Hamilton Overcomes Adversity

By Associated PressJuly 19, 2004, 4:00 pm
Everything he ever wanted was slipping away.
 
Todd Hamilton knew that feeling intimately, too intimately, maybe, and more times than he cared to admit.
 
This time, it was happening below scudding clouds alongside the Irish Sea, with the British Open on the line. But it couldn't have felt all that different from all those other picture-postcard days spent trying to eke out a living playing golf on the other side of the Atlantic, or the other side of the world.
 
A player doesn't become a PGA Tour rookie at age 38, after all, without becoming familiar with disappointment. In Hamilton's case, there were seven failed attempts to get through the tour's qualifying school in Florida and California. Then there was the time, a dozen years ago, when the sponsors bankrolling his shot at the Asian tour were running out of patience and money.
 
'I knew I was a decent golfer. I knew I tried hard. I knew I worked hard,' Hamilton said.
 
At the end of a day when he must have wondered a dozen times whether his reach would ever exceed his grasp, Hamilton was now sitting close enough to the silver claret jug to see his wide smile reflected in it.
 
'Sometimes I think what kept me back - two things, really - were I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well and a lot of times I felt that in tournaments like this, if I happened to get into them, I didn't really feel that I belonged.
 
'So,' he added, 'maybe all that will change now.'
 
Who knows where and when someone finally finds enough steel in his spine to stand up to failure.
 
Anybody who watched this Open unfold would answer that the place was Royal Troon and the time was at the end of a Scottish summer afternoon. Hamilton played 'military golf' on the 72nd hole of regulation Sunday - hitting it right, left, right, left - before walking off with a bogey that let Ernie Els catch him and force a playoff. But that doesn't begin to tell Hamilton's story.
 
He could have folded at any point in the four-hole playoff and still acquitted himself honorably, much the way close pal and fellow American golfing expatriate Brian Watts did in losing a playoff to Mark O'Meara at the 1998 British Open.
 
But Hamilton spent too much time in too many far-flung places preparing himself for this moment to let that happen to him.
 
There were all those lonely weeks living in hotels, struggling with foreign languages and wondering whether his three young kids back home were learning to walk and talk without him. There were times when Hamilton played tournaments in Asia, where opponents' caddies, or their friends, flat-out cheated, bumping balls out of tough spots and trying to take money out of his pocket.
 
Stretching even further back were those days when Hamilton was a kid himself. He was so in love with golf that he went round and round a nine-hole course in a tiny west-central Illinois town - his personal record was seven times in one day - trying to master a maddening game.
 
'I'm kind of glad it worked out that way,' he said after climbing into the lead at the end of the third round, 'having some struggles here and there and fighting back to achieve my dream.'
 
As it turned out, Hamilton's biggest fight was still in front of him. When he left Troon's aging clubhouse, Els was alongside and out ahead of them, players like Phil Mickelson, Retief Goosen and Tiger Woods - major winners all - were collecting birdies.
 
This time, though, Hamilton turned out to be more sure-handed than any of them. He brushed aside one big name after another until only Els was left. At the third hole of the playoff, he made par to the South African's bogey, then ran a chip shot to within 2 feet of the hole at the last one for an even-nervier par to seal the win.
 
Hamilton bent over to pull the ball out of the cup, then stopped and took in the scene. The grandstands were packed with fans howling their admiration and thousands more cheered along the fairway, turning the 18th green into a roiling amphitheater of noise.
 
Hamilton celebrated along with them for a moment, then walked back to the hole and reached down for the ball. He grabbed and held on tight, certain at last that there was no chance this one was going to slip away.
 
Related Links:
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  • Full Coverage - 133rd Open Championship
     
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    Hammer in position (again) to co-medal at U.S. Am

    By Ryan LavnerAugust 14, 2018, 10:37 pm

    PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Cole Hammer is in position to go for a rare sweep in this summer’s biggest events.

    Two weeks ago, Hammer, an incoming freshman at Texas, was the co-medalist at the Western Amateur and went on to take the match-play portion, as well.

    Here at the U.S. Amateur, Hammer shot rounds of 69-68 and was once again in position to earn co-medalist honors. At 6-under 137, he was tied with 19-year-old Daniel Hillier of New Zealand.

    “It would mean a lot, especially after being medalist at the Western Am,” Hammer said afterward. “It’s pretty special.”

    No stroke-play medalist has prevailed in the 64-man match-play bracket since Ryan Moore in 2004. Before that, Tiger Woods (1996) was the most recent medalist champion.  


    Match scoring from U.S. Amateur

    U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos


    On the strength of his Western Am title, Hammer, 18, has soared to No. 18 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He credited his work with swing coach Cameron McCormick and mental coach Bob Rotella.

    “Just really started controlling my iron shots really well,” said Hammer, who has worked with McCormick since 2015, when he qualified for the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay as a 15-year-old.

    “Distance control with my wedges and all my iron shots, playing different shots, has become really a strength in my game. I’ve really turned the putter on this year, and I’m seeing the lines and matching the line with the speed really well. I think that’s been the key to my summer.”

