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Hoch keeps plugging away

Bad memories don't haunt the 10-time winner, who is two behind Chris DiMarco at the Disney Golf Classic.

By BOB HARIG, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 20, 2002

LAKE BUENA VISTA -- His place in golf infamy is secure, but other than the inevitable moments when he couldn't help but consider what might have been, Scott Hoch has never let it keep him down.

He is, of course, best remembered for missing a 2-foot par putt at the 1989 Masters, one that would have meant a green jacket and major immortality. Instead, Nick Faldo won the playoff on the next hole, and Hoch never has won a major.

At age 46, he still plugs along and likely will continue a remarkable streak of top-40 finishes on the PGA Tour money list. Just once in 20 years has he failed to crack that threshold, and that was because of an injury. He is 39th with $1,376,373 with one tournament left this season before the limited-entry Tour Championship and is seventh on the all-time PGA Tour money list with $15,929,575.

"I don't think any of us can plan that," said Hoch, who won twice last season and has 10 titles. "I just know that the middle of my career, I didn't feel I did as well as I should have. And maybe now I'm doing better than most at my age.

"Maybe other people my age, maybe their game deteriorated. Mine didn't. And I've had some good quality tournaments left in me. Why that happens, I don't know. You just try to stay in pretty good shape."

He has a chance at his 11th victory after 3-under-par 69 Saturday at the Disney Golf Classic left him two shots behind second- and third-round leader Chris DiMarco heading into today's final round on the Magnolia course at the Walt Disney World Resort.

Hoch was tied with Skip Kendall (66) and Bob Burns (67) at 198, 18 under par. Joel Edwards (67) was fifth, three shots back. Tiger Woods shot 67 and was at 14-under 202, six behind DiMarco, and there were 19 within six of the lead.

With a strong finish today and another at the Buick Challenge, Hoch could be among the top 30 money winners at the season-ending Tour Championship on Oct. 31-Nov. 3 in Atlanta.

He's more interested, however, in good golf and good results. Three weeks ago Hoch went to his second Ryder Cup concerned about his game, but he left pleased.

"Even though I said that I probably wasn't as up for it, or didn't hold it in the esteem that many of the other players hold it, I still took it very serious," Hoch said. "I worked on my game very hard, because you don't want to go there to one of the biggest arenas in golf and then play like a dog. It would be embarrassing."

Although he finished with an 0-3-1 record, including a Sunday singles loss to Scotland's Colin Montgomerie, Hoch played well. In each match he faced the team or individual with the lowest score in that format.

"I had a blast over there, other than getting my butt wrung out by them beating me so bad," he said. "I got some solace from that, that I did play well. Maybe when I got back here, I wanted to continue playing the same way and maybe prove to others that I didn't play poorly over there."

Hoch returned from England and finished second two weeks ago at the Michelob Championship.

If he wins today he will become the sixth player this year 40 or older to win a tour event, joining Loren Roberts (Texas Open), Nick Price (Colonial), Jeff Sluman (Milwaukee), Dan Forsman (Pennsylvania Classic) and Gene Sauers (Air Canada Championship).

"Well, I think what it tells you is that when you get to 30, you're over the hill, you have to wait until you're 40 before you can play anything," Hoch said. "Let's just say there's a lot of good players out there, and each year it's tougher and tougher to win."

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