Tom Hoge leads Sanderson Farms Championship, Anirban Lahiri shoots 69

Tom Hoge continued his aggressive start to the season with a 64 in the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship

Anirban Lahiri is in good form

20 September 2019: Tom Hoge couldn’t keep pace with Joaquin Niemann over the final holes of last week’s A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier, but now Hoge finds himself atop the leaderboard in the second event of the PGA TOUR season. Anirban Lahiri, starting off the tenth, picked three birdies on the first nine holes and brought home the advantage despite enduring two bogeys on the second nine.

Hoge, who finished second to Niemann on Sunday, shot a bogey-free 64 on Thursday to lead the Sanderson Farms Championship before first-round play was suspended due to weather.

Hoge temporarily tied Niemann at The Greenbrier’s Old White TPC after making birdie on the 12th hole. Hoge bogeyed on two of his next three holes, though, and Niemann made six back-nine birdies to win by six strokes.

Hoge finished alone in second to earn 300 FedExCup points. It was his best finish in 134 career PGA TOUR starts.

Hoge couldn’t have capped off Thursday’s round in better fashion, holing a 46-footer for birdie to shoot a bogey-free 64. 

Hoge, 30, shot 68-65-67-65 last week. He has a 65.8 scoring average in five rounds this season.

Hoge’s hot start to the 2019-20 season came just weeks after he had to regain his card at the Korn Ferry Tour Finals. Now he could have his card locked up before October, and possibly his first PGA TOUR victory.

“Just a great opportunity for a guy like me to go out and have a great week and change my life,” he said.

Hoge credited strong driving and putting to his good play in the first two events of the season. He gained more than four strokes on the greens Thursday. In addition to his long putt on the final hole, he made three of his five attempts from 10-15 feet.

Hoge has made 21 of 25 (84%) putts from 5-10 feet this season. He ranked 161st in that category last season, making 53% from that distance. He’s missed just one of the 14 putts he’s faced from 5-7 feet this season. 

This is Hoge’s sixth PGA TOUR season. He’s qualified for the FedExCup Playoffs just once, finishing 92nd in 2018. He dropped to 159th in the standings last season. His game has been trending in the right direction, though.

Hoge finished sixth in the Barracuda Championship, then T7 and T20 in his two starts in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals. He knows the importance of getting his season off to a strong start. Two seasons ago, he had two top-10s in his first six starts. He’s off to a similarly hot start this season.

“There was so much pressure there for a few weeks to play well and get back out here on the PGA TOUR,” Hoge said. “Once you get that done, it frees you up a little bit. At the same time, you know you played well, so just kind of keep it rolling.”