Hamiltons Reign Nearing an End

By Mercer BaggsJuly 5, 2005, 4:00 pm
Todd Hamiltons reign as British Open champion may be coming to a close quite soon. And in talking with the 2004 winner, he doesnt really seem to mind.
Hopefully after the tournament, if something crazy doesnt happen again, it will really die down, Hamilton said of the attention he has received, and they will go bug the guy that won this year.
Todd Hamilton
Todd Hamilton's life changed after this putt earned him the Claret Jug.
Hamilton didnt mean for this to come off in a derogatory manner. He loves being known as the Open champion ' and travels extensively with the Claret Jug, but hes never been overly comfortable with all that comes along with that distinction.
Hamilton is as regular a guy as a regular guy can be. Hes a Southwest guy with a stereotypical Midwest personality. Hes a guy who was born in Texas and went to school in Oklahoma. Hes a guy who was literally a touring professional; one who spent the better part of two decades traversing the globe in order to play golf for money, before finally earning his PGA Tour card for the 2004 season. At the age of 38.
Hes a guy with a bushel of talent who surprised most casual observers when he knocked off Davis Love III to win his first tour title at last years Honda Classic.
Hes a guy with critical focus and unyielding determination who shocked the entire golfing population with his playoff victory over Ernie Els at last year British Open.
Hamilton referred to his triumph at Royal Troon as something crazy. What was even more looney was his whirlwind existence thereafter.
The first two-to-three months right after were obviously hectic, he said. A little bit after that I traveled around the world, playing different events ' tournaments I normally watched on TV.
It was kind of neat doing that, but I didnt really have much down time at the end of the year. I think thats carried over and really influenced how Ive played this year.
Hamilton is no longer that obscure touring professional. Hes no longer a guy struggling to salvage a tour card.
But he is not without burden ' or burnout.
In winning the most global of all golf events, there comes a great measure of responsibility, obligation and expectation.
All seem to have taken their toll on him over the last year. But what bothers him the most is how they have combined to adversely affect his performance.
Even though he might not love the attention and the interview requests; he can handle it all as long as hes playing well. What he cant put up with is not playing well.
I dont feel Ive played terribly, but I havent gotten anything out of (my game), he said.
I think that Im the same guy as I was before I won. Ive always expected a lot of myself, whether Im playing with my friends ' nine holes in the evening, or playing the Open Championship, he added. If I go out and shoot 65 one day, and if were playing the same course the next day, I want to shoot 64.
I think sometimes that has hurt my career; that has kind of been a hindrance. I get streaky, I get in my own way. I remember some guy telling me, Let the game come to you. Dont try and force it. Im trying to do that.
Hamilton has played 20 tour events this season. He has 14 cuts made, but no top-10s. Those are the kind of numbers one might have expected last year ' when he was a tour rookie, and before he was a two-time winner and a major champion.
This year things are different. And Hamilton knows it.
'It's great to have your name announced as the reigning Open Champion or whatever, and there are days when I've felt, 'Man, why don't you start playing like the Open Champion instead of a first year or second year player on the tour,'' he said.
'Sometimes that's hard. I've always expected a lot out of myself. Maybe that's why I haven't done as well since the Open Championship last year.'
Hamiltons next stop is Scotland. He didn't made the early trip to acclimatize himself by competing in the Barclay's Scottish Open. Instead, he signed up for the John Deere Classic.
He played in this tournament a year ago. And that, combined with a delay in his flight, meant he didnt get to Troon until Tuesday morning, where he only got in seven practice holes upon his arrival. He played a full 18 on Wednesday, but it hardly seemed the ideal preparation for a major championship.
I didnt play terribly, he said of his 25 holes of preparation. I took good notes, kind of formed a game plan from those two days. And, lo and behold, I end up winning.
Hamilton is not a man of superstition; hes just one who feels an obligation to his loved ones. Thats why he repeated his John Deere-to-Open Championship routine again this year.
Ive got a lot of friends and family around the Quad Cities, who if I didnt play might not get a chance to see me play golf, he explained. Having spent five years on the Asian Tour and 12 years in Japan, not too many of my family and friends got to see me play.
Jetlag should have no effect on Hamilton once he again arrives in Scotland: Having played 12 years in Japan, I could sleep on the benches behind the range, he joked.
But he knows this years tournament will be a far cry from its predecessor. This time hes the defending champion. And there will be plenty of demands on his time.
I know theres a champions dinner that I have to go to. Im sure there will be a number of media requests. And Ill probably have to wake up a little bit earlier than Id like to, to get my practice in, he said.
I might sit down and ask Mr. Curtis ' Ben Curtis ' a few questions and see what he has to say that he had to deal with.
Curtiss advice: Just enjoy it. Have fun. You may never get this chance again.
Soon, Todd Hamilton may well be referred to as former Open champion. And if that happens, its cool. But if not, if something crazy happens again, Hamilton, a globetrotter-turned-Champion Golfer of the Year, will welcome it as well.
Ive told everyone: I hate the interviews and things like that, he said. But Id love to deal with that junk all over again.
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    Murray fixes swing flaw, recovers momentum

    By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 2:24 am

    SAN ANTONIO - Grayson Murray fixed a flaw in his swing and hit the ball well enough that blustery conditions weren't an issue for him Thursday in the Valero Texas Open.

