Hamiltons Reign Nearing an End

By Mercer BaggsJuly 5, 2005, 4:00 pm
Todd Hamiltons reign as British Open champion may be coming to a close quite soon. And in talking with the 2004 winner, he doesnt really seem to mind.
Hopefully after the tournament, if something crazy doesnt happen again, it will really die down, Hamilton said of the attention he has received, and they will go bug the guy that won this year.
Todd Hamilton
Todd Hamilton's life changed after this putt earned him the Claret Jug.
Hamilton didnt mean for this to come off in a derogatory manner. He loves being known as the Open champion ' and travels extensively with the Claret Jug, but hes never been overly comfortable with all that comes along with that distinction.
Hamilton is as regular a guy as a regular guy can be. Hes a Southwest guy with a stereotypical Midwest personality. Hes a guy who was born in Texas and went to school in Oklahoma. Hes a guy who was literally a touring professional; one who spent the better part of two decades traversing the globe in order to play golf for money, before finally earning his PGA Tour card for the 2004 season. At the age of 38.
Hes a guy with a bushel of talent who surprised most casual observers when he knocked off Davis Love III to win his first tour title at last years Honda Classic.
Hes a guy with critical focus and unyielding determination who shocked the entire golfing population with his playoff victory over Ernie Els at last year British Open.
Hamilton referred to his triumph at Royal Troon as something crazy. What was even more looney was his whirlwind existence thereafter.
The first two-to-three months right after were obviously hectic, he said. A little bit after that I traveled around the world, playing different events ' tournaments I normally watched on TV.
It was kind of neat doing that, but I didnt really have much down time at the end of the year. I think thats carried over and really influenced how Ive played this year.
Hamilton is no longer that obscure touring professional. Hes no longer a guy struggling to salvage a tour card.
But he is not without burden ' or burnout.
In winning the most global of all golf events, there comes a great measure of responsibility, obligation and expectation.
All seem to have taken their toll on him over the last year. But what bothers him the most is how they have combined to adversely affect his performance.
Even though he might not love the attention and the interview requests; he can handle it all as long as hes playing well. What he cant put up with is not playing well.
I dont feel Ive played terribly, but I havent gotten anything out of (my game), he said.
I think that Im the same guy as I was before I won. Ive always expected a lot of myself, whether Im playing with my friends ' nine holes in the evening, or playing the Open Championship, he added. If I go out and shoot 65 one day, and if were playing the same course the next day, I want to shoot 64.
I think sometimes that has hurt my career; that has kind of been a hindrance. I get streaky, I get in my own way. I remember some guy telling me, Let the game come to you. Dont try and force it. Im trying to do that.
Hamilton has played 20 tour events this season. He has 14 cuts made, but no top-10s. Those are the kind of numbers one might have expected last year ' when he was a tour rookie, and before he was a two-time winner and a major champion.
This year things are different. And Hamilton knows it.
'It's great to have your name announced as the reigning Open Champion or whatever, and there are days when I've felt, 'Man, why don't you start playing like the Open Champion instead of a first year or second year player on the tour,'' he said.
'Sometimes that's hard. I've always expected a lot out of myself. Maybe that's why I haven't done as well since the Open Championship last year.'
Hamiltons next stop is Scotland. He didn't made the early trip to acclimatize himself by competing in the Barclay's Scottish Open. Instead, he signed up for the John Deere Classic.
He played in this tournament a year ago. And that, combined with a delay in his flight, meant he didnt get to Troon until Tuesday morning, where he only got in seven practice holes upon his arrival. He played a full 18 on Wednesday, but it hardly seemed the ideal preparation for a major championship.
I didnt play terribly, he said of his 25 holes of preparation. I took good notes, kind of formed a game plan from those two days. And, lo and behold, I end up winning.
Hamilton is not a man of superstition; hes just one who feels an obligation to his loved ones. Thats why he repeated his John Deere-to-Open Championship routine again this year.
Ive got a lot of friends and family around the Quad Cities, who if I didnt play might not get a chance to see me play golf, he explained. Having spent five years on the Asian Tour and 12 years in Japan, not too many of my family and friends got to see me play.
Jetlag should have no effect on Hamilton once he again arrives in Scotland: Having played 12 years in Japan, I could sleep on the benches behind the range, he joked.
But he knows this years tournament will be a far cry from its predecessor. This time hes the defending champion. And there will be plenty of demands on his time.
I know theres a champions dinner that I have to go to. Im sure there will be a number of media requests. And Ill probably have to wake up a little bit earlier than Id like to, to get my practice in, he said.
I might sit down and ask Mr. Curtis ' Ben Curtis ' a few questions and see what he has to say that he had to deal with.
Curtiss advice: Just enjoy it. Have fun. You may never get this chance again.
Soon, Todd Hamilton may well be referred to as former Open champion. And if that happens, its cool. But if not, if something crazy happens again, Hamilton, a globetrotter-turned-Champion Golfer of the Year, will welcome it as well.
Ive told everyone: I hate the interviews and things like that, he said. But Id love to deal with that junk all over again.
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    Rahm (62) fires career low round

    By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

    The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

    Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

    What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

    Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

    Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

    Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

    Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

    Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

    Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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    Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

    Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

    "Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

    Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

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    Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

    "That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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    Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

    By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

    There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

    Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

    Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

    Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


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    The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

    It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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    Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

    Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

    The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

    It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

    "It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."

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    Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

    Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

    "This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."