    A two-time New Zealand Amateur champion, Hillier is ranked 27th in the world. He said that, entering the tournament, he would have been pleased just to make it to match play.

    “But to come out on top, it’s amazing,” Hillier said. “Cole is a really good golfer and has been playing well lately. So, yeah, I’m in good company.”

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    Tee times, TV schedule, stats for Wyndham Championship

    By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 14, 2018, 9:55 pm

    It's the last tournament of the PGA Tour's regular season as the top 125 in the FedExCup points list advance to next week's playoff event. Here's the key info for the Wyndham Championship. (Click here for tee times)

    How to watch:

    Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

    Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

    Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

    Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.


    Purse: $6 million

    Course: Sedgefield Country Club (par 70, 7,127 yards)

    Defending champion: Henrik Stenson. Last year he defeated Ollie Schniederjans by one stroke to earn his sixth career PGA Tour win.


    Notables in the field

    Henrik Stenson at the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

    Henrik Stenson

    • Missed the cut last week at the PGA Championship

    • Six top-10 finishes this year, including T-5 at the Masters and T-6 at the U.S. Open


    Sergio Garcia

    • Eight missed cuts in last 10 PGA Tour starts

    • Currently 131 in FedExCup standings (33 points back of 125th)


    Webb Simpson

    • Five top-10 finishes in this event since 2010 (won in 2011)

    • 56 under par in last five years in this event (best of any player in that span)

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    Faldo: Woods told fellow Masters champ 'I'm done' in '17

    By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 7:42 pm

    Fresh off his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship, it's easy to get caught up in the recent success and ebullient optimism surrounding Tiger Woods. But it was not that long ago that Woods even hitting another competitive shot was very much in doubt.

    Six-time major champ Sir Nick Faldo shed light on those darker times during a recent appearance on the Dan Patrick Show when he relayed a story from the 2017 Masters champions' dinner. The annual meal is one of golf's most exclusive fraternities, as only the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club is allowed to dine with the men who have each donned a green jacket.

    Last spring Woods had not yet undergone spinal fusion surgery, and Faldo explained that Woods at one point turned to an unnamed Masters champ and grimly assessed his future playing chances.


    Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    "I know he whispered to another Masters champion, two Masters dinners ago, 'I'm done. I won't play golf again,'" Faldo said. "He said, 'I'm done. I'm done, my back is done.' He was in agony. He was in pain. His leg, the pain down his legs, there was nothing enjoyable. He couldn't move. If you watched footage of him, he couldn't even get in and out of the golf cart at the (2016) Ryder Cup when he was a vice captain."

    But Woods opted for fusion surgery a few weeks later, and after a lengthy rehab process he returned to competition in December. His 2018 campaign has been nothing short of remarkable, with a pair of runner-up finishes to go along with a T-6 result at The Open when he held the outright lead on the back nine on Sunday.

    After apparently even counting himself out, Woods is back up to 26th in the latest world rankings and appears in line to be added as a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup next month.

    "What he's been able to do is unbelievable," Faldo said. "To turn this aruond, to get this spine fusion, it's completely taken away the pain. To have this mobility is absolutely amazing. Great on him, and great for golf."

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    McDowell needs Wyndham result to maintain status

    By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:56 pm

    For the first time in nearly three years, Graeme McDowell heads into an event with his PGA Tour status hanging in the balance.

    The Ulsterman joined the Tour in 2006, and he has had nearly uninterrupted status since winning the 2010 U.S. Open. But McDowell's two-season exemption for winning the 2015 OHL Classic at Mayakoba only extends through this week, where he will start the Wyndham Championship at No. 143 in the season-long points race.

    McDowell tied for fifth at Sedgefield Country Club in 2016, and he will likely need a similar result to crack the top 125 in the standings and retain his fully exempt status for the 2019 season. While he finished T-10 in Las Vegas in November, that remains his lone top-10 finish of the Tour season. The veteran's best results this year have come in Europe, where he tied for fifth at the Italian Open and finished T-12 at the BMW PGA Championship.


    Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    "I'm trying not to put too much pressure on myself. I feel like it's not a do-or-die scenario for me," McDowell told reporters earlier this month at the Barracuda Championship. "I feel if I was 25 years old without a European Tour card to fall back on, it would be a do-or-die scenario. Certainly trying to put the pressure off, if I don't get myself into the top 125 it's not the end of the world for me. I still feel like I can play a great schedule next season."

    By finishing Nos. 126-150 in points after this week, McDowell would retain conditional status that would likely ensure him at least 12-15 starts next season. He would also still have privileges as a past tournament champion.

    But he's not the only winner from the 2015-16 season whose two-year exemption is on the verge of running out. Fabian Gomez (160th), Peter Malnati (164th) and Billy Hurley III (202nd) all need big results in Greensboro to keep their cards, while Shane Lowry, David Lingmerth and Matt Every all earned three-year exemptions for victories in 2015 but currently sit Nos. 139, 140 and 184 in points, respectively.

    Last year four players moved into the top 125 thanks to strong play at Wyndham, with the biggest jump coming from Rory Sabbatini, who went from No. 148 to No. 122 after tying for fourth place.