Mickelson Hamilton Debut in Grand Slam


POIPU BEACH, Hawaii - Masters champion Phil Mickelson and British Open winner Todd Hamilton took two very different roads to get to the PGA Grand Slam of Golf.
It took Mickelson 47 major starts to finally win one and earn a trip to Kauai. Hamilton made it in his rookie season, but spent 17 years playing in Asia and Canada.
Both are playing for the first time in the exclusive $1 million Grand Slam, which begins Tuesday and is reserved for the winners of the four major championships. They are joined by PGA champion Vijay Singh and U.S. Open winner Retief Goosen.
Mickelson earned his 43-long green jacket at Augusta by sinking an 18-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole.
Majors quickly became Mickelson's specialty. He went on to finish second in the U.S. Open, third in the British Open and tied for sixth in the PGA Championship.
'The biggest lesson I got out of it was how important it is to have a final-round lead,' Mickelson said Monday. 'When you have a lead, you have those extra shots. When you're trying to make up shots, you don't have room for error.'
But it was Singh who won nine events on tour, ascending him to No. 1 in the world. He also won the PGA Player of the Year award, snapping Tiger Woods' streak at five.
Singh is making his third appearance at the lush 7,014 yard-Poipu Bay Golf Course. He finished second to Woods on the oceanside course in 1998 and 2000.
At 41, Singh is the most senior member of the foursome and is playing his best golf of his career.
'You can't really say how long you're going to be up there,' he said. 'When you go to the gym and see guys a lot older than you and see how fit they are, it kind of gives you a little boost. I tell (my trainer), 'That's how I'd like to be when I'm 50.' '
Hamilton always believed in himself, but didn't expect to win a major so soon. He just joined the tour last winter after tying for 16th in Q-school.
'I always felt I was good enough to, if not win tournaments, at least get on tour,' he said. 'Unfortunately, I took a different path than I would have liked to.'
Ever since Hamilton, 38, defeated Ernie Els by a stroke to win the British Open, life hasn't been quite the same, especially for a small-town kid who grew up in Galesburg, Ill.
'There wasn't much going on in Galesburg, Ill.,' he said. 'If you did something wrong, everybody knew about it.'
But he credits his time in Asia for sharpening his mental game and preparing him for the PGA Tour.
'I knew how to putt, hit iron shots and drive the ball, but I didn't knew if I could manage my game or if I was patient enough to do well on the U.S. tour and that's why it took too long to get out here,' he said.
Goosen is making his second Grand Slam appearance. The South African finished third in 2001.
But he's had other things on his mind lately. Goosen's wife, Tracy, gave birth on Friday to 7-pound, 9-ounce Ella Ann Goosen.
All four players will go home richer. The Grand Slam winner will earn $400,000, while the fourth-place finisher will get $150,000.
Last year, Jim Furyk won the event by eight strokes over Mike Weir. The victory snapped Woods' record string of five straight Grand Slam wins. Shaun Micheel finished third while Ben Curtis was fourth.
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