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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    Group standings at WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play

    By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 21, 2018, 7:00 pm

    Here are the group standings for pool play at the 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship in Austin, Texas. The player with the most points in each pool advanced to Saturday's Round of 16 in Austin, Texas. Click here for scoring and click here for the bracket.

    Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4
    (1) D. Johnson (2) J. Thomas: 1-0-0 (3) J. Rahm (4) J. Spieth
    (32) K. Kisner (21) F. Molinari: 1-0-0 (28) K. Aphibarnrat (19) P. Reed
    (38) A. Hadwin
    (48) P. Kizzire: 0-1-0 (43) C. Reavie (34) H. Li
    (52) B. Wiesberger
    (60) L. List: 0-1-0 (63) K. Bradley (49) C. Schwartzel
    Group 5 Group 6 Group 7 Group 8
    (5) H. Matsuyama (6) R. McIlroy (7) S. Garcia (8) J. Day
    (30) P. Cantlay
    (18) B. Harman (20) X. Schauffele (25) L. Oosthuizen
    (46) C. Smith (44) J. Vegas (41) D. Frittelli (42) J. Dufner
    (53) Y. Miyazato (51) P. Uihlein (62) S. Sharma (56) J. Hahn
    Group 9 Group 10 Group 11 Group 12
    (9) T. Fleetwood (10) P. Casey (11) M. Leishman (12) T. Hatton: 1-0-0
    (26) D. Berger (31) M. Fitzpatrick (23) B. Grace (22) C. Hoffman
    (33) K. Chappell (45) K. Stanley (35) B. Watson (36) B. Steele
    (58) I. Poulter (51) R. Henley (64) J. Suri (55) A. Levy: 0-1-0
    Group 13 Group 14 Group 15 Group 16
    (13) A. Noren (14) P. Mickelson (15) P. Perez: 0-1-0 (16) M. Kuchar
    (29) T. Finau (17) R. Cabrera Bello (24) G. Woodland: 0-1-0 (27) R. Fisher
    (39) T. Pieters (40) S. Kodaira (37) W. Simpson: 0-1-0 (47) Y. Ikeda
    (61) K. Na (59) C. Howell III (50) S.W. Kim: 0-1-0 (54) Z. Johnson
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    Match-by-match: 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies, Day 1

    By Will GrayMarch 21, 2018, 6:32 pm

    Here is how things played out on Day 1 of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, as 64 players take on Austin Country Club with hopes of advancing out of pool play:

    Group 15: (15) Pat Perez vs. (50) Si Woo Kim, halved: The first match of the day ended up in a draw, as the top seed rallied from a deficit to salvage half a point. Kim won three of the first six holes and held a 3-up lead with seven holes to go, but Perez fought back with four birdies over the next six holes to draw even.

    Group 15: (24) Gary Woodland vs. (37) Webb Simpson, halved: This group remains entirely up for grabs since nothing was decided on the opening day. Woodland took a 3-up lead at the turn, but Simpson rallied by winning four of the next seven holes, including a birdie on No. 17 that brought him back to all square for the first time since the third hole.

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    Watch: Thomas saves par from impossible position

    By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 21, 2018, 5:18 pm

    Luke List was just hoping for an opening in his Day 1 match against Justin Thomas at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

    Thomas cracked the door on the par-4 ninth, but then quickly slammed it shut. Thomas, 3 up through eight holes, was in terrible shape after two shots at No. 9. But his third shot was a beauty, and a heartbreaker for List.

    Thomas made the putt to halve the hole and make the turn 3 up.

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    LPGA's new Q-Series to offer deferrals for amateurs

    By Randall MellMarch 21, 2018, 4:36 pm

    The LPGA’s new Q-Series, which takes the place of the final stage of Q-School beginning this year, will come with a revolutionary new twist for amateurs.

    For the first time, the LPGA will offer deferrals that will allow amateurs to win tour membership in December but delay turning pro until the following June or July, tour commissioner Mike Whan told GolfChannel.com.

