Hamilton Offers Hope and Inspiration

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2004, 4:00 pm
TROON, Scotland -- Todd Hamilton always had the talent. What he needed was a passport.
That's what happens when an All-American golfer fails in five straight tries at PGA Tour qualifying, then realizes his best chance for a pro career takes him to all corners of the globe.
An odyssey that began on the back roads of Asia led to an improbable destination at Royal Troon, where Hamilton outplayed Ernie Els in a four-hole playoff to win the British Open on Sunday.
By now, his travels are as well known as the creative chip he played with a utility club from 40 yards off the green to save par on the final hole of the playoff.
He spent a dozen years in faraway lands, from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, until he finally found a home away from home on the Japanese tour. He got his PGA Tour card last December on his eighth try, a rookie at 38.
Hamilton never spent much time dreaming about a major championship. He was too busy trying to get to the major leagues, and the idea of finding a new line of work crossed his mind more than once.
'Back in late '91, early '92, I was playing the Asian Tour,' he said. 'I didn't know it at the time, but the people who backed me financially were going to put together some money to allow me to go play the Asian Tour one more time. My golfing wasn't as consistent as it should have been, and I thought about not playing golf.
'So it seems like probably a fairy tale,' he said, the silver claret jug at his side. 'And to me, it really is.'
It is much more than that.
Hamilton is another example that the road to a major championship can take some strange turns.
Mike Weir can relate.
Long before he was fitted for a green jacket at Augusta National, the scrappy Canadian paid $50 a month to store his belongings so he wouldn't have to pay rent while he honed his game in Asia.
He recalls playing the Indonesian Open, catching a cab to the golf course and then lugging his bag through muddy waters when the cab broke down outside Jakarta. He finally got to the course, took a 9 on a par 3 during his round of 80 and missed the cut.
'I think probably then, I had a tough time thinking I would win the Masters,' Weir once said.
Then there's Rich Beem.
His unlikely path didn't take him out of the country but to something called the Dakota Tours. Out of hope, Beem took a job selling car stereos in Seattle for $7 an hour before he gave golf one more try. Seven years later, he stared down Tiger Woods on the back nine at Hazeltine to win the 2002 PGA Championship.
David Toms was a star at LSU, but he had to toil in Australia when he got out of college. Toms didn't win on the PGA Tour until the Quad Cities Classic at age 30, then captured the PGA Championship in Atlanta by laying up on a par 4 and beating Phil Mickelson with as gutsy a par that has ever been made in a major.
Vijay Singh never had a college degree, much less a pedigree. He honed his game in the steamy jungle of Borneo until he had enough cash to go to Europe. Even then he had to work as a bouncer in a Scottish bar for extra cash as he tried to get his tour card. Now, he is a two-time major champion and probably headed to the Hall of Fame.
Hamilton was an All-American at the University of Oklahoma, but it took him 17 years to get his PGA Tour card, a dozen years of that journey spent at the most remote outposts in golf.
'After a while, his family and I got used to him going back and forth,' Hamilton's mother, Jayne Pearson, said. 'But the first time he went to Asia, I took him to the airport, and I was very concerned.'
Hamilton won 11 times on the Japanese tour, including four times a year ago.
Els also travels the world, usually with an appearance fee that covers a lot more than the cost of travel, and he remembers Hamilton well.
'Whenever our paths crossed, wherever we were in the world, we always had a nice chat,' Els said. 'I always knew he was a good player. That's another thing the media and the people don't realize. Everybody looks at America or Europe, but there's a big world out there, and there's a lot of quality players.
'I knew he was going to be tough.'
The road to a silver claret jug only made him tougher. Hamilton didn't look like someone playing in only his eighth major, the first time anywhere near the lead on a Sunday afternoon.
A chip-in for birdie on the 14th hole gave Hamilton a two-shot lead, the time most newcomers to his position usually have trouble controlling their breathing. Hamilton followed that with a difficult chip to within inches to save par on the 15th, a 12-foot birdie putt on the 16th and a tee shot that found the middle of the green on the 17th.
He struggled on the final hole, dropping into a playoff. But it was Els who blinked first, hitting his 4-iron over the 17th green after Hamilton had stuck his tee shot on the 222-yard hole within 15 feet.
'Sometimes I get in situations where you should be biting all your fingernails off,' Hamilton said. 'I had never been in a position like that, at least in a tournament as grand was this, and to be out there and feel very calm was an oddity.'
To see his name on the claret jug might look odd.
But there were other guys who didn't take the fast track to success and won major championships. And if any other struggling pro was paying attention, there might be more.
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    Reed: 'Back still hurts' from carrying Spieth at Ryder Cup

