Hamilton On the Fast Track

By Associated PressMarch 15, 2004, 5:00 pm
04 Honda ClassicPALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Three months ago, Todd Hamilton headed to California for his eighth attempt at PGA Tour qualifying school. Now he's on the fast track to Augusta National.
His fortunes turned just as quickly Sunday in the Honda Classic.
Having squandered a four-shot lead, Hamilton walked to the 17th tee and saw that Davis Love III, one of golf's premier players, was one stroke ahead of him and finished with his round of 69 on a blustery day at Mirasol.
'I knew I had to at least make one birdie to have a chance,' Hamilton said.
No one could have guessed what followed.
In a dramatic finish to a journey that lasted 17 years, Hamilton birdied the final two holes, stuffing an 8-iron into 4 feet on No. 18 for a one-stroke victory.
'Maybe it was my turn to win,' Hamilton said.
He certainly paid his dues.
Hamilton, an All-American at Oklahoma who was once paired with Love (North Carolina) during a college tournament, always believed he had the talent to play on the PGA Tour.
He never realized how long it would take him, or where the road would lead -- first Canada, then the PGA Tour's minor leagues, and then to all parts of the globe. He played the Asian Tour five years and did well enough to make it on the Japanese tour, where he won six times.
Married with three young children, he spent the last 12 years playing in obscurity in the Far East.
'But this is the place,' he said. 'If you want to achieve, and you want to feel like you've accomplished something great, this is the place to do it right here.'
Hamilton, who didn't make a birdie in the final round until the last two holes, closed with a 2-over 72. It was the second time this year the winner failed to break par in the last round. John Daly had a 75 at Torrey Pines and won in a three-man playoff.
'He finished like a true champion and birdied those last two holes when he knew he had to do it,' Love said. 'It's a great, great story. I know he's worked long and hard for it.'
Hamilton, a 38-year-old rookie, finished at 12-under 276 and earned $900,000, about as much as his best season in Japan, and earned an exemption on the PGA Tour through the 2006 season.
The perks don't stop there.
At No. 96 in the world going into the Honda Classic, he should easily move into the top 50 in the world ranking Monday, high enough to qualify for the Masters when the deadline falls in two weeks.
'That would be special,' Hamilton said softly.
Love lost a final-round lead last year to Justin Leonard. This time, Love applied pressure by playing mistake-free down the stretch, taking the lead with a great lag putt from a deep swale off the 17th green. And he looked like a winner when he saved par with a 6-foot putt on the 18th.
Hamilton had not made a birdie throughout the gusty day at Mirasol, and twice had to make tough par saves just to keep his slim hopes alive.
'He gave everyone a chance,' Love said. 'And then he took it away from us.'
Hamilton split the middle of the 18th fairway, and had 162 yards to a front pin. Nervously wiping the grip of his 8-iron, the ball took dead aim at the flag and stopped 4 feet behind the hole.
'I was just trying to get to the front third of the green and give myself a chance,' Hamilton said. 'When I heard the people hollering, I knew it was close.'
The only battle left was his emotions.
'I bit my lip,' Hamilton said. 'I didn't realize my teeth were that sharp.'
Brian Bateman, who had never finished in the top 10 on the PGA Tour, had a share of the lead at 10 under when he finished with his 68. He wound up third and earned $340,000.
Kevin Na, at 20 the youngest player on the PGA Tour, shot a 69 and tied for fourth with Robert Allenby (70), Woody Austin (70) and Fredrik Jacobson (73).
It was the second straight day Hamilton birdied the 18th.
His 15-foot putt on Saturday expanded his lead to four shots, and figured that might come in handy. This was only his 18th start on the PGA Tour, and 20 mph gusts made the lead seem even smaller.
Hamilton struggled early, shot 39 on the front and his lead was gone when he three-putted at No. 13.
'I would like to say I was setting myself up for a great comeback,' he said. 'I couldn't get the ball close to the hole. And if I did, I couldn't make a putt.'
Just when it looked like he would fall apart, Hamilton kept it together with a remarkable short game.
He left himself 50 feet from the hole on No. 14, but rolled in a 7-foot par putt. He missed the green well to the right on the par-3 15th, into a deep collection area some 80 feet from the cup, but knocked it up to 3 feet for another par that kept him in the game.
That set him up for a finish no one saw coming, and a victory that even Hamilton doubted.
'Until I got my tour card, I always doubted something like this would happen,' he said. 'I don't think it's sunk in.'
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    Korda happy to finally be free of jaw pain

    By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 2:43 am

    PHOENIX – Jessica Korda isn’t as surprised as everyone else that she is playing so well, so quickly, upon her return from a complex and painful offseason surgery.

    She is inspired finally getting to play without recurring headaches.

    “I’d been in pain for three years,” she said after posting a 4-under-par 68 Friday to move two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

    Korda had her upper jaw broken in three places and her low jaw broken in two places in December in a procedure that fixed the alignment of her jaw.

    Korda, 25, said the headaches caused by her overbite even affected her personality.

    “Affects your moods,” Korda said. “I think I was pretty snappy back then as well.”

    She was pretty pleased Friday to give herself a weekend chance at her sixth LPGA title, her second in her last three starts. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand three weeks ago in her first start after returning from surgery.

    “I'm much happier now,” Korda said. “Much calmer.”

