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Former UNLV golfer near top of leaderboard at PGA Shriners Open

Charley Hoffman should have a home-course advantage when it comes to the Shriners Children’s Open, given the countless times he’s played TPC Summerlin over the years.

But Hoffman’s results often haven’t reflected his course knowledge, missing the cut eight times in the 14 times he’s played the tournament.

He took a big step toward changing that narrative Thursday, firing an 8-under 63 during the opening round to trail leader Sung Kang by two shots.

Kang made nine birdies, one bogey, and a closing eagle at the par-5 ninth hole, equalling the low round of his career (61) and one shot shy of the course record at TPC Summerlin.

Hoffman joined Sungjae Im and Chad Ramey at 8 under, while Matthew Wolff topped a group of five players another shot back.

Asked how many times he’s played the course, Hoffman started doing the math. He guessed 200 times while playing for UNLV, then hundreds more over the years in both tournament play and practice rounds while living in Las Vegas for 20 years.

“They have made improvements and changes throughout the years, but it’s still the same bones that I started playing early on,” he said.

Hoffman’s round Thursday had just a single blemish on the par-4 15th when he went from bunker to bunker and failed to get up and down for par. But it also included nine birdies, including a dart from the fairway on No. 18 that landed less than foot from the cup.

“It was one of those rounds where my good shots turned out pretty good and my bad shots I got away with,” he said. “I made some good mid-range putts, and I made all my shots that I hit pretty close.”

Hoffman attended UNLV from 1995-1999, then made Las Vegas his home for 20 years after that. But he recently moved back to his native San Diego where most of his family and in-laws live, making it a better situation for his school-age daughters.

“My relationship with Las Vegas is that I watch from afar and I’m rooting from San Diego,” he said. “I hated leaving Las Vegas, because my family and my wife and I loved it here, and we don’t call it home anymore.”

Despite the fast start Thursday, Hoffman won’t be satisfied unless he’s holding a trophy Sunday night.

“I’m not here to make cuts and make paychecks,” he said. “I want to win.”

To do that, he’ll have to overcome players like Kang, who tinkered with his driver this week and had great results Thursday.

“My iron play was pretty sharp and my putting was pretty good,” he said of his recent play. “I was just thinking if I can get my driver somewhere in play I could actually score better.”

Im started his round slowly, making six consecutive pars before a birdie on No.7 and an eagle on No. 9. He caught fire on the back nine, making five consecutive birdies on 12-16 to finish at 63.

Also in at 63 was Ramey, who had seven birdies during a back-nine 29.

The majority of the leaderboard played in the morning wave when conditions were perfect and there was little wind. The breeze kicked up in the afternoon, making scoring more difficult.

The exceptions late were Matt Jones and Wolff, who lost this event last year in a playoff to Martin Laird. Both shot 64.

Sam Burns, the winner last week in Mississippi, rocketed up the leaderboard in the afternoon and got to 7 under before finding the water on No. 17. He finished with a 66.

Greg Robertson covers golf for the Review-Journal. He can be reached at grobertson@reviewjournal.com.

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