    By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 10:48 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Friday’s marquee match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play between Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, who are both undefeated in pool play, just keeps getting better and better.

    Following his 1-up victory over Charl Schwartzel on Thursday, Reed was asked what makes Spieth, who defeated HaoTong Li, 4 and 2, so good at match play.

    “I don't know, my back still hurts from the last Ryder Cup,” smiled Reed, who teamed with Spieth at Hazeltine National.

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    The duo did go 2-1-1 at the 2016 Ryder Cup and have a combined 7-2-2 record in Ryder and Presidents Cup play. Reed went on to explain why Spieth can be such a challenging opponent in match play.

    “The biggest thing is he's very consistent. He hits the ball well. He chips the ball well. And he putts it really well,” Reed said. “He's not going to give you holes. You have to go and play some good golf.”

    The winner of Friday’s match between Spieth and Reed will advance to the knockout stage.

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    Reed vs. Spieth: Someone has to go

    By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 10:11 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – The introduction of round-robin play to the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was a necessary evil. It was needed to stem the tide of early exits by high-profile players, but three days of pool play has also dulled the urgency inherent to match play.

    There are exceptions, like Friday’s marquee match between Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, which is now a knockout duel with both players going 2-0-0 to begin the week in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

    That the stars aligned so perfectly to have America’s most dominant pairing in team play the last few years square off in a winner-take-all match will only add to what promises to be must-see TV.

    Sport doesn’t always follow the script, but the pre-match subtext on this one is too good to dismiss. In one corner, professional golf’s “Golden Child” who has used the Match Play to wrest himself out of the early season doldrums, and in the other there’s the game’s lovable bad boy.

    Where Spieth is thoughtful and humble to the extreme, Reed can irritate and entertain with equal abandon. Perhaps that’s why they’ve paired so well together for the U.S. side at the Ryder and Presidents Cup, where they are a combined 7-2-2 as a team, although Spieth had another explanation.

    “We're so competitive with each other within our own pairing at the Ryder Cup, we want to outdo each other. That's what makes us successful,” Spieth said. “Tiger says it's a phenomenon, it's something that he's not used to seeing in those team events. Normally you're working together, but we want to beat each other every time.”

    But if that makes the duo a good team each year for the United States, what makes Friday’s showdown so compelling is a little more nuanced.

    The duo has a shared history that stretches all the way back to their junior golf days in Texas and into college, when Reed actually committed to play for Texas as a freshman in high school only to change his mind a year later and commit to Georgia.

    That rivalry has spilled over to the professional ranks, with the twosome splitting a pair of playoff bouts with Reed winning the 2013 Wyndham Championship in overtime and Spieth winning in extra holes at the 2015 Valspar Championship.

    Consider Friday a rubber match with plenty of intrigue.

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    Although the friendship between the two is genuine, there is an edge to the relationship, as evidenced by Reed’s comment last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational when he was denied relief on the 11th hole on Sunday.

    “I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys,” Reed said.

    While the line was clearly a joke, Reed added to Friday’s festivities when he was asked what makes Spieth such a good match play opponent. “I don't know, my back still hurts from the last Ryder Cup,” smiled Reed, a not-so-subtle suggestion that he carried Spieth at Hazeltine.