    Coming off a missed cut at Hilton Head last week, Murray made seven birdies for a 5-under 67 and a one-shot lead. His only mistake was a double bogey from a greenside bunker on the par-3 seventh hole.

    ''Just the fact I did give myself enough opportunities today for birdie, it took a lot of pressure off,'' Murray said.

    Of the five players at 68, only Chesson Hadley played in the morning side of the draw, and he called it among his best rounds of the year because of gusts. The wind died in the afternoon and scoring improved slightly on the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio. Keegan Bradley, Ryan Moore, Billy Horschel and Matt Atkins each posted 68. Horschel and Moore played bogey-free.

    ''Struck the ball really well, something that we've been working hard on,'' Horschel said. ''Could have been better, yeah. I didn't really make anything out there today. But I'm happy with it.''

    Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the course, played the Texas Open for the first time since 2010 and shot a 74. Adam Scott failed to make a birdie in his round of 75. Scott is at No. 59 in the world and needs to stay in the top 60 by May 21 to be exempt for the U.S. Open.

    Harris English was in the group at 69, while two-time Texas Open champion Zach Johnson, Nick Watney and Brandt Snedeker were among those at 70. Johnson saved his round by going 5 under over his final five holes, starting with a 12-foot eagle putt on the par-5 14th hole. He birdied the last three.

    Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

    Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

    Murray was coming off a pair of top 15s at Bay Hill and the Houston Open when his game got away from him last week in the RBC Heritage, and he shot 74-70 to miss the cut. He got that sorted out in the five days between teeing it up in San Antonio.

    He said he was coming down too steep, which meant he would flip his hands and hit a sharp draw or pull out of it and hit it short and right.

    ''I was hitting each club 10 yards shorter than I normally do, and you can't play like that because your caddie is trying to give you a number and a club, and you keep hitting these bad shots or keep coming up short,'' Murray said. ''I got back to the basics with the setup and the takeaway, got my club in a better position at the top, which kind of frees my downswing. Then I can start going at it.''

    Even so, Murray thought he wasted his good start - three birdies in his first six holes - when his bunker shot at No. 7 came out with no spin and rolled off the green into a deep swale. He hit his third short to about 7 feet, but missed the putt and took double bogey.

    ''I would have loved to limit that to a bogey because bogeys don't really kill you - doubles are the ones that now you've got to have an eagle or two birdies to come back with, and out here it's kind of tough to make birdies,'' Murray said. ''But I kept my head. My caddie keeps me very positive out there, that's why I think we could finish 4 under the last nine holes.''

    Only 34 players in the 156-man field managed to break par.

    Horschel missed four birdie chances inside 18 feet on the back nine. What pleased him the most was the way he struck the ball, particularly after his tie for fifth last week at the RBC Heritage. Horschel was one shot behind going into the last round and closed with a 72.

    But he's all about momentum, and he can only hope this is the start of one of his runs. Horschel won the FedEx Cup in 2014 when he finished second and won the final two playoff events.

    ''I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward,'' he said. ''I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump in that winner's circle.''

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    LPGA back in L.A.: Inbee Park leads by 1

    By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 1:53 am

    LOS ANGELES - Inbee Park's flirtation with retirement is in the rear-view mirror.

    Backed by a large contingent of South Korean fans, Park shot a 5-under 66 for a one-shot lead Thursday in the opening round of the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open in the LPGA's return to Los Angeles after a 13-year absence.

    Showers ended shortly before Park's threesome, including second-ranked Lexi Thompson, teed off at windy Wilshire Country Club just south of Hollywood.

    Using a new putter, Park birdied four consecutive holes on the back nine before a bogey on the par-4 17th. She quickly recovered and rolled in birdie putts on the second and fifth holes to finish off her round.

    ''I never played a tournament outside Korea having this much Korean supporters out,'' Park said. ''I almost feel like I'm playing back home. It's almost like a little Korea.''

    That applies to the food, too, with nearby Koreatown's restaurants beckoning.

    ''Too many,'' Park said.

    The third-ranked Park banished the blade-style putter she used in her Founders Cup victory last month in Phoenix, a playoff loss in the ANA Inspiration and a tie for third last week in Hawaii. She went back to one that feels more comfortable and has brought her success in the past.

