At daybreak Thursday on the Augusta National practice range, Charley Hoffman couldn’t help but acknowledge the moment.
As he prepared for his 7:45 a.m. EDT tee time at the Masters, he found himself flanked by a notable trio — Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player — loosening up for the ceremonial first tee shots.
So Hoffman made his boldest approach — a request to Nicklaus and Palmer for autographs and an exchange that put him at ease.
“My mind wasn’t really on golf,” he said.
That wasn’t the 38-year-old’s only pinch-me moment Thursday. He followed the exchange with Nicklaus and Palmer with a five-under-par 67 that established him as the early leader … until Jordan Spieth caught fire in the afternoon.
Hoffman played the final four holes in four under and will start the second round in a four-way tie for second.
The autographs he procured, he said, will be auctioned off at an event for his foundation.
As for whether Hoffman — playing in his second Masters after finishing tied for 27th four years ago — will be able to overcome a lack of Augusta seasoning to remain in contention, he offered a shrug.
“I’m an experienced TV watcher of the Masters,” he said.
Another solid effort Friday and Hoffman will have a preferred vantage point for the weekend.
Kevin Streelman is having a fun week.
His alma mater, Duke, cut down the nets after college basketball’s national championship game Monday. At a Tuesday dinner to celebrate his victory at last year’s Travelers Championship, company executive Andy Bessette joked of Streelman’s seven consecutive final-round birdies in that event: “That’s more than I’ve made in my life.”
On Wednesday, Streelman won the Masters par-three contest with 13-year-old Ethan Couch on the bag. Streelman connected with Couch, who has an inoperable benign brain tumor, via the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
In the first round of the Masters, a beaming Streelman shot what he called a “stress-free” two-under 70.
“I played awesome,” he said. “Don’t think I had a par putt over three or four feet.”
Ben Crenshaw, playing in his 44th and final Masters, will play his last competitive round at Augusta on Friday. Crenshaw’s opening 91 was the day’s worst score by six shots.... Tom Watson, playing in his 42nd Masters, fared decidedly better with a 71. “I played within myself today,” he said. At 65, he became the oldest player to break par in the Masters.