AUGUSTA, GA. – Charley Hoffman started so early, he warmed up with legends. He finished so quickly, he might have been tempted to ask to play an extra nine at the twilight rate.
In only his second start at the Masters, Hoffman went from collecting autographs to signing the scorecard of a lifetime, while providing the perfect transition from the Masters ceremonial tee shots to the tournament itself.
Hoffman, playing in an opening twosome, shot a 67 to tie for second after the first round.
"It's pretty lucky, and special," Hoffman said. "I'm honored that the Masters gave me that opportunity, and I sort of took advantage of it."
That's not the only advantage he took. Hoffman runs a charitable foundation to benefit less-fortunate children. When he learned of his early tee time Wednesday, he went to the gift shop at Augusta National and bought a few flags. He brought them to the practice range Thursday, he found himself next to Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, and asked them to sign the flags.
"They were nice enough to do that," he said. "I was sort of scared — 'Should I ask them, should I not ask them?' My mind wasn't really on golf. I was watching those guys."
Of the flags, he said, "I'll auction them off and make some money for kids."
Hoffman watched from the putting green as Palmer, Nicklaus and Gary Player christened the 2015 tournament by hitting ceremonial tee shots, regretting that he missed Player.
"Gary was gone and we're not supposed to ask for autographs on that side of the clubhouse," Hoffman said. "I'll try at some point to get Gary to sign the two that the others signed."
Nick Faldo, on the ESPN broadcast, heard that and said, "I can help with that."
Hoffman is 38. The native Californian used to wear long, flowing blond hair. He's cut it short. Thursday, he wore his usual green golf glove (a reference to conservationism through one of his sponsors, Waste Management), green sunglasses, a green hat and a green-tinged shirt.
Could he add a green jacket by Sunday? Well, he made it to the Masters only because he won a PGA Tour event in Cancun last November. That was his first tour victory since 2010.
He's a long shot, but he knows he'll at least leave with a couple of valuable autographs from the only tour event he'll watch on TV when he's not involved.
"Oh, I'm an experienced watcher of the Masters," he said.