    ''Last week was just an awkward week where I missed a lot of short ones and I just wasn't really comfortable with the putter,'' Park said, ''so I just wanted to have a different look.''

    The 29-year-old Hall of Famer recently said she was 50-50 about retiring before returning to the tour in early March after a six-month break. Momentum has been going her way ever since.

    Marina Alex was second. Thompson was one of seven players at 68 in partly sunny and unseasonable temperatures in the low 60s.

    Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

    Alex tied Park with a birdie on No. 11. The American dropped a stroke with a bogey on the par-5 13th before rallying with a birdie on No. 14 to share the lead.

    Alex found trouble on the par-4 17th. Her ball crossed over a winding creek, bounced and then rolled into the water, leaving Alex looking for it. Eventually, she salvaged a bogey to drop a shot behind Park. After a bad tee shot on 18, Alex managed a par to close at 67.

    ''I made a lot of the putts that I shouldn't, I wouldn't have expected to make,'' she said. ''I made two great saves on 17 and 18. Kind of got away with some not-so-solid golf shots in the beginning, and I capitalized on some great putts.''

    Thompson returned from a two-week break after finishing tied for 20th at the ANA Inspiration, the year's first major.

    She bogeyed her second hole, the par-4, 401-yard 11th, before settling down and birdieing four of the next eight holes, including the 14th, 15th and 16th.

    ''I changed a little thing that slipped my mind that I was working on earlier in the year,'' said Thompson, declining to share the change in her putting technique. ''I don't want to jinx it.''

    ANA winner Pernilla Lundberg was among those in the logjam after a 68.

    Natalie Gulbis was among five players tied for 10th at 69. Playing sparingly the last two years, Gulbis put together a round that included four birdies and two bogeys.

    Top-ranked Shanshan Feng struggled to a 74 with five bogeys and two birdies.

    The venerable course with views of the Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory wasn't any kinder to eighth-ranked Cristie Kerr and Michelle Wie.

    Both had up-and-down rounds that included three bogeys and a double-bogey on No. 10 for Kerr and five bogeys, including three in a row, for Wie. Wie, ranked 14th, had a few putts that lipped out.

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    Horschel (68) builds on momentum at Valero

    By Will GrayApril 20, 2018, 12:32 am

    Billy Horschel only ever needs to see a faint glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

    While some players require a slow ascent from missed cuts to contending on the weekend, Horschel's switches between the two can often be drastic. Last year he missed three straight cuts before defeating Jason Day in a playoff to win the AT&T Byron Nelson, a turnaround that Horschel said "still shocks me to this day."

    The veteran is at it again, having missed five of six cuts prior to last week's RBC Heritage. But a few tweaks quickly produced results, as Horschel tied for fifth at Harbour Town. He wasted no time in building on that momentum with a bogey-free, 4-under 68 to open the Valero Texas Open that left him one shot behind Grayson Murray.

    "I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward," Horschel told reporters Thursday. "I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump into the winner's circle. So yeah, it would have been great to win last week, but it was just nice to play four really good rounds of golf."

    Many big names tend to skip this week's stop at TPC San Antonio, but Horschel has managed to thrive on the difficult layout in recent years. He finished third in both 2013 and 2015, and tied for fourth in 2016.

    With a return next week to the Zurich Classic of New Orleans where he notched his first career win in 2013 and a title defense in Dallas on the horizon, Horschel believes he's turning things around at just the right time.

    "Gets the momentum going, carry it into this week, next week, which I've had a lot of success at," Horschel said. "Really the rest of the year, from here on in I have a lot of really good events I've played well in."

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    Three years later, PXG launches new iron

    By Golf Channel DigitalApril 19, 2018, 11:22 pm

    Three years is a long time between launches of club lines, but Bob Parsons, founder and CEO of PXG, says his company had a very good reason for waiting that long to introduce its second-generation irons.

    “Three years ago, when we introduced our first generation 0311 iron, we made a commitment that we would not release a product unless it was significantly better than our existing product,” Parsons said. “:Our GEN2 irons are better than our GEN1 irons in every respect. We believe it’s the best iron ever made, and the second-best iron ever made is our GEN1 iron.”

    PXG’s 0311 GEN2 irons, which officially went on sale today, feature what the company says is the world’s thinnest clubface. They have a forged 8620 soft carbon steel body and PXG’s signature weighting technology. The hollow clubheads are filled with a new polymer material that PXG says not only dampens vibration, but also produces higher ball speeds and thus more distance.

    The irons come in four “collections” – Tour Performance, Players, Xtreme Forgiveness and Super Game Improvement.

    Cost is $400 per iron, or $500 for PXG’s “Extreme Dark” finish. Price includes custom fitting. For more information, visit www.pxg.com.