Morgan Hoffmann, battling muscular dystrophy, rises in Honda Classic; Simpson, Noren lead

Craig Davis, Sun Sentinel on

Published in Golf

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Amid Tiger Mania and a top-heavy leaderboard, it would have been easy to overlook the best story of Thursday's first round of the Honda Classic.

Morgan Hoffmann, one shot off the lead, is quietly contending with a much greater challenge than wind, water or anything his fellow pros can throw at him.

The Jupiter, Fla., resident revealed in December in a stunning first-person account in The Players' Tribune that in late 2016 he was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, an incurable disease. He titled the essay, "So Damn Lucky."

"I'm still playing on the PGA Tour with a disease, and it's pretty cool. I'm very lucky," he said after his best round in three months.

Hoffmann was certainly a surprise in a five-way tie for second place that included Plantation, Fla., native Daniel Berger and reigning PGA Player of the Year Justin Thomas, after shooting a 3-under-par 67 at PGA National.

Webb Simpson and veteran Swedish pro Alex Noren were tied for the lead at 4 under. Tiger Woods shot even-par 70 in his first appearance on the Champion Course since withdrawing with a back injury in 2014.

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Hoffmann has missed the cut in five consecutive tournaments and last week withdrew after one round in Los Angeles. He said recent poor play is more indicative of adjustments he's making to his game than physical factors he started noticing in 2011 with deterioration in his right pectoral muscle.

"I've lost a lot of speed in my swing, but my swing is still there," Hoffmann said. "It's not like it's really killing my golf game. This isn't the reason for the last missed cuts. I've been working on a lot of things."

He had his game working well in familiar surroundings close to home, where he finished tied for second last year after four sub-par rounds. He had only one bogey despite the expected windy conditions and fast greens that he described as "pretty dicey in some spots."

The blustery conditions were typical of this tournament. The patchy greens were trickier than usual due to recent dry conditions.


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