GULLANE, Scotland – At a venue that nearly always produces a Hall of Fame Open winner, it’s ironic that midway through the opening round at Muirfield, Todd Hamilton's name surfaced on the first page of the leaderboard.
Surely you remember him – the journeyman pro who smacked his trusty hybrid all the way around Royal Troon en route to a stunning victory at the 2004 British Open. He’s practically disappeared since. Even now, he gets recognized more overseas than in the States.
“Terrible,” he says now of the nine years after Troon. “I try not to reflect on it. There have been days when I didn’t want to play.”
So, naturally, he arrived for his first-round tee time at Muirfield with a new driver (TaylorMade’s new SLDR prototype) and putter (Scotty Cameron Fastback) and shot 2-under 69, his best score since the final round in ’04, a span of 20 rounds.
Like any pro, there have recently been good days and bad, but mostly the latter. After beginning the year with three consecutive made cuts on the European Tour, he hasn’t cashed a paycheck in eight of his last 10 starts. At the Open, in particular, he has skipped the weekend five of the past six years, including the last four.
His confidence was left somewhere on the west coast of Scotland. Hamilton compared this skid to a sharpshooter in basketball who went 10-for-11 one night, then 1-for-15 the next.
“I’ve had a lot of 1-for-15’s the last few years,” he says.
The challenge of links golf is that it requires confidence – to pull off particular shots, to commit to lines, to trust the process. That’s not easy to do, however, when you’ve missed 128 of 186 cuts on the PGA Tour since his major triumph.
“I definitely thought my golfing career would have been better,” Hamilton shrugged.
At 47, he readily admits he’s looking forward to the Champions Tour, with its carts and laid-back vibe. But he still wants to enjoy the game, particularly with his two young boys, ages 15 and 10, showing interest. “I want to show them I can still play good golf,” he says.