Notes The Story of Bambi

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2004, 4:00 pm
TROON, Scotland -- Ron Levin is called 'Bambi' by his peers because he first went to work as a tour caddie when he was 17 and looks young compared with most other loopers. He has spent half his life as a caddie, working on just about every tour imaginable.
Still, he would not have been on the 18th green at Royal Troon hugging his boss - British Open champion Todd Hamilton - if not for a freak encounter a dozen years ago at Muirfield, and visa problems involving another caddie.
The strange sequence of events started when Hamilton won the Asian Tour money list, which got him into the 1992 British Open at Muirfield. Levin was working for D.A. Weibring that week, but Weibring didn't make it through final qualifying.
'He had met a girl that was working at a bed and breakfast that we were staying at,' Hamilton recalled. 'She mentioned to him, 'There's a golfer staying at our place that is looking for a caddie.' I was told to look for him in the parking lot.'
Hamilton missed the cut with Bambi on the bag, although they stayed in touch over the years.
Now, fast-forward to the start of the season. Hamilton got his PGA Tour card through Q-school, but his regular caddie in Japan (a Canadian resident) has been having trouble getting his visa sorted out.
'I saw him (Levin) out earlier this year and I told him the situation,' Hamilton said. 'I said, 'You're more than welcome to caddie for me if you'd like for the rest of the year.''
The rest is history. They won together at the Honda Classic, which got Hamilton into the Masters and secured his PGA Tour card for two years. And they won the biggest of them all at Royal Troon, which makes Hamilton exempt on tour and for the majors the next five years.
'He was very instrumental,' Hamilton said Sunday. 'He kept me calm. He knew what today was all about. If I could saw that claret jug in half and give him half, I'd gladly do it.'
British Amateur champion Stuart Wilson was flirting with the lead in the first round of the British Open, but ended his week at Royal Troon with rounds of 75-77-76 and tied for 63rd.
Still, he wound up with the silver medal as the low amateur, and the only one to make the cut.
'This is what I came here to achieve, and to pick up the silver medal is a special honor,' he said. 'I've played alongside a lot of good players. The reception from the crowd has been fantastic. And to play all four rounds was really special.'
The only tough moment came during the practice round, when security made him park in a different lot.
'I think the marshals were looking for something a bit plusher than a Ford Fiesta,' he said.
Next up for Wilson is the Masters, which gives an invitation to the British Amateur champion. He also wants to play in the Walker Cup next year before deciding whether to turn pro.
K.J. Choi is trying to speak English in more of his interviews, a noble effort considering it makes the amiable South Korean feel uncomfortable.
He has lived in the United States the last five years, moving to Houston in 2001. His best teacher is 7-year-old son David, who is in school and speaks English better than Korean.
'David tries to teach me a few phrases, and I try to catch them,' Choi said. 'He's like an American kid. He's forgetting his Korean. I'm worried about it. English is perfect. Korean, 40 to 50 percent. Sometimes, he doesn't understand me.'
As more college players are leaving school early to turn pro, two-time U.S. Amateur Public Links champion Ryan Moore says he will stay at UNLV all four years.
'It's always been something I thought about,' Moore said of playing on the PGA Tour. 'But I really want a team championship. That's what you play college for. You don't go there for all the individual titles. This is your one time, four years of your life, you get to play as a team.'
Moore now has even more reason to stay in school. His second victory in the Publinx gets him back to the Masters, where he made the cut two years ago.
That's also where he played a practice round with Arnold Palmer, who had a word with Moore's father about not rushing into professional golf.
'He said that too many guys make the mistake of going a little early instead of kicking back and enjoying themselves ... which is what I'm looking forward to next year,' Moore said.
Going into the PGA Championship, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson are the only players who can finish in the top 10 in all four majors this year.
A dozen others will try to make the cut in all majors, still exclusive company. They are K.J. Choi, Vijay Singh, Chris DiMarco, Nick Price, Retief Goosen Charles Howell III, Steve Flesch, Shaun Micheel, Scott Verplank, Jerry Kelly and Tiger Woods, who has never missed the cut in a major as a pro.
On the other side are the five players who have missed the cut in all three majors - Thomas Bjorn, Brian Davis, Nick Faldo, Australian amateur Nick Flanagan and Chad Campbell, who missed the last two by a single shot.
Ernie Els looked distraught after losing the British Open in a playoff. Imagine how the guy felt who placed the largest single wager ever in the Open - 62,500 pounds on Els at 8-1 odds at the start of the week. He stood to get about $935,000. ... Mark Calcavecchia, who made birdie out of the rough just to make the cut, had a chance to finish in the top 10 at the British Open, but he was knocked out when Tiger Woods made a 6-foot par putt on the final hole. ... Most people commonly refer to hybrid fairway metals as the Rescue club, which is made by Taylor Made and was the first prominent product on the market. Todd Hamilton is sponsored by Taylor Made. So what was that club that he used to save par on the final hole of the playoff? A hybrid club made by Sonartec. ... Fred Funk, who skipped the British Open so he could try to get Ryder Cup points at the B.C. Open, tied for 40th.
Phil Mickelson, who leads the money list, would be 12th based on his performance in the three majors alone. He has earned $2,350,965 from the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open.
'This course has a lot of history.' - Fred Funk on En-Joie Golf Club, site of the B.C. Open, which he played instead of the British Open.
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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

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    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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    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.

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    "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.

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    "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.

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    Vogel Monday qualifies for eighth time this season

    By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:27 pm

    The PGA Tour's regular season ended with another tally for the Monday King.

    While Monday qualifiers are a notoriously difficult puzzle to solve, with dozens of decorated professionals vying for no more than four spots in a given tournament field, T.J. Vogel has turned them into his personal playground this season. That trend continued this week when he earned a spot into the season-ending Wyndham Championship, shooting a 5-under 66 and surviving a 4-for-3 playoff for the final spots.

    It marks Vogel's eighth successful Monday qualification this season, extending the unofficial record he set when he earned start No. 7 last month at The Greenbrier. Patrick Reed earned the nickname "Mr. Monday" when he successfully qualified six different times during the 2012 season before securing full-time status.

    There have been 24 different Monday qualifiers throughout the season, with Vogel impressively turning 19 qualifier starts into eight tournament appearances.

    Vogel started the year with only conditional Tour status, and explained at the AT&T Byron Nelson in May that he devised his summer schedule based on his belief that it's easier to Monday qualify for a PGA Tour event than a tournament.

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    "The courses that the PGA Tour sets the qualifiers up, they're more difficult and sometimes they're not a full field whereas the Web, since there's no pre-qualifier, you have two full fields for six spots each and the courses aren't as tough," Vogel said. "So I feel like if you take a look at the numbers, a lot of the Web qualifiers you have to shoot 8-under."

    Vogel has made three cuts in his previous seven starts this year, topping out with a T-16 finish at the Valspar Championship in March. The 27-year-old also played the weekend at the Nelson and the Wells Fargo Championship, missing the cut at The Greenbrier in addition to the RSM Classic, Honda Classic and FedEx St. Jude Classic.

    While Vogel won't have another Monday qualifier opportunity until October, he has a chance to secure some 2019 status this week in Greensboro. His 51 non-member FedExCup points would currently slot him 205th in the season-long race, 13 points behind Rod Pampling at No. 200. If Vogel earns enough points to reach the equivalent of No. 200 after this week, he'd clinch a spot in the upcoming Tour Finals where he would have a chance to compete for a full PGA Tour card for the 2018-19 season.