    Even if she still can’t eat the things she would really like to eat. She’s still recuperating. She said the lower part of her face remains numb, and it’s painful to chew crunchy things.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    “Chips are totally out of question,” Korda said.

    She can eat most things she likes, but she has to cut them into tiny pieces. She can’t wait to be able to eat a steak.

    “They broke my palate, so I can't feel anything, even heat,” Korda said. “So that's a bit difficult, because I can't feel any heat on my lip or palate. I don't know how hot things are going in until they hit my throat.”

    Korda has 27 screws in her skull holding the realignment together. She needed her family to feed her, bathe her and dress her while she recovered. The procedure changed the way she looks.

    While Korda’s ordeal and all that went into her recovery has helped fans relate to her, she said it’s the desire to move on that motivates her.

    “Because I was so drugged up, I don't remember a lot of it,” Korda said. “I try to forget a lot of it. I don't think of it like I went through a lot. I just think of it as I'm pain-free. So, yeah, people are like, `Oh, you're so brave, you overcame this and that.’ For me, I'm just going forward.”

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    Finally adapted to short putter, Martin near lead

    By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:54 am

    PHOENIX – Mo Martin loved her long putter.

    In fact, she named her “Mona.”

    For 10 years, Martin didn’t putt with anything else. She grew up with long putters, from the time she started playing when she was 5.

    While Martin won the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2014, about nine months after giving up Mona for a short putter, she said it’s taken until today to feel totally comfortable with one.

    And that has her excited about this year.

    Well, that and having a healthy back again.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    “I've had a feeling that this year was going to be a good one,” Martin said. “My game is in a special place.”

    Martin was beaming after a 6-under-par 66 Friday moved her two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

    “Just a beautiful day,” Martin said. “I was able to play my game, make my putts.”

    Martin hit all 14 fairways in the second round, hit 15 greens in regulation and took just 27 putts. After struggling with nagging back pain last year, she’s pain free again.

    She’s happy to “just to get back to a place now where my ball striking is where it has been the last few years.”

    Martin, by the way, says Mona remains preserved in a special place, “a shrine” in her home.

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    Clanton rides hole-out eagle to lead at Founders

    By Associated PressMarch 17, 2018, 1:47 am

    PHOENIX - Cydney Clanton holed out from the fairway for eagle on the par-4 13th and closed with a birdie Friday to take the second-round lead in the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

    Clanton shot a 5-under 67, playing the back nine at Desert Ridge in 5-under 31 to reach 9-under 135.

    Clanton's wedge on the 13th flew into the cup on the first bounce. She also birdied the par-5 11th and 15th and the par-4 18th. The 28-year-old former Auburn player is winless on the LPGA.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    Ariya Jutanugarn, Marina Alex, Karine Icher and Mariajo Uribe were a stroke back on a calmer day after wind made scoring more difficult Thursday.

    Jessica Korda and Mo Martin were 7 under, and Michelle Wie topped the group at 6 under.

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    Ko's struggles continue with Founders MC

    By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:26 am

    PHOENIX – Lydia Ko loves the Bank of Hope Founders Cup and its celebration of the game’s pioneers, and that made missing the cut Friday sting a little more.

    With a 1-over-par 73 following Thursday’s 74, Ko missed the cut by four shots.

    After tying for 10th at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in her last start, Ko looked to be turning a corner in her quest to find her best form again, but she heads to next week’s Kia Classic with more work to do.

    “I just have to stay patient,” Ko said. “I just have to keep my head high.”

    It was just the fifth missed cut in Ko’s 120 career LPGA starts, but her fourth in her last 26 starts.

    Ko’s ball striking has been erratic this year, but her putting has been carrying her. She said her putting let her down Friday.

    “It seemed like I couldn’t hole a single putt,” she said. “When I missed greens, I just wasn’t getting up and down. When I got a birdie opportunity, I wasn’t able to hole it.”

    Ko came to Phoenix ranked 112th in driving distance, 121st in driving accuracy and 83rd in greens in regulation. She was sixth in putting average.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    Cristie Kerr saw the struggle playing two rounds with Ko.

    “Her game’s not in good shape,” Kerr said. “She seemed a little lost.”

    Ko, 20, made those sweeping changes last year, starting 2017 with a new coach (Gary Gilchrist), a new caddie (Peter Godfrey) and new equipment (PXG). She made more changes at this year’s start, with another new coach (Ted Oh) and new caddie (Jonnie Scott).

    Ko doesn’t have to look further than Michelle Wie to see how a player’s game can totally turn around.

    “It always takes time to get used to things,” Ko said. “By the end of last year, I was playing solid. I’m hoping it won’t take as much time this year.”

    Ko had Oh fly to Asia to work with her in her two starts before the Founders Cup, with their work showing up in her play at the HSBC in Singapore. She said she would be talking to Oh again before heading to the Kia Classic next week and then the ANA Inspiration. She has won both of those events and will be looking to pull some good vibes from that.

    “This is my favorite stretch of events,” she said. “And I love the Founders Cup, how it celebrates all the generations that have walked through women’s golf. And I love the West Coast swing. Hopefully, I’ll make more putts next week.”

    Ko, whose run of 85 consecutive weeks at Rolex world No. 1 ended last summer, slipped to No. 12 this week.