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June 29, 2005

Todd Hamilton


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Open Champion Todd Hamilton, thank you for joining us prior to the first round of the Cialis Western Open. Maybe we could start with some opening comments. You've got a big couple of weeks coming up starting this week in Chicago.

TODD HAMILTON: Yeah, I haven't been playing very well. It's nice to be near where you grew up. I grew up about four and a half hours from here, and next week at the John Deere is even closer, an hour and 15 minutes by car. Hopefully familiar surroundings will bring a little spark to my game and my attitude, and then two or three weeks from now I've got to go over and defend. I'd like to put up a little better fight than maybe I did at the Honda and a better fight than I feel like I could put up now.

As I said, I haven't been playing well, and hopefully being near where I grew up will give me a little spark.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: What have you been working on? Is it something that you have one major weakness in your game this year or are you just not doing very well at any part of your game?

TODD HAMILTON: I don't feel like I'm playing terribly. One thing I usually do very well is my putting. Usually putting, and I don't even know if my stats are worse this year than last year, but I don't feel like I'm making putts that I would normally make.

I think that's put a lot of pressure on my irons. I think I have to hit it a lot closer, and when that happens, you feel like you have to drive it in every fairway because you can't get the irons close to the hole, let alone on the green, and that's why golf is such a good game or such a good sport. It really tests not only your physical part of the physical part of golf but the mental part.

Like I said, I don't feel like I'm playing terribly, I'm just not getting anything out of it, and it kind of drives you crazy when that happens.

Q. When you talk about the putting, is it a matter of the feel is not there or what kind of things have you been struggling with with the putter?

TODD HAMILTON: I would say probably the feel. I don't think I'm reading the greens any worse. I don't think that's gotten bad. But it just feels like I don't strike the putts solidly.

I've always I've had people tell me lately you're moving your head quite a bit. I've always tended to move my head a little bit, but I think it's gotten more pronounced, so I'm trying to keep my head a little more still. It's tough when the sun is out because I can see a shadow and I can see my head move ever so slightly.

Q. Are you a person that changes putters a lot?

TODD HAMILTON: I do if I'm not putting good; I like to get a different feel or a different look so I'll change. But I haven't had the guts to really try a new putter in a tournament. I always go back I'll try it in a practice round or a Pro Am, but it seems like once the tournament starts, I always go back to the one that I've had success with.

Q. How did you do with the greens here today?

TODD HAMILTON: The greens today, actually I putted quite well today for the way I've been putting. I made some putts, saw some putts go in that I haven't been able to see going in. It was good to finally make some.

Q. Did they seem fast, slow?

TODD HAMILTON: They're not overly fast unless you get above the hole. If you're putting downhill they're pretty good speed, uphill not real, real fast, and flat putts is probably a little good speed to make putts on, as long as you're not putting downhill.

Q. Given the little slump you referred to, how excited are you about playing the British Open?

TODD HAMILTON: I wouldn't say I'm dreading going over right now, but hopefully going over there I can find a little something, find a little spark to put in a decent attempt at a defense. I don't want to good over there and miss the cut or just make the cut and finish back of the pack. I'd love to go over there and get in contention. You know, I don't have to win it back to back, but that would be great. It would be nice having the trophy and traveling with the trophy for a year. But I would like to put in a halfway decent defense.

Q. Are you bracing yourself what are you expecting when you get over there as far as the attention that you're going to get?

TODD HAMILTON: Obviously I'll be doing a lot of media things. I know there's one requirement, there's a champions dinner, I believe, Tuesday night sometime. I have a dinner for all the former champions that I think they take a big for lack of a better word, phrase, a big team photo of everyone. I look forward to that. It'll be nice to get a copy of that with all the former champions that are there. I'm not looking forward to putting on a jacket and tie, though. I'm not a big fan of dressing up.

I'm sure it'll be very hectic. Fortunately or unfortunately, Mr. Nicklaus has said it's his last major event, so I'm sure there will be a lot of awareness or a lot of attention put toward him that might be taken off of me, which might turn out to be kind of nice actually.

