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Hoffman back to defend hard-won title in Bob Hope Classic

Charley Hoffman
Don Ryan/AP
Charley Hoffman will open his title defense on Wednesday.

PALM DESERT, Calif. (AP) — Charley Hoffman was sort of the last man standing at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic last year.

"Bad weather with gusts up to 35 miles and hour and it was tough,'' Hoffman said, recalling the final round. "I guess I withstood the wind. I don't think I beat it, the wind won.

"But I was able to battle it out and beat John (Rollins) in the playoff.''

Hoffman opens defense of his title, the first of his tour career, on Wednesday.

A year ago, he survived not only the tricky wind that swirled around, kicked up grit and made club selection a guessing game, but also temperatures that dipped into the 40s at times during the 90-hole event.

All that didn't turn out to be his most significant memory of the tournament, however. He particularly remembers the final hole of regulation.

"I never led the golf tournament until I made the eagle on 18,'' he said. "The 8-iron I hit in there on the par-5, to about 12 feet and sunk that putt, I knew I had a chance.''

Rollins, in a later group, tied him in regulation, but Hoffman won with a birdie on the first playoff hole.

Since the field for this year's Hope is missing the top 23 players in the world rankings, Hoffman was asked if he may have a better chance of repeating.

"It's probably going to be easier to win without those guys, but every time you play you want to try to beat the best in the world,'' he said. "It's unfortunate that no one's here in the top 20 in the world, but obviously there's a tournament to win and a check to pick up and I'll give it my all.''

No. 24 Stewart Cink is the highest-ranked player in town.

Tiger Woods never plays in the tournament, and two-time Hope champion Phil Mickelson is among those skipping the desert event this time. He had a miserable day during last year's wind-blown final round, hitting three balls into the water in a three-hole stretch on his way to a 78 that left him tied for 45th.

"This year, it may be another young guy (winning),'' Lopez said. "It may be a guy who is further on in his career.

"I think that's what's going to make it exciting. The weather is supposed to be fantastic.''

Hoffman, his long, blond hair dangling from his cap and down around his shoulders, said some things changed after he got his initial tour win in the Hope.

"Obviously people recognize who I am now on the PGA Tour, which is most probably because of the hair more than the golf,'' he said with a smile.

The first four days of the Hope are a pro-am played at four courses. Sunday's final round, with the 70 low-scoring pros and ties, will be at the Classic Club.

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