Charley Hoffman, Kevin Chappell and Kevin Kisner got to see Tiger Woods up close. They just came from the Bahamas and played in Woods’ Hero World Challenge that ended Sunday.
Tuesday afternoon, all three were practicing for the QBE Shootout at Tiburón Golf Club at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort.
While Woods, returning after back surgeries kept him out of tournament golf for a year, tied for ninth, he did put together two strong rounds to start out, grabbing the lead at one point.
“It was on everything (on television),” Hoffman said. “It brings viewership to the game of golf, which I think is amazing. The game needs it. The game is in a pretty good spot with the younger players now with the Rickies (Rickie Fowler) and the (Jordan) Spieths and Justin Thomas and so on and so forth, but to get Tiger back in this game would be a game-changer.”
“It was fun,” Chappell said. “It’s great to have Tiger back and feel that buzz again around the game. That’s a strange event, only 18 guys in a very remote place, so you’re not getting the fans that you typically get, but those that were there were definitely pro-Tiger.”
Hoffman got to witness one of those youngsters fly by him on the leaderboard. Fowler rallied from a seven-shot deficit with a blistering 61 to pass Hoffman, the third-round leader who ended up four strokes back.
“There’s not much you can do,” Hoffman said. “You take your hat off and say ‘Great playing.’ … He deserved to win that golf tournament; he shot 61.”
Chappell and Kisner finished tied for 12th and 14th, respectively.
Matt Kuchar and Daniel Berger also played in the World Challenge and are playing this week in Naples.
Kevin Chappell and Kevin Kisner are back, and together again. The duo finished fourth in the debut for each last year.
“We definitely had the most fun last year and finished fourth,” Chappell said. “Hopefully we can maybe have equally as much fun but feel better when we’re playing.”
“We’re excited to come back down,” Kisner said. “It’s a good place to practice for the season during the winter months. It’s a fun little competition, and we don’t ever get to play team events, so this makes it more fun.”
Chappell remembered more than the fun the two had. Taking in the gala, that usually features a childhood cancer survivor, was memorable.
“The gala was eye-opening,” he said. “It’s great to see that we get to have a great time this week and play and do what we love to do, but we’re supporting a great cause. What (tournament founder and host Greg Norman) has done is unbelievable.”
Picking a partner
Hoffman had the Shootout on his mind when he was playing with Zach Johnson during the PGA Championship.
“Yeah I’m thinking about playing this year,” Johnson said when Hoffman brought it up.
“Do you have a partner?” Hoffman asked.
When Johnson said he didn’t, Hoffman jumped at the chance.
“I thought he’d be a great partner to have,” Hoffman said of the two-time major champion. “Obviously a great wedge player which I think is very crucial around this golf course, and hopefully gives ourselves a bunch of birdie opportunities and go low.”
Hoffman is playing in his third Shootout, but with his third different partner. And he has finished third—coincidentally—with Daniel Berger in 2015 and Billy Horschel last year.
“I haven’t played in a team format with any of those guys all of those years and we’ve had somewhat success,” Hoffman said.
Tournament founder and host Greg Norman and Fox News Channel’s Bret Baier played a quick practice round Tuesday. Both are playing in the pro-am, as is ESPN’s Chris Berman, who hosted Tuesday night’s pairings party. Baier will host the gala on Thursday. . . . Berman will play with Lexi Thompson and Baier with Pat Perez on Wednesday. . . . The pro-am format will be a shamble on both days instead of a shamble and best ball. In a shamble, every player hits from the tee, then one player’s drive is chosen, and the group each plays their own ball the rest of the hole. . . . Cameron Tringale, who won the Shootout with Jason Day, is playing as an extra golfer on the two pro-am days.