Notes Tough Act for Hamilton to Follow

By Associated PressJanuary 5, 2005, 5:00 pm
04 Mercedes ChampionshipsKAPALUA, Hawaii -- Vijay Singh isn't the only one trying to follow up on a dream year.
 
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.
 
  • Rich Beem finished 71st on the money list the year after he won the '02 PGA Championship on the strength of a runner-up finish at the Western Open. He had only one other top 10.
  • Ben Curtis, who won the '03 British Open, had only one top 10 last year and finished 141st on the money list.
  • Shaun Micheel ('03 PGA Championship) was 82nd on the money list last year and also had only one top 10.

    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.

    WORLD MONEY
    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.
     
    Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - Mercedes Championships
  • Full Coverage - Mercedes Championships
     
    Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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    Tour's Integrity Program raises gambling questions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 17, 2018, 7:00 pm

    The video begins with an eye-opening disclaimer: “Sport betting markets produce revenues of $1 trillion each year.”

    For all the seemingly elementary elements of the 15-minute video PGA Tour players have been required to watch as part of the circuit’s newly created Integrity Program, it’s the enormity of the industry – $1 trillion annually – that concerns officials.

    There are no glaring examples of how sport betting has impacted golf, no red flags that sent Tour officials into damage control; just a realization that with that kind of money it’s best to be proactive.

    “It's important that in that world, you can operate not understanding what's happening week in and week out, or you can assume that all of our players and everybody in our ecosystem understands that that's not an acceptable activity, or you can just be proactive and clarify and educate,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan explained earlier this month. “That's what we have attempted to do not with just the video, but with all of our communication with our players and will continue to do that.”

    But if clarification is the goal, a copy of the training video obtained by GolfChannel.com paints a different picture.



    Although the essence of the policy is straightforward – “prohibit players from betting on professional golf” – the primary concern, at least if the training video is any indication, is on match fixing; and warns players to avoid divulging what is considered “inside information.”

    “I thought the questions were laughable. They were all like first-grade-level questions,” Chez Reavie said. “I would like to think everyone out here already knows the answer to those questions. But the Tour has to protect themselves.”

    Monahan explained that the creation of the integrity policy was not in reaction to a specific incident and every player asked last week at the Sony Open said they had never encountered any type of match fixing.

    “No, not at all,” Reavie said. “I have friends who will text me from home after a round, ‘Oh, I bet on you playing so-and-so.’ But I make it clear I don’t want to know. I don’t gamble like that. No one has ever approached me about losing a match.”

    It was a common answer, but the majority of the video focuses on how players can avoid being placed in a compromising situation that could lead to match fixing. It should be noted that gamblers can place wagers on head-to-head matchups, provided by betting outlets, during stroke-play rounds of tournaments – not just in match-play competitions.

    Part of the training video included questions players must answer to avoid violating the policy. An example of this was how a player should respond when asked, “Hello, buddy! Well played today. I was following your progress. I noticed your partner pulled out of his approach on 18, looked like his back. Is he okay for tomorrow?”

    The correct answer from a list of options was, “I don’t know, sorry. I’m sure he will get it looked at if it’s bothering him.”

    You get the idea, but for some players the training created more questions.

    How, for example, should a player respond when asked how he’s feeling by a fan?

    “The part I don’t understand, let’s say a member of your club comes out and watches you on the range hitting balls, he knows you’re struggling, and he bets against you. Somehow, some way that could come back to you, according to what I saw on that video,” said one player who asked not to be identified.

    Exactly what constitutes a violation is still unclear for some who took the training, which was even more concerning considering the penalties for a violation of the policy.

    The first violation is a warning and a second infraction will require the player to retake the training program, but a third violation is a fine “up to $500,000” or “the amount illegally received from the betting activity.” A sixth violation is a lifetime ban from the Tour.

    Players are advised to be mindful of what they post on social media and to “refrain from talking about odds or betting activity.” The latter could be an issue considering how often players discuss betting on other sports.

    Just last week at the Sony Open, Kevin Kisner and Justin Thomas had a “friendly” wager on the College Football Playoff National Championship. Kisner, a Georgia fan, lost the wager and had to wear an Alabama football jersey while playing the 17th hole last Thursday.

    “If I'd have got the points, he'd have been wearing [the jersey], and I was lobbying for the points the whole week, and he didn't give them to me,” Kisner said. “So I'm still not sure about this bet.”

    It’s unclear to some if Kisner’s remark, which was a joke and didn’t have anything to do with golf, would be considered a violation. From a common sense standpoint, Kisner did nothing wrong, but the uncertainty is an issue.

    Much like drug testing, which the Tour introduced in 2008, few, if any, think sport betting is an issue in golf; but also like the anti-doping program, there appears to be the danger of an inadvertent and entirely innocent violation.

    The Tour is trying to be proactive and the circuit has a trillion reasons to get out in front of what could become an issue, but if the initial reaction to the training video is any indication they may want to try a second take.

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    Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

    By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

    Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

    That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

    Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

    From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

    Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

    She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

    She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

    “Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

    Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

    With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

    The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

    She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

    The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.

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    One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 5:55 pm

    Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.

    Log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.

    Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:

    Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.

    Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.

    Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.

    Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.

    David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.

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    DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

    By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

    ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

    The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

    ''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

    In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

    ''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

    The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

    ''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

    The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.