The Long Road From the Far East to Scotland
Well, Curtis may have been the unknown. But Hamilton has had a solid, if somewhat unspectacular, career. He isnt the player you would pick for a major, but he isnt nearly the surprise Curtis was.
Curtis was 396th in the world when he won. Hamilton was 56th. Hamilton is 38 years old, Curtis was just 26. Hamilton has been a pro for 17 years, won 11 times in the Far East, and earlier this year ' his first on the PGA Tour after eight trips to Q-School ' he won at the Honda Classic. Curtis had been a pro for just three years and had compiled quite an amateur record in the U.S., but he was virtually unknown outside the borders.
Hamilton may have been unknown to golf fans, but his name certainly is well known to international players. Ernie Els knew him quite well long before this year.
Whenever our paths crossed, wherever we were in the world, we always had a nice chat, Els said. I always asked him how he was. I always knew he was a good player.
On the one hand, Curtis made a much more dramatic splash because absolutely no one could see it coming. But Hamilton, though a longshot, was at least on the radar screen, whether the average fan knew him or not.
His story is really quite interesting. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma and turned professional in 1987. Then he started on a long ordeal of trying to get his tour card, failing, and then going to the Asian Tour. In 1992 he was the leading money winner in the Far East, was able then to play fulltime in Japan, and for 10 years didnt go to the PGA Tour Q-School any longer.
There were the good times in Japan, as well as the bad times. Always, however, he kept his primary residence in McKinney, Texas, just north of Dallas. He would go to Japan and stay in a Tokyo hotel, then return to the States for a couple of weeks, making the journey perhaps five times a year. This had been ongoing since 1987.
He returned to Q-School in 2001 and 2002 - and missed. Then in 2003 he won four times on the Japanese Tour, and in the fall when he returned to the U.S., he finally got that seemingly impossible tour card.
For me to qualify for the PGA Tour and get my tour card was like winning the (British) Open Championship and allowed me a place to play, a place that I've always dreamt of playing, he said.
Hamilton had no idea what to expect. He knew he was good enough to win repeatedly in Japan. But how would that translate to the American courses? He had no idea.
I knew I worked hard, said Hamilton. Sometimes I think what kept me back - two things, I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well and a lot of times I felt like tournaments like this, if I happened to get into them, I didn't really feel that I belonged.
Those days in Japan are still so vivid in his memory. The days spent on the golf course and sometimes the days spent just being there, having missed a cut.
I remember a stretch, oh, I think it was two or three years ago, I went over for six weeks and missed every cut, said Hamilton. It was probably the longest month and a half I've ever had playing golf. It was so boring.
I did have a DVD machine, portable DVD machine that I took over, but you can only watch 15 movies so many times.
But I think it forced you to play well. If you didn't play well, you knew you were going to be in for a long Saturday, a long Sunday, a long Monday, Tuesday was going to be a practice round and I wasn't getting in the Pro Ams on Wednesday, so I had five long days to wait to get a chance for the next round.
He came perilously close to being forced out of tournament golf and into a club-pro job. The two men who were sponsoring him had just about decided to pull the plug before the 92 season. But they decided to hang in one more year. And that was a big year for Hamilton with the money title victory.
The British Open win, though, was a victory for all the players in Asia, in Japan, in Canada, in Australia and South Africa who are dismissed out of hand as potential major-tour champions. These guys are indeed good, as much as the ads say the PGA Tour players are good.
I've always felt that if you go through the trials and tribulations throughout a four-day tournament and win a golf tournament, that can only benefit you in the long run, he said. He mentioned Zach Johnson as a guy who won multiple times on the Nationwide Tour, then won this year when he got to the big time.
So I hope our victories we've had can spur guys, whether they're rookies on the PGA Tour, guys on the Canadian Tour, guys on the Hooters Tour or the Challenge Tour here in Europe. If they look at us and see, if that guy can do it, who's that guy, I should be able to do that. I think that's good for the game of golf.
And if Hamilton can do it, so can a lot of those no-names, he was saying. Many are like him, playing in a foreign country where the culture is different but the golf is the same.
I enjoy playing golf, he said, sometimes to a fault But it beats working, that's for sure.
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Schauffele just fine being the underdog
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.
Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.
Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.
“Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”
Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.
“All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”
Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1
Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.
So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.
Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.
Jordan Spieth: 7/4
Xander Schauffele: 5/1
Kevin Kisner: 11/2
Tiger Woods: 14/1
Francesco Molinari: 14/1
Rory McIlroy: 14/1
Kevin Chappell: 20/1
Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1
Alex Noren: 25/1
Zach Johnson: 30/1
Justin Rose: 30/1
Matt Kuchar: 40/1
Webb Simpson: 50/1
Adam Scott: 80/1
Tony Finau: 80/1
Charley Hoffman: 100/1
Austin Cook: 100/1
Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.
One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.
McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.
“It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”
McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.
“I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”
Kisner not expecting awkward night with Spieth
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – It might get awkward in that star-studded rental house Saturday night.
Two of the three Open co-leaders, Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner, are sharing a house this week near Carnoustie. Though it’ll be late by the time they both get back to the house Saturday night, they’ll have plenty of time to kill Sunday morning, with their tee times not until nearly 3 p.m. local time.
“Everybody is probably going to get treatment and eating and trying to find a bed,” Kisner said. “I’m sure there’ll be some conversations. There always are. Everybody has a few horror stories or good laughs over something that happened out there. That will probably be the end of it.”
One thing they’re almost certain to discuss is the weather.
After three days of mostly benign conditions, Sunday’s forecast calls for warm temperatures and wind gusts up to 25 mph.
“When you watch any TV, that’s all they talk about – how Sunday’s coming,” Kisner said. “It’s going to be a true test, and we’ll get to see really who’s hitting it the best and playing the best.”
Zach Johnson is also in the house – along with Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas, Jimmy Walker and Jason Dufner – and he rode to the course Saturday with Kisner, with whom he played in the final group, at 4 p.m. It’s unclear whether the co-leaders Sunday will have a similar arrangement.
This is the third year that Spieth and Co. have shared a house at The Open, though Kisner is a new addition to the group.
“It’s the end of the week,” Kisner said. “Everybody’s got a lot of stuff going on. Everybody’s going their separate ways tomorrow. Tomorrow morning we’ll all sit around and laugh on the couch and talk about why that guy’s making so many birdies.”