Q. Do you feel like this tournament in this tournament that some of you guys are overshadowed by the whole Tiger Vijay rivalry and does that motivate you in any way?

TODD HAMILTON: I wouldn't say just this tournament, I'd say every tournament. They say there's the Big Five, and that's fine with me. It doesn't bother me because they're probably the five best players we have on Tour. But it doesn't mean that they're expected or going to win every week.

If that was the case, you might only have 10 or 20 people that play the Tour because they'd realize they don't have a chance to win, why even try.

Obviously what Tiger has done for the Tour over his seven or eight years, whatever he's been out here, has been great for the Tour, and all the other players, myself included, we should send him a Christmas card every year because it's allowed us to make a great living playing out here. He's brought a lot of attention to the Tour, brought out a lot of sponsorship, and hopefully it's brought the game to a lot of different people, especially children that may not have the advantage or have had a chance to do anything related to golf.

Q. Do you have any good Jack Nicklaus stories, maybe when you first met him?

TODD HAMILTON: I remember qualifying in 1996 for the British Open through my golfing in Japan. I played a practice round, I forget what hole it was, maybe 15th tee, there was a guy that had a pencil drawing, and he drew I think he had a big drawing in the middle, and around the edge he drew faces of former champions about this big, all in pencil, very nice artistic piece that he did.

And I stopped and looked at it, and I asked the guy how long it would take him to do something like that. He said, "Oh, it probably took me a whole month to sit down and draw all these figures on here." I believe he was trying to get signatures of the players by their face or their head drawing. I said, "Man, I'd love to be able to do that." I can't draw very good. I can doodle but I can't draw. I said, "I'd love to do something like that." He said, "It's really easy. If you can just write your name legibly, you can draw." I said, "Well, I'm not a very good drawer."

We talked a little bit, and he says, "I've got some prints over here, if you'd like one of my prints you're welcome to have one." It was a print of Nicklaus, I think he was crouched behind the ball plumb bobbing a little bit, and his caddie was standing him, I don't know who the depiction was, but the caddie was standing behind him lining up the putt. He gave myself one and Rick Todd, he played golf in Japan, we were over there at the same time. I thought that was pretty neat.

So we played 15, 16, 17, came to 18th tee, which was near the 15th tee, and carried it in from there, Rick and I did. I remember Jack was playing quite well after two days that year. He was about 7 under, probably Top 5, Top 10, and I remember having that rolled in my locker, and I saw him come in the locker room, and he was kind of back in the corner, his locker was, and Rick and I went over there and said, "Man, if we're ever going to get his autograph," I didn't have it and Rick didn't have it, "now is the time. He's probably in a good mood, playing well."

I'm fumbling around for a marker or a Sharpie to have signed. When I played in Japan you could never find a Sharpie. They had magic markers but you couldn't find a Sharpie. And for some reason at the time I was marking my golf ball with a pink marker, so I had about five pink markers, they called it Magic Ink was their version of a Sharpie. So I had five of those in my golf bag. I felt kind of odd asking him to sign it in pink.

But Rick and I went over there, I had it signed in pink, Rick got it signed, said, "Hey, nice going, keep it up." He said good luck to us, things like that. I've got it framed at my house, and the pink actually shows up really well on the print. It worked out good.

Q. Is that Lytham, the year Lehman won?

TODD HAMILTON: Yes, I believe it was '96. I don't know how he finished. I think he didn't do so well on the weekend.

Q. Were you one of those as a kid that you tried to emulate him on the driving range or putting around or

TODD HAMILTON: I didn't try to form my game after him. I always looked up to him and his ability. It seemed like he was always leading the Money List. Every time I turned the TV on, his name was on the first page or second page flipping through. I didn't try to swing like him, I didn't try to stand like him, but I wanted to play golf like him. I wanted to play well like he played well.

