The Memorial Tournament is not the U.S. Open, nor is it even a major championship. But with Jack Nicklaus calling it his own, a $140,000 first prize at stake and a national television audience looking on, the Ohio event is not exactly the Quad Cities Open, which is where Scott Hoch has done most of his winning.
Hoch might be a household name in Davenport, Bettendorf, Rock Island and Moline, but then most people, even golf fans, probably have to go to the atlas to figure out those cities are in Iowa and Illinois. Hoch had a wonderful opportunity Sunday to go national. And he blew it. After shooting 67-64-67 to lead the Memorial by four strokes, Hoch shot 78 on Sunday, the day that counts, and finished tied for third.
"I was Clint Eastwood," he said later. "The good, the bad and the ugly."
Yesterday, in the first round of the Kemper Open at Avenel, Hoch went back to being good. The 31-year-old native of Raleigh, N.C., shot a 6-under-par 65, which put him alone in third place, one shot behind leaders Tom Kite and Greg Norman, the defending champion. Hoch was one of 31 players to break par of 71 among the 78 entrants who finished the round before the day turned from bad to ugly and showers forced postponement for the rest.
At the Memorial, Hoch tied a tournament record with a 64 on Friday, his 36-hole total of 13-under 131 broke the record by three strokes and he led by four shots over Curt Byrum. When he shot 67 on Saturday, he was 18 under par and his 198 total broke the 54-hole record by five strokes. So when Sunday morning arrived he was leading Don Pooley by four shots.
"I had a streak of 55 bogeyless holes," Hoch recalled yesterday.
But after the first hole, Sunday turned into a bad memory. Pooley turned around the four-shot deficit, not by playing great golf, but because Hoch didn't play good golf. Pooley shot 70 and won by four strokes, to grab a check $99,000 heavier than Hoch's.
"Sunday was tough to take and it was tough getting to sleep," Hoch said, "and I don't have many sleepless nights."
Hoch won the 1986 Vardon Trophy, which is given to the tour scoring leader. Though Hoch didn't win a tournament, he won $222,077 with the help of one second-place finish, three thirds and a fourth. His scoring average was 70.08, but some questioned whether he really should have gotten the award because he played a lot of the easier tour courses.
Hoch has a history of doing better during the summer. Prior to the Memorial, his best finish this year was a tie for ninth at the Colonial National in May. A victory at Nicklaus' Muirfield Village course would have given him quite a boost.
"Some would get down because of what happened," Hoch said. "But I wanted to play this week because of what happened last week."
Hoch did not have a bogey yesterday. He started with two birdies and got another on the 182-yard ninth hole by hitting a 6-iron to within 12 feet and making the putt. He got a spot of luck on the 374-yard 10th. His 9-iron shot hit the bank of a creek, bounced down, hit a rock and bounced out. He made a 20-foot putt to save par. Hoch then strung together birdies on Nos. 12, 13 and 14 before coming in with four pars.
"I feel very comfortable with the round," said Hoch, who added that the pin placements were "extremely tough today."
By day's end, the bunkers on the new course were full of water. Hoch suggested they might be too deep to start with -- "so severe. Maybe too severe for some of the shots you have to hit into the green."
Hoch won the Quad Cities Open, which is often played the week of the British Open, in 1980 and 1984. His other tour victory was at the 1982 USF&G Classic.
If he were to win here, it would be the biggest victory of his career. But he knows at least as well as anyone else that tournaments last four days and one can't "clam up," as he put it.
"These aren't three-round tournaments," Hoch said. "You leave that when you leave the satellite tour."