to banter about the day's popular subjects. Even if he'd said his name, no one would've known who he was.
Buick a little rough around the edges
SAN DIEGO - Seven of the world's top-ranked players won't be at Torrey Pines for the Buick Invitational this week. Adam Scott, Jim Furyk, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Luke Donald, Padraig Harrington and Geoff Ogilvy are interesting no-shows, considering Torrey Pines will play host to the 2008 U.S. Open.
``I personally haven't looked at the field,'' said Charley Hoffman, who won last week's Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. ``I have heard that a few guys I know, a good friend of mine, Adam Scott is not playing. I was sort of surprised about that. But I'm pretty positive next year the field will be really strong. But it's a pretty good field. Tiger is playing. Phil is playing. It's definitely not a bad field.''
As long as Tiger Woods is playing, tournament organizers and fans can undoubtedly rest easy. Buick pays Woods to endorse its products, so he's a given to play here. It's perplexing more of the best players aren't.
However, it might not be such a crazy scheduling gaffe as one would think. The South Course doesn't have the traditional rough that helps make it such a beast. Hoffman didn't think the course had changed much at all, beside length.
San Diego native Chris Riley, who is looking to regain full-time status on the PGA Tour, is playing in the event. He's made $8.4 million in his career even though he's not one of the longer hitters. The South Course is 7,568 yards, so he figured his tendency to find fairways would be an advantage. But with the rough down, that might not be the case.
``I'm a little disappointed in not seeing rough this week,'' Riley said. ``I got down here on Sunday night, and I was watching the sportscast, and they said that there's no rough at Torrey, and I kind of was like, `Oh no!' I want the rough to be as high as it can because I'm not short, but I hit it straight.
``Obviously, the long course is so long on the south, long hitters this week are going to have a pretty good advantage. But, you know what, the great equalizer is the putter.''
Riley is one of the better putters on tour. Maybe it will make a difference.
Hoffman was curious about changes to the South Course. Kikuyu grass was added, but Hoffman was none the wiser.
``I played it (Monday), and I didn't notice much of a difference,'' Hoffman said. ``It was hard to find what they actually did. I'd like to actually know where they put it and what they did with it. And maybe they should put some more in the rough, because there wasn't much there.''
photo, 2 boxes
Wind whips the hair of Charley Hoffman during last week's Bob Hope Chrysler Classic tournament, which he won.
Don Ryan/Associated Press
(1) THIS WEEK
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Jan 24, 2007|
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