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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