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May 14, 2005

Todd Hamilton


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Todd Hamilton, thanks for joining us. Three rounds in the 60s puts you in great position heading into the final round of the EDS Byron Nelson Championship. If we could start with some opening comments, great three days for you.

TODD HAMILTON: Yeah, it's been very unexpected. I haven't played well lately. To look up on the board and see three rounds in the 60s is very satisfying. I've been doing some things this week that I haven't really been doing this year. I've been making some putts here and there, saving pars when I need to for the most part, and driving the ball not in the fairway every time but in the vicinity of the fairway, which I haven't really done a whole lot this year. Hopefully I can continue one more day.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: I believe you're second in putting average and third in greens in reg. Anything in particular that you're doing to put up these scores?

TODD HAMILTON: Well, I haven't -- I played the Pro-Am and didn't play very well, though I had a friend caddying for me. He probably thought there was no chance that this guy could ever -- how did this guy ever win a tournament last year, let alone a major event. I had a really bad attitude and wasn't real fond of being out there playing. But for some reason, I found something on the driving range with my stance, and finagled my stance a little bit, and I seem to be hitting the ball a lot more solidly. It might look goofy and people might think that there's no difference in what he's doing now than what he did last week, but it feels different to me, and I've actually been doing it on my putting, too, just closing my stance just a little bit.

I think for me, my lower body from my belt on down gets very overactive. I like to cut the ball, and sometimes I get my stance a little too open, so all I've done -- for me it seems like it's closed. It's probably square because I had it open so much, and it seems to keep that lower body stable. I haven't hit every shot perfect this week, but I've hit a lot of good solid shots when I've needed to, and I've made some putts here and there, which everything has come together for three days.

Q. Have you started to kick yourself yet for showing Sean O'Hair around (laughter)?

TODD HAMILTON: I only did it for nine holes, and I didn't show him everything (laughter). No, actually it was on the first tee -- no, I went -- we played the back nine. I had somebody drive me out to No. 10 here at the TPC, he was coming off 9 and I asked him if I could join him. We played a nice quick nine holes.

He was hitting the ball very nicely, and I'm not surprised that he's up at the top of the leaderboard. Real good kid, real down to earth. I know he's got kind of an odd story with his father, but you could never tell that there's been any bad blood between the two.

Q. Were you aware of any of that when you played with him?

TODD HAMILTON: Yeah, I read the story in one of the golf magazines. I think it was Golf World had it.

Q. Any of that have anything to do with why you played with him?

TODD HAMILTON: No, just --

Q. Did you want to show him around?

TODD HAMILTON: No, it was very ironic.

Q. Did you ever bring it up with him in the nine holes you played?

TODD HAMILTON: No, none of my business.

Q. Did you ever think about it?


Q. Can you describe the thought process on No. 7 on your tee shot? You went down 8 fairway?

TODD HAMILTON: Yeah, I never even thought about going down there. My caddie mentioned it I think it was the second round. It seemed like the wind was into us today. Yesterday when I played over here, the wind was downwind, you really didn't need to take any shortcuts. As long as you could get it to the crest of the hill of the fairway, you could get it down there.

Today it was into the wind a little bit. My caddie mentioned it yesterday, if it ever gets into the wind you might want to think about going this way, you can reach it a lot easier. Today we got on the tee, and I asked him, "What do you think about going down the left side, down 8 fairway?" He said, "Yeah, I like it, make sure you stay left center to the left side of the fairway." Luckily I hit a good tee shot there. Very tough to see through the trees where you need to go, but yardage-wise it's a lot shorter, especially into the wind.

Q. What did you have?

TODD HAMILTON: I hit a 3-iron in, I think I had 222 yards roughly. It was very tough to get an accurate yardage from clear over there.

Q. Do you expect to see the Hamilton Oak Tree up there tomorrow?

TODD HAMILTON: Maybe not tomorrow but maybe somewhere down the road.

Q. How far is your house from here, miles and/or minutes?

TODD HAMILTON: I'm going to guess 25 minutes. Mile-wise, 12, 15.

Q. So you'd better not say 40.

TODD HAMILTON: (Laughing) yeah, 55. From where I used to live, I used to live 45 miles and it took me an hour. It's a nice area, peaceful, close to the airport, good golf course out there, a lot of great members at the golf course.

Q. Service is terrible, though, isn't it?

TODD HAMILTON: Service is good.

Q. Are you all going to make Tiger start paying dues out there?


Q. Is he still allowed since he missed the cut?

TODD HAMILTON: No, he can go out there. That's good for our club. It brings a lot of notoriety, I guess. You're always reading about it in the paper if Tiger goes out there and all the other pros. I played out there on Tuesday afternoon; Fred Funk was out there, Tiger was out there, Armour, Pat Perez, a lot of pros out there. It's good for the club, makes people aware about it. Who knows, we might have a couple new members who pay their 100 whatever it is now to join.

Q. You said on Wednesday you had real bad attitude. Was that just because of that day you were hitting it poorly, or did you come into the week with kind of a negative mindset?

