Pebble Beach – Tom Hoge will make his first defense of his Tour title this week, a detour that has allowed the 33-year-old to debate the road not taken.
Hoge is coming off the crusade of his career, which saw him take an impressive win at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on his way to a 10th-place finish in the FedEx Cup standings. Hoge has continued that momentum in the new season, recording five T-13 finishes or better early in the year, and entering the week at No. 29 in the rankings. However, as he told the media on Tuesday at Pebble Beach, Hogey does not consider himself among the upper echelons of players on the tour. When debating whether that made last year’s winning moment narrow, Hoge’s initial response—while it was one of appreciation and gratitude—wasn’t particularly revealing. “I feel like I have the potential to be here, but it took me so long to get there that I will say I have a much better grade, just like getting into these majors,” Hoge said. “You see how many good players there are.”
But then Hoge took a slight detour that included an admission of balancing an offer from LIV Golf, and his response gave a glimpse into a one-man’s perspective on the costs that come with defecting.
Hoge started by saying that he was offered a chance to go to LIV. On why he didn’t go, Hoge said what happened at Pebble played a big part. He just won, and winning the Tour gives some good that he wasn’t willing to give up. “I was making the decision after a few months, and there were so many tournaments I wanted to participate in for the first time, tournaments that I grew up in—the Tour Championship, Maui, those tournaments, and when I went to the night, I wasn’t ready to give those up,” Haughey explained.
When asked how much money was a factor, Hoge acknowledged the weight attached to such a large number. “The truth is if I walk off this platform and hurt my wrist or whatever I may never make a dollar again,” Hogg said. “You have insurance for that, but it’s still different than insuring it on the golf course. You almost look at it more for your family and your future wife and kids that you almost feel like you have to look at that money and take it.”
“It was a tough decision, but I’m very happy where I am.”
This week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am coincides with the Saudi International, an event sanctioned by the Asian Tour and sponsored by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, LIV Golf’s primary backer. A few PGA Tour players are playing at the event after receiving conflicting versions, so Hoge was asked if it was an opportunity that — as a Pebble winner — he wanted to pursue. “I don’t know if they really cared about me, to be honest with you. I know my place in the game, and I know I’m not really moving the needle, so to speak,” said Haughey. “So definitely not a big draw there. It’s a fun time for golf. Some of those deals the guys signed you do wonder a little bit, once you hear the numbers that were put out there, but I think it raised the bar for all of us.”
Hoge went on to ask about some of the numbers he’d heard floating around, and said he had some “serious questions” about the promised financials, particularly on the back end of the proposed contracts. As for what number would have made him change his mind, Haughey said he never got to that point.
It didn’t matter either, because although Hoge had yet to earn a generational fortune, he did have independence, and that’s something that can’t be bought.
“I’ve always tried to get that status next year and keep playing for as long as possible. My goal from the start was to save enough money that whatever the next chapter is that that decision can kind of provide more flexibility and freedom because the money is being put in aside.
“My ninth year on tour now, I feel like – I don’t want to say I’m comfortable, but I’m happy with where things are and happy if I have to leave tomorrow. That money won’t be a driving force in any decisions I have to make.”