Todd Hamilton was gearing up for his rookie season on the PGA Tour at this time a year ago, hopeful of making enough money to keep his card. He figured he would watch the Mercedes Championships on television, as always.
Instead, he was introduced Thursday as a two-time winner -- the Honda Classic and the British Open.
'I never expected last year to work out the way it did,' Hamilton said.
For an encore, he would settle for consistency, even if that means a little less excitement.
Despite two wins and finishing 11th on the money list -- the best by a rookie since David Duval was 11th in 1995 -- Hamilton had only one other top 10 and missed eight cuts. He thinks some still believe his season was a fairy tale, although he hardly backed his way into his two victories.
Hamilton won the Honda Classic with a birdie-birdie finish to beat Davis Love III. Even more impressive was the British Open, where he was paired with Ernie Els over the final 40 holes at Royal Troon and beat him in a playoff.
'I think it's going to be awfully difficult to duplicate or even improve on what I did last year,' Hamilton said. 'I don't expect a year like that to happen again, but I hope that I can get in those positions to make it happen. If I don't win, and play
poorly the whole year, it will be a disappointing year.
'If I don't win, yet give myself a chance to do well in events throughout the year, that would be nice.'
The next year has not been kind to surprise winners of major championships recently.
But Hamilton brings far more experience into the 2005 season.
He was a longtime fixture on the Japanese tour, and won four times the year before he made it through Q-school.
'If you really didn't follow golf very closely, there are probably a lot of you guys that had to look up what I did in Japan,' he said. 'You would not have known that I had won 11 events over there. There was probably a lot of research that had to have been done on my career, even before last year started.'
Also in his favor is his down-to-earth personality.
'I've known Todd since college, and the guy hasn't changed one bit,' Steve Flesch said.
Hamilton is married to his high school sweetheart. He rarely goes a day without playing golf, and wintry weather in Texas over the holidays was the only thing that kept him off the course.
He doesn't believe fame has changed him, and a good example came last fall when Hamilton, an All-American at Oklahoma when the Sooners won a national title under Barry Switzer, went back for a football game.
He was in the bathroom when a man turned his head and started staring at him.
'I should know you,' he said.
'No, you probably don't know me,' Hamilton replied. 'I'll be 39 here in a few weeks. I went to school here, but it's been a long, long time. You shouldn't know me.'
The man wouldn't let up until Hamilton finally said, 'Do you watch golf?'
'He goes, 'That's where I've seen you!' He had watched me play in the Open championship,' Hamilton said. 'Funny things happened like that.'
The silver claret jug has a prominent spot in his Dallas-area home -- on a shelf in the living room. Hamilton already had a replica made, and he keeps the original British Open trophy in the case he keeps in a closet.
'It's nice to sit down on your couch and look up on your mantle and see that,' especially if you've played golf that day, even though it's just with your buddies and you shot 4 over or 5 over,' he said. 'Then you go down, sit on your coach, flip on TV and it's sitting right above your TV. That's pretty good motivation.'
SINGH ON TIGER
With so much focus on Tiger Woods' new swing, Vijay Singh was asked what his trained eye sees about the differences in the player he replaced at No. 1 in the world.
This is one discussion Singh didn't want to join.
'I'm not a swing coach,' he said. 'You've got to ask Butch that.'
It broke up the room with laugher. Singh was referring to Butch Harmon, who was Woods' coach for a decade before Woods fired him and began seeing Dallas-based Hank Haney.
Vijay Singh is on top of the world for the second straight year, this time with a record.
Along with his PGA Tour money record, the 41-year-old Fijian set a record for worldwide earnings in 2004 with $11,648,699, beating by about $600,000 the amount Woods won in 2000.
The World Money List has been published by IMG the last 39 years. It includes tournaments such as the Skins Game and the Target World Challenge.
Singh won $10,905,166 on the PGA Tour and $733,533 in events on other tours. Ernie Els finished second with $9.3 million, while Woods came in third with nearly $7.1 million worldwide.
A record 112 regular tour players won more than $1 million last year.
Annika Sorenstam led the Women's World Money List for the fourth straight year with $2,746,824, while Craig Stadler led the seniors with $2,681,041.
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