TODD HAMILTON: Well, this is my sixth tournament in a row. I enjoy playing a lot of golf. Even when I'm not in tournaments, I play a lot of golf at home. But it seems like this year so far, it's been a struggle to shoot even par or to shoot 1-under or 2-under. I'm expending a lot of energy to shoot 71, 72, 73. Whereas Vijay, he goes out there and shoots 5-under, ho-hum, 5-under. So I've used up a lot of energy and haven't gotten anything -- I won't say I haven't gotten anything positive, but I haven't gotten the results that you would think you would get using that much energy. It just feels like I'm spinning my wheels.

Q. It took you a good long while to get out here, a lot of miles on the odometer. Sean O'Hair is 22, the second youngest kid out there. Can you fathom what it would be like to be in the situation he's going to be in tomorrow at age 22 relative to your own experiences? I mean, he must be pretty good. He went through Q-school and he's holding up pretty well.

TODD HAMILTON: Obviously the kid can play golf, there's no question about that. Somebody can always break through. It doesn't matter who they are. It doesn't matter how old they are. Maybe with what happened between he and his father, maybe that's toughened him up a little bit. Maybe that's added four or five years onto that 22-year-old body.

I think it would be very difficult for me to not -- to just cut ties with my father or my parents just out of the blue, even though maybe that was the best thing to do. I had to break through when I got on Tour. Luckily I did it last year.

Ted Purdy I know has been close to breaking through. Hopefully he can use those experiences he's had for tomorrow. You know, why can't Sean O'Hair break through tomorrow? There's no reason why he can't; there's no manual that says that the Fab Five have to win every week. That was you guys that came up with that. I'm not poking fun or anything, but obviously you can't just have a Tour with five guys or ten guys or 20 guys. That's why they have a qualifying school, to kind of mix things up. There's no reason that those guys, whether they be 35 years old coming out of Q-school or 20 years old, whatever, there's no reason that they can't win.

Q. You've shown since you've been out here that when you're on, you obviously can be very good, and then there seem to be a lot of valleys in between. I'm wondering how you sort of cope with that. Do you come to a point where you accept that as that's what your identity is?

TODD HAMILTON: Well, I've always considered myself a very streaky golfer. As you say, when I play well, I'm up there, and when I don't play well, I'm nowhere to be seen. One thing I've learned over the years, I've learned to make cuts but I'm not playing well. I feel like this year I haven't really played up to my potential. But I've made -- I think I missed three out of about 15 or 16 cuts, however many I played.

Even though I haven't played well, I've still gotten that experience of playing on the weekend. I think for me it's difficult to get up near the lead because I'm so up-and-down or so erratic, but once I'm in the lead or near the lead, I'm not afraid to be there, as evidenced by the two victories last year.

I think my 12 years I spent in Japan playing in foreign arenas, if you will, against players that were being rooted for by the whole gallery (not too many Japanese people were rooting for me), I think that toughened me up a little bit. I learned a lot of patience playing there. I learned how to manage my game. And in the 12 years I spent over there I won 11 events.

So even though I'm not as consistent as I would like to be, when I do get near the lead, I'm not afraid to try a shot that I need to try to win the tournament. I may not always play well when I'm up there, but I'm definitely not going to go out there and play scared.

Q. How important is it to back up the Open Championship with another victory this year?

TODD HAMILTON: How important is that?

Q. Yeah.

TODD HAMILTON: I don't think it's a prerequisite, but personally I'd like to do it. Had the British win come and then if the Honda was after that, had that happened that way, maybe that would have validated that major win a little bit better. But I don't think it's extremely important that I win right away. Hopefully it'll happen. As I said, I'm not going to back away tomorrow. But again, I might shoot 75 tomorrow, you never know.

Q. So many guys who have won majors in the last 10 or 15 years have gone into a slump afterwards because they said I felt like I had to play like the U.S. Open Championship every day; even veterans who knew better still said it got to them. Have you felt any of that?

TODD HAMILTON: Yeah, I've felt that a little bit. You know, I expect to do my best every day, whether my best is 72 or 65 for that day. I want to do as well as I feel I can shoot.

Pressure that's put on by media, maybe friends, think, hey, you won a major, why can't you win the EDS Byron Nelson, I'm not put off by that because I want to -- I put a lot of pressure on myself. That's no problem for me to deal with that.

But I can see their point. There's been times when I've felt that being announced as the Open Champion, you know, that first hole is very tight and it's 465 and they expect you to hit your driver right down the middle of the fairway about 300 yards, well, that just doesn't happen every time. Just because I won a major doesn't guarantee -- or anyone, it doesn't guarantee them future success.

Q. Is that pressure feeling harder to deal with than the pressure of trying to get out here in the first place, make your way out here?

TODD HAMILTON: Good question.

Q. Thank you.

TODD HAMILTON: I would say, probably for me, it was getting out here. I had tried eight years over the span of about 17 years, and had I not ever gotten my card here and had continued success in Japan, I could have lived with that. But I would have always thought in the back of my mind, you know, what could have been had you ever gotten your Tour card. So I think for me it was the pressure or the anxiety of getting out on the PGA TOUR.

