Las Vegas tunes in for Charley Hoffman in Masters

People in Las Vegas love to play golf.

They also like to watch it on TV.

ESPN sent news that Las Vegas tied for sixth place with Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., and Norfolk, Va., for most viewers of the Masters’ first round.

This might have been because people in Las Vegas like to watch golf on TV. It also might have been because 38-year-old Charley Lindley Hoffman, one of our own (via San Diego), came out hitting ’em dead solid perfect, as the golf writer Dan Jenkins was fond of saying.

The former UNLV ace — Hoffman was a member of the Rebels’ 1998 national championship team, plays out of TPC, and still has a nice home on the golf course there — was the Masters leader in the clubhouse.

He still was within shouting distance of unflappable Jordan Spieth heading into the final round on Sunday. He was in third place, though he probably would have needed a bullhorn for Spieth to hear him shouting.

People at my local Buffalo Wild Wings do not yell at the big screens when golf is on TV — except, perhaps, when Ian Poulter is wearing a wild shirt and slacks, and they demand the bartender adjust the tint. But I was told they probably would be watching at a cigar bar called La Casa in Tivoli Village.

It seemed like a good place to watch golf on TV. For starters, Tivoli Village is practically surrounded by golf links — Angel Park on one side, Badlands on the other. I parked my truck among myriad German-made sports cars and luxury sedans. You could smell fine Mediterranean cuisine, and money.

Alas, there were only four people in La Casa when I arrived: A guy and his girl, and another guy, and a guy at the bar. Nobody was wearing a Duke T-shirt.

The guy sitting at the bar was African-American. He was the only one watching the Masters on TV. He was smoking one of those Roger Miller “King of the Road” stogies: short, but not too big around.

Had he come to cheer for the local guy Charley Hoffman?

Not exactly.

He didn’t know Hoffman’s score, but he was playing close enough attention to know that Charley was struggling, green glove or no green glove. “They haven’t show him in a while,” said the man at the bar, whose name was Troy Young.

He said he was retired Air Force, that he had been a baseball player back home in Virginia. On the golf course, “I’m a hacker, like everybody else.”

Troy Young was watching Tiger hack it in the pine needles and from between trees after Mr. Woods had tweaked his wrist.

As for Charley Hoffman, well, at least they were showing him on TV at the beginning of his round. But he hit his first shot of the day left, and his second shot through trees. He made bogey. He almost made eagle on No. 2; his wedge shot spun backward and rolled right over top of the hole, or so it appeared on TV.

How did that not go in?

It didn’t, and Hoffman missed his birdie putt, and then the former Rebel was no longer in shouting distance of this kid Spieth. Not even with a bullhorn.

Still, it had been a hell of a run for good time Charley — the golf writers say Hoffman is one of the most likable of the touring pros — who up until this weekend had not had much success in the majors. He had made the cut only seven times in 14 tries; he finished 27th in his only other Masters, in 2011.

This year, after shooting 74 on Sunday, he finished tied for ninth.

They showed him a lot on TV during the first three rounds. They talked about his short haircut.

On Saturday, Jim Nantz mentioned that Hoffman and Adam Scott, the 2013 Masters champion, were teammates on UNLV’s national championship team, and Nantz gave a shout-out to Rebels coach Dwaine Knight, and even to some of the other guys who played on that team and went on to pound professional fairways.

You can’t buy that kind of exposure, not at the Masters, not even if you have more money than Alex Rodriguez, because the big shots at the Masters control who gets to buy commercials.

Back on Thursday, when Hoffman was hitting ’em dead solid perfect, Dan Jenkins posted on Twitter that “Charley Hoffman is your leader at five under. I’ll tell you everything I know about him as soon as I get back from the library.”

So to paraphrase what Bill Murray famously said in “Caddyshack,” a Cinderella story from out of nowhere was about to finish tied for ninth in the Masters championship.

There might have been tears in Charley Hoffman’s eyes now, I guess, as he lined up his last shot.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.

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