    For his part, Spieth has opted for a slightly higher road. He explained this week that there have been moments in the Ryder Cup when his European opponents attempted some gamesmanship, which only angered Reed and prompted him to play better.

    “I've been very nice to [Reed] this week,” Spieth smiled.

    But if the light-hearted banter between the duo has fueled the interest in what is often a relatively quiet day at the Match Play, it’s their status as two of the game’s most gritty competitors that will likely lead to the rarest of happenings in sport – an event that exceeds expectations.

    Both have been solid this week, with Speith winning his first two matches without playing the 18th hole and Reed surviving a late rally from Charl Schwartzel on Thursday with an approach at the 18th hole that left him a tap-in birdie to remain unbeaten.

    They may go about it different ways, but both possess the rare ability to play their best golf on command.

    “I’m glad the world gets to see this because it will be special,” said Josh Gregory, Reed’s college coach who still works with the world No. 23. “You have two players who want the ball and they aren’t afraid of anything. Patrick lives for this moment.”

     Where Reed seems to feed off raw emotion and the energy of a head-to-head duel, Spieth appears to take a more analytical approach to match play. Although he admits to not having his best game this week, he’s found a way to win matches, which is no surprise to John Fields, Spieth’s coach at Texas.

    “Jordan gave us a tutorial before the NCAA Championship, we picked his brain on his thoughts on match play and how he competed. It’s one of those secret recipes that someone gives you,” Fields said. “When he was a junior golfer he came up with this recipe.”

    Whatever the secret sauce, it will be tested on Friday when two of the game’s most fiery competitors will prove why match play can be the most entertaining format when the stars align like they have this week.

    It was a sign of how compelling the match promises to be that when asked if he had any interest in the Spieth-Reed bout, Rory McIlroy smiled widely, “I have a lot of interest in that. Hopefully I get done early, I can watch it. Penalty drops everywhere.”

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    Watch: Bubba casually hits flop shot over caddie's head

    By Grill Room TeamMarch 22, 2018, 9:20 pm

    We've seen this go wrong. Really wrong.

    But when your end-of-year bonus is a couple of brand new vehicles, you're expected to go above and beyond every now and then.

    One of those times came early Thursday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, where Bubba Watson’s caddie Ted Scott let his boss hit a flop shot over his head.

    It wasn’t quite Phil Mickelson over Dave Pelz, but the again, nothing is.

    And the unique warm-up session paid off, as Watson went on to defeat Marc Leishman 3 and 2 to move to 2-0-0 in group play.

    Hey, whatever works.

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    Spieth explains why he won't play in a 'dome'

    By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 9:01 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – No one at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was as excited about Thursday’s forecast as Jordan Spieth.

    Winds blew across Austin Country Club to 20 mph, which is typical for this time of year in Texas, and Spieth put in a typical performance, beating HaoTong Li, 4 and 2, to remain undefeated entering the final day of pool play.

    The windy conditions were exactly what Spieth, who never trailed in his match, wanted. In fact, demanding conditions factor into how he sets his schedule.

    “I have, and will continue to schedule tournaments away from a dome, because it's just unusual for me. I like having the feel aspect,” said Spieth, who attended the University of Texas and played Austin Country Club in college. “Places with no wind, where it's just driving range shots, it's just never been something I've been used to. So I don't really know what to do on them.”

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    Spieth used the CareerBuilder Challenge as an example. The Coachella Valley event rarely has windy conditions, and as a result he’s never played the tournament.

    “I played in a dome in Phoenix, and I didn't strike the ball well there. Actually I've had quite a few this year, where we didn't have very windy conditions,” said Spieth, who will face Patrick Reed in his final pool play match on Friday. “I don't go to Palm Springs, never have, because of that. Look at where you can take weeks off and if they match up with places that potentially aren't the best for me, then it works out.”