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IRON MAN

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MORGAN HOFFMANN IS BATTLING HIS OWN BODY TO STAY ON THE PGA TOUR

MORGAN HOFFMANN will never forget when he was told his body would wither away.

For five years, starting in 2011, Hoffmann—who joined the PGA Tour in '13—had visited more than 25 doctors to figure out why his right pectoral muscle was shrinking. By mid-2016, roughly 80% of the muscle had vanished, so Hoffmann, then 27, visited the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, where a doctor suggested he undergo blood tests. A few months later, in November, the doctor informed him he had facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy, a rare disease that causes muscles—most often in the face, shoulder and upper arms—to atrophy.

"Right as the words first came out of his mouth, I marked him off as an idiot," Hoffmann, the former No. 1 amateur in the world, says. "I never thought it was something incurable."

Shortly after his diagnosis, he finished tied for second at the Honda Classic, his best finish on Tour. But by early 2018 the atrophy had worsened significantly, prompting him to put his golf career on hold. He ended up skipping most of the season.

Doctors told Hoffmann there was nothing he could do about his disease, but he combed the world over for treatment options. He sampled several diets—including eating only red grapes for 16 days—before settling on a vegan diet of almost exclusively raw vegetables and fruit. He visited Nepal for a four-month spell of intensive therapy. But the deterioration of Hoffmann's muscles continued: His right pec got worse, and his left started to wither as well. He says he's lost about 25 yards off the tee, and his ranking has dropped to No. 774 from a career best of 84. "It's crazy how much weaker I've gotten," he says.

After Hoffmann's foundation, launched last year, held its inaugural celebrity pro-am last summer, raising $1.6 million to fight muscular dystrophy, the 29-year-old returned to the PGA Tour in January and made the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open before missing his next two cuts. Playing on a major medical extension, which gives him the chance to make up FedEx Cup points, he'll need to have moderate success this season to re-earn Tour status. The challenge is great, but he's determined to live his dream as long as his body permits.

"It's supposed to only get worse as time goes on," he says. "But I want to play until I literally can't anymore."