RBC Heritage: “Uncomfortable” Tom Hoge shining at Harbour Town

Scottie Scheffler currently holds the title of being the best ball striker on the PGA Tour, as his recent play has called many to compare him to prime Tiger Woods.

Other great iron players on tour include Collin Morikawa, Max Homa, and Ludvig Åberg, but Tom Hoge, who only has one career PGA Tour victory, currently ranks second behind Scheffler in strokes gained: approaching the green.

Hoge has been a solid iron player for the past few years, but he has not felt that way this week at the RBC Heritage. In fact, he has felt the exact opposite through 36 holes at Harbour Town.

“This week has been as uncomfortable as I’ve felt with an iron in my hand so far this year,” Hoge said after his second round 7-under 64.

“It’s felt a little bit better each day, but hopefully, I can go and figure it out this afternoon.”

Tom Hoge, RBC Heritage

Tom Hoge hits his second shot from the 18th fairway at the 2024 RBC Heritage.
Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Instead of relying on his exquisite ball striking, Hoge has leaned on his red-hot putter. He currently ranks first in strokes gained: putting at the RBC Heritage. That explains why he walked off the course tied for the lead with Morikawa and Sepp Straka at 11-under par on Friday.

“I felt like I putted really well today, which was the key,” Hoge said.

“There’s still a little bit of work left to do ball-striking-wise where I really feel comfortable, so I’m going to go get a little practice this afternoon, but I feel great around the greens, so hopefully I keep going.”

Hoge’s second round began with a bang at the par-4 1st hole. He drained a 15-footer for birdie there, serving as a harbinger of things to come.

Another birdie followed at the par-5 2nd, and Hoge closed the front nine by making birdies at the 6th, 8th, and 9th holes. He made 49 feet of putts over that three-hole stretch to turn with a 5-under 31.

The Fargo, North Dakota native then made five straight pars before birdieing the par-5 15th and closed with another par-breaker on Harbour Town’s famous closing hole.

“My speed [on the greens] has been really good so far this week,” Hoge said.

RBC Heritage

Tom Hoge lines up a putt on the 18th green during the second round of the 2024 RBC Heritage.
Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images

“I’ve felt really comfortable seeing the putts and the speed with them, so that’s a big key out here.”

Considering the narrow tree-lined fairways, tiny green complexes, and the emphasis on target golf, you would think Hoge’s superior ball-striking acumen would translate to success at Harbour Town.

Great iron players and those who scramble well typically thrive at the RBC Heritage, which has been contested at Harbour Town every year since 1969.

But of his six starts in Hilton Head, Hoge has made only four cuts, with his best finish being a tie for 25th in 2021.

“I feel like I should come here and have a good chance, and it certainly hasn’t translated over the years here so far. Every time you see it, you get a little more comfortable around here with some of the lines,” Hoge explained.

“As I’ve looked back, I played a little bit too aggressively on some of the greens here, so I’ve tried to be a little bit more conservative this year into some of those tough holes, some of the par-3s, [the par-4] 8th, some of those, just to give myself a chance from some of the edges of the greens.”

Despite feeling uncomfortable with his approaches, his conservative mindset has translated to success thus far in 2024. If Hoge can find something with his irons, perhaps he can go on to win for the first time since the 2022 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

Should he do so, he likely will feel uncomfortable in the winner’s circle, since it would mark his second career PGA Tour win. But that feeling would be welcomed, unlike how he currently feels when facing the daunting iron shots required at Harbour Town.

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough for more golf coverage. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko as well.

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