    It’s a notable change, because the deferral will allow a collegiate player to earn tour membership at the end of this year but retain amateur status to finish out her collegiate spring season next year, before joining the tour.

    “We haven’t done that in the past, because we didn’t want an onslaught, where every player in college is trying to join the tour,” Whan said.

    The way it worked in the past, a collegian could advance through the final stage of Q-School, but if that player earned the right to a tour card and wanted to take up membership, she had to declare after the final round that she was turning pro. It meant the player would leave her college team in the middle of the school year. It was a particularly difficult decision for players who earned conditional LPGA status, and it played havoc with the makeup of some college teams.

    Whan said the revamped Q-Series format won’t create the collegiate stampede that deferrals might have in the past.

    “It will take a unique talent to show up at the first stage of Q-School and say, ‘I’ll see you at Q-Series,’” Whan said. “There won’t be a lot of amateurs who make it there.”

    Under the new qualifying format, there will continue to be a first and second stage of Q-School, but it will be much harder to advance to the final stage, now known Q-Series.

    Under the old format, about 80 players advanced from the second stage to the Q-School finals. Under the new format, only 15 to 25 players from the second stage will advance to the Q-Series, and only a portion of those are likely to be collegians.

    Under the new format, a maximum of 108 players will meet at the Q-Series finals, where a minimum of 45 tour cards will be awarded after 144 holes of competition, played over two weeks on two different courses. The field will include players who finished 101st to 150th and ties on the final LPGA money list, and players who finished 11th to 30th and ties on the final Symetra Tour money list. The field will also include up to 10 players from among the top 75 of the Rolex Women’s World Rankings and the top five players on the Golfweek Women’s Collegiate Rankings.

    “We feel if you make it to the Q-Series finals as a college player, you are probably among the best of the best, and we ought to give you the opportunity to finish the college year,” Whan said.

    University of Washington coach Mary Lou Mulflur said she would prefer amateurs not be allowed to compete at Q-School, but she called this a workable compromise.

    “It’s a step in the right direction,” Mulflur said. “It’s better than the way it’s been in the past. That was hard, because it broke up teams.”

    Mulflur said she disliked the tough position the former policy put college players in at the final stage of Q-School, where they had to decide at event’s end whether to turn pro and accept tour membership.

    “I can’t imagine being a kid in that position, and I’ve had a couple kids in that position,” Mulflur said. “It’s hard on everybody, the player, the family and the coaches. You hear about coaches standing there begging a kid not to turn pro, and that’s just not the way it should be, for the coach or the player.”

    Mulflur agreed with Whan that the new Q-Series format should limit the number of collegians who have a chance to win tour cards.

    “I believe it’s a good compromise, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out going forward,” Mulflur said. “Kudos to the commissioner for giving kids this option.”

    University of Miami coach Patti Rizzo, a four-time LPGA winner, applauds the deferral option. Two years ago, Rizzo lost her best player, Danny Darquea, who turned pro in the spring. It hurt Miami’s team.

    “That was probably our best chance in seven years to win the nationals,” Rizzo said.

    Rizzo said her concerns seeing a player turn pro go beyond how it affects her team.

    “What all these girls need to realize now is that a degree is more important than ever,” Rizzo said. “In my day, it was like, 'My chances are pretty good. I will get my card.’ But it’s so much more competitive now. And financially, it’s hard to make it. I think it’s so much harder than it ever was. So many girls aren’t making it, and they need a backup plan.”

    Darquea is playing the Symetra Tour now, but Rizzo said she is also back in Miami taking classes to finish up her final semester and get her degree.

    “It’s great she is doing that, but it would have been better if she could have stayed in college three more months and got her degree and then turned pro,” Rizzo said. “I think this deferral option is great, and I would think all the college coaches will think so, too.”

    Whan said collegians who take deferrals will be counseled.

    “We will sit down with them and their families and explain the risks,” Whan said. “If you take a deferral and start playing on July 15, you might find yourself back in Q-Series again later that year, because you may not have enough time.”