Q. What do you think he did for the game?

TODD HAMILTON: What do I think he did for the game? Obviously he was a great golfer, but I think the times he didn't win, he was probably a better person. He was very thrilled for the other person.

I grew up in the Midwest, I always feel that people from the Midwest for some reason tend to be a little more down to earth, a little more humble, a little more gracious. I have nothing against anyone else, but for some reason the people from the Midwest seem very genuine. I think Nicklaus was a very genuine person. Not only did he win 18 majors, but he probably finished 2nd at least 18 times in the majors.

His career speaks for itself.

Q. How familiar are you with St. Andrews, and what kind of approach do you take? The last two winners there, Tiger and John Daly, people say they're bombers, they overtake the golf course. What type of approach do you take there?

TODD HAMILTON: I played there in college. It's been almost 20 years ago. I don't remember much about the golf course. I obviously remember 17 and 18, the first hole teeing off. I remember a few holes out away from the clubhouse and away from the hotel. But I do think it's a golf course where the farther you hit it, the better off you're going to be.

Obviously you have to stay out of the bunkers. I think it's a golf course just like all the golf courses over there that how you play it is dictated by the weather. I know when Tiger won, the weather was very good, it was warm, the ball traveled a lot. I don't think there was a lot of wind, and if I remember right, he didn't hit it in any bunkers for 17 holes, and I think he shot about 18 or 19 under.

Nick Faldo I think won at St. Andrews, the weather was very good, very warm. I think he shot 18 under. Obviously the farther you hit it, as long as you can hit it halfway on line, it's a definite advantage. You've still got to putt well. I guarantee Tiger putted very well that week, as did Nick Faldo. I think the weather dictates how low you have to score.

Q. You mentioned everything that Tiger has accomplished in the last seven or eight years. Are you impressed at all by his approaching $50 million?

TODD HAMILTON: I think that's kind of a I don't know if exaggerated is a good word, but I saw something the other day with Nicklaus, if you took his career and put it in the dollars that they're playing for now, I think he was like in the $70 million range. So the money has kind of got out of whack as far as comparing.

I think the better way is to look at the tournaments won because I think it's very difficult to compare golfers from the '30s or '40s to golfers in the year 2000, ability wise and career wise, especially on money. Wins, it's still a little difficult, but I think that's a little better barometer than the Money List.

One thing that's impressed me with Tiger, obviously he's a great golfer. Up until now, and I'm sure his career is going to get even better than that, but what he's done under the scrutiny that he's under, very impressive. I've had a chance to witness over the last year being the Open Champion, a very small part of being in the public eye, high expectations from myself, on myself, and high expectations from friends and family, and I've done it for a year, almost a year now.

That guy does it every day. He made the turn today, I was teeing off on the 10th hole, he teed off at 7:00 o'clock in the Pro Am on a Wednesday, and he's got a couple hundred people following him early in the morning on a Wednesday, and that's just going to get bigger and bigger as the week goes on.

So what he does under the scrutiny he's under, day in, day out, is pretty impressive, and then the golf is unbelievable, but the golf and dealing with media, fans, everyone else, doubly impressive.

Q. Your thoughts on Michelle Wie getting a sponsor's exemption next week.

TODD HAMILTON: The sponsor has the right to do whatever they want, he wants, she wants. I have no problem with Michelle Wie playing in the Sony Open, John Deere Classic, whatever tournament. That's their right and their privilege to invite whoever they want.

I don't think it's necessary. It would be great if Michelle Wie could have won last Sunday at the Ladies' Open. I saw she did well the first day, and I thought, "Man, she might do really well and I'm going to pick her to win." She can hit a lot of irons off the tees, with the altitude they were going to go further. Obviously she was playing well, she had a few good finishes like at the LPGA Championship. She's a great talent.

But I think, and I've heard this said by other people, she needs to learn how to do this, to learn how to hold the trophy a certain way. She's obviously a great talent, and I'm sure she will win many, many tournaments, and she may even win before she turns pro. She might win on the Ladies' Tour, but I honestly don't think it's necessary that she plays on the Men's Tour. I know there's ladies I've heard they don't like her playing on the Ladies' Tour as a 15 year old. But I think she's more eligible to get invites on the Ladies' Tour than the Men's Tour.

Q. Have you suffered burnout this year?

TODD HAMILTON: I did a little bit. I think traveling a lot at the end of the year in the so called silly season, I wasn't playing well, I had come off a year in Japan, I was used to playing about 20, 22 events, and I think I played 35 weeks last year.

I enjoy playing golf when I'm home, but even that was a lot of golf for me, especially concentrating for 35 weeks.

When I got done, I think the last event I played in was Tiger's event, Target Williams Challenge out in the LA area, that finished in the middle of December, and I was expected to play in the Mercedes the first week of January. So I had about two and a half weeks to kind of recharge, go through Christmas, try new equipment, practice, get ready for the season, and that wasn't enough time for me. I realize that I didn't enjoy playing golf as much as I thought I did, at least for that number of weeks, grinding it out day after day.

Q. A number of guys like Payne Stewart, after Payne Stewart won his first Open, he went into a little bit of a slump and said after about a year he realized he had let the pressure of being the Open Champion affect his play; gets up, introduced as the Open Champion, he had to play at that level every round. Some other guys who won majors had the same thing. Did that ever affect you? Did you ever feel it's almost a little bit of a burden?

TODD HAMILTON: There are times, I don't dwell on it, though. 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." I expect a lot out of myself.

I've considered my career and my golf game very streaky. When I feel like I'm playing well, I easily take advantage of situations. I may not win all the time, but I usually when I'm playing well, I usually do well. When I don't play well, I probably give the appearance that I'm not trying or I'm not into it, but I try just as hard, whether I'm shooting 78 or 68. I've always been a streaky player.

But yeah, there were days when I felt, "Man, start playing like a major winner rather than a guy that just got out of college as a rookie." 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.

Q. What, putting too much pressure on yourself?

TODD HAMILTON: Yeah, I've always done that. You know, I played quite well for me today in the Pro Am compared to how I've been playing. I shot 3 under in the Pro Am, but I stand on the first tee or wherever I tee off tomorrow, I'm going to want to shoot 67. I want to always do better than I did the day before, and sometimes that's hard to do. I'm like that when I'm playing golf with my friends at home, and I'm like that when I'm out here on the Tour.

Q. Are you recharged now again?

TODD HAMILTON: You know, the last to be honest, the last month, I really haven't I've taken some time off. I've taken two days off. I've played two days out of four days, and I really haven't I haven't had that feeling that, "Man, you shoot 69 yesterday, let's try to shoot 68 or 69." I just kind of got out and actually enjoyed being out on the golf course, and I've tried some different putters, I've tried some different drivers, and I didn't feel like I had to play as an Open Champion, just kind of played my friends call it "hit and giggle golf," just get out there and enjoy your company and enjoy the weather. I don't know if I'm fully recharged, but I feel a lot more focused than I have been so far this year.

Q. Is that hit and giggle thing good for you?

TODD HAMILTON: Yeah, it's all right, yeah. Sometimes it's nice to not really give a you know what.

Q. Last year when you were up at Whistling Straits I got into one of your press conferences late, but you had mentioned some of the interesting experiences you had because people didn't recognize you as British Open champ, some places you had taken the Claret Jug and surprised people, a story about getting it through an airport. I was wondering if you could relay some interesting stories as you've taken it and places you've gone and people maybe recognizing you for what you are.

TODD HAMILTON: I remember telling this story I believe it was at the Mercedes in Hawaii. I had gone to an OU football game; I didn't graduate from OU but I went to OU. I believe they were playing Kansas in October sometime. Got there, played golf Friday afternoon, went out to a little bar Friday evening, had a few beers, time to go to the bathroom, so I got in line like everyone else, waited for three, five minutes, got in there, was standing at one of the urinals and I'm going to the bathroom, and all of a sudden out of the corner of my left eye, I see this guy go like this, and I think he's trying to I don't know what he's trying to do. He goes, "Man, I think I know who you are. I've seen you around before." I said, "No, I went to school here before 20 years ago, maybe we had a class together." At the time I was going to be 39. So it was about two weeks before my birthday, I think.

I said, "You wouldn't know who I am." I tried to finish my business. He kept going like this. He goes, "No, I know you from somewhere. I've seen you." I said, "Man, maybe we had a class. You don't look familiar to me, sorry."

Almost got done, he goes, "I think I know who you are. I know you from somewhere." I said, "Well, do you watch golf," and then it hit him who I was, and I introduced myself, shook his hand after we got out, and we actually ended up talking the whole night. He was down our coach Bob Stoops at OU is from Ohio, I believe he went to the same high school as Stoops was or from the same home down that Bob Stoops was from. Either he or a friend of his had been given a driver by Ben Curtis, who obviously won the year before, and they were down going to the football game.

TODD HAMILTON: So we talked for the rest of the night probably a couple hours after that.

One thing I did last year when I was at home, if I was going to play a new course around the Dallas area where I live, I would take the Jug to that course, and as a favor or a courtesy of letting our group play, I would set the Jug in the shop for five hours, and it was pretty neat. As soon as you'd walk out of the shop the assistants would get on the phone and they'd be calling, "Hey, bring your camera over, the Claret Jug, the British Open trophy is here in the shop," and it was funny to walk in at the end of that five hour, five and a half hour round and see guys that looked to be in their 70s; they were just studying that thing and they were talking with their buddy here, "I remember reading about this."

So obviously I've enjoyed having the trophy. It's been a great honor to be the Open Champion for a year. But to see people that would never get the chance to touch it or study it, to see them actually hold it and see the joy, the smile on their faces, was pretty neat.

Q. How many times did you do that, the bring it to the course deal?

TODD HAMILTON: Maybe ten times. I actually have it in the trunk of my car right now.

Q. Right now?


Q. You brought it as a good luck charm as you said you did at the PGA?

TODD HAMILTON: No, I don't carry it everywhere I go. But I obviously have to return it in a couple weeks, and I'm I'm up here for this tournament, the Deere next week and then flying over Sunday of the John Deere. I actually played with a guy who works for the Tribune Company who was my partner at the Pebble Beach Pro Am two years ago. We've kept in touch over the last couple of years, he's given me some Cubs tickets, I sent him a Honda Classic flag, an Open Championship flag. He was going to try to come down this afternoon and meet us for 30 minutes or so out here. So I remembered to throw the Jug in the car. I wanted him to actually have a chance to see it. But I don't carry it everywhere I go.

Q. What else is in the trunk of your car? It sounds like a sign boy commercial.

TODD HAMILTON: I've got a backpack and I think my rain gear. Could be a good commercial.

Q. Do you have your schedule set for next week? Is there anything formal that you're going to do back in the Quad Cities or anything like that?

TODD HAMILTON: I haven't decided. I would love to get down somewhere in that area somewhere in that area, whether it be the Quad Cities or where I grew up. I'm actually thinking of not even going to the Deere course until the Pro Am on Wednesday. I'd like to go down there. I haven't been back to my hometown area since the victory overseas.

The problem with me going home, I wouldn't just be able to go to my hometown because there's a lot of little towns around that I've got friends, friends that live there. I would have to go to Oquawka where I grew up; to Burlington, Iowa, where I played a lot of golf; Monmouth, Illinois, where I played a lot of golf, probably Galesburg, little areas around there, and it would take a little bit longer than a half day or even a day. I haven't decided if I'm going to do that, but I'd like for some people that helped me growing up, whether it be helped me learn how to play golf or helped me by letting me play on those golf courses, let them see what all that help got.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Todd Hamilton, thank you.

End of FastScripts.

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