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The Ryder Renegade

He is forty-six years old and doesn't care who he ticks off anymore. Maybe Scott Hoch never did. His profile has never been much higher than a two-iron he's trying to keep under the weather. He is still most famous for a short putt he missed against Nick Faldo in a Masters play-off, the kind of putt you can make with your eyes shut as long as it's not one that can win you a green jacket and change your life. Hoch always seems to be squinting a little, right before he hits another iron shot at the flag. He made the New York crowds cheer for him during the U.S. Open by wearing a loud golf shirt with an American flag and the changed New York skyline on it. Hoch isn't supposed to be nearly as colorful as that shirt, but he's not colorless, either.

People who say there are no good talkers in golf ought to talk to him.

"A friend of mine once told me I don't have a filter," Hoch says. "I'll pick up the papers and see something one of the players has said, and I'll laugh because it's just the opposite of what I heard him saying in the locker room. Some of these guys are so obsessed with their image, they'll say one thing to a reporter and another when they're sitting at the table with a bunch of friends. But I'm not like that. You ask me a question, I'll give you pretty much the same answer wherever I am." He laughs and adds, "Which gets me into trouble sometimes."

"Like when you said you disliked the British Open," I say.

"I didn't say I disliked the British Open. I said I disliked one particular golf course."

"St. Andrews."

"St. Andrews," Hoch says, and starts talking about the seventeenth hole at St. Andrews, the famous Road Hole—how they rerouted the thing after about 100 years of playing it one way, what a mess it is, even if it's one of those places in golf that is supposed to make everybody moist.

"You can't say anything against it because it's history," Hoch says. "But who cares about history if the history's not any good?That doesn't make something great, it just makes it old."

I mention to Hoch, who's not supposed to have any personality, that if he'd go on television and say stuff exactly like that, he'd make a fortune. But he's not ready to retire to the booth.

"I can still play," he says.

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