Q. Do you miss Japan at all?

TODD HAMILTON: I do a little bit. I met a lot of friends over there that are still playing. I don't miss the style of the golf courses that they had or the condition of the golf courses, but I miss going out -- if one of us did well on Sunday night, we'd usually go out in Tokyo and have a few beers and kind of reminisce over what happened the week before, what we need to do. The guys that didn't have the success that Sunday, what we needed to do the next couple weeks to get us back there again for that night in Tokyo.

But I don't miss the golf courses. I wasn't really a big fan of how they kept their golf courses up or the styles. They were very hilly, and all of them seemed very similar. There wasn't much variety. And I don't miss the 14-hour plane flight.

Q. You said this is your sixth tournament in a row. Does it surprise you that you're able to click it on? Most guys would be running on fumes now.

TODD HAMILTON: A little bit but not so much because I play golf when I'm not in tournaments. I play golf almost every day. I enjoy playing golf. I think it's helped this week that I'm staying at my house 25 minutes from here. Next week I'm entered in the Colonial tournament and I'll probably stay at the house at least through the Pro-Am, and hopefully I'll get a late time on Thursday and I can say Wednesday night and then probably Thursday night catch a room over there.

Q. Do you feel like you've overscheduled yourself when you look at your schedule? Have you played too often?

TODD HAMILTON: Probably a little bit, but you've got to remember this is only my second year on the Tour, so it's all exciting for me and I want to play as much as I can. That sounds odd coming from a guy who's almost 40 years old, but it's still fun to be out here, to see all the people.

I've had a lot of friends from where I grew up in Illinois that have actually traveled out to different tournaments and met up with me and watched me play golf. It's neat to be able to see them come out. These were kids that I played basketball with in high school on the team, played a little bit of golf with them here and there. They weren't really golfers, but they enjoyed playing golf and being -- we enjoyed being with each other.

Q. Can I ask you for a comment on what Jack Nicklaus has meant to the game in general and to you in particular?

TODD HAMILTON: What Mr. Nicklaus has meant to the game of golf and to me in particular? I'll answer them in reverse. To me, he was my hero or my idol growing up. It seemed like every time I turned the TV on to watch golf, his name was always on the first page or the second page of the leaderboard, and obviously he was winning all the majors back when I was growing up.

One thing in particular that I remember about him that sticks out, I couldn't tell you the year, and I couldn't give you the exact name of the tournament. I think it was the Jackie Gleason Inverrary something, and I remember him, I think he birdied the last five holes to win or to get in a playoff and then made a birdie, something like that. You know, he should never have won it. But that showed me that to be a great golfer, you never, ever quit. If the best you can do is four birdies and a par and you lose by a shot, great. If the best you can do is five pars and you lose by four, five shots, that's all you can do. You just pack them up and try again next week. So that tournament I remember very vividly.

What he has meant to the game, obviously a lot of the records in golf are held by him, and probably the most important record is the one that Tiger is chasing, the 18 majors, and until someone bests that 18 majors, at least I consider Mr. Nicklaus to be the best golfer that's ever lived, until somebody beats that, whether it's Tiger, Vijay, Phil, whoever. It may never happen, Tiger might do it -- what's he got, ten, nine? He might do it in five years, who knows. But until somebody beats the champions or the champion, then that guy is the champion, until somebody beats him.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Todd, if we could touch on your round, six birdies, one bogey. Birdied the first two holes right out of the gate.

TODD HAMILTON: Got off to a good start, hit a good tee shot on the 1st, good shot in there to about seven feet maybe. I hit a pitching wedge.

2nd hole, very lucky birdie. I hit a poor shot, luckily it carried the bunker, stopped pretty quick and made about a ten-foot putt there for birdie.

4, wasn't very comfortable on the tee shot there. I ended up hitting a club more than what I wanted to hit, just kind of eased it, didn't hit a very good shot, didn't get up-and-down, ended up actually I chipped it, but it was only about 15 feet away from the hole. Ended up making bogey there.

7, birdie, I hit down No. 8 fairway as we mentioned earlier, hit a 3-iron, didn't hit it very well, came up short of the green maybe 20 yards, chipped it by about 12 feet, made a good putt there to kind of keep my round going, I guess, because I felt I hit a good tee shot there that was going to be an easy birdie, but I actually had to work a little bit harder for it than I wanted.

No. 10, hit a really good drive there, hit a really good 8-iron for my second shot to about 12 feet, made a good putt there.

16, I hit a good drive, just pulled it a little bit in the left rough. I had a really good lie for a flier to bounce something up. I had to get it over a tree so I had to take a more lofted club to make sure I got it over the tree. But I could do that and still get good distance because it was going to fly. I ended up hitting a 7-iron. I think I had 209 to the front, came up about 15 yards short. Had it not rained, I think it may have bounced up on the green. It was awfully soft. I hit a good pitch to probably three, three and a half feet, knocked it in for birdie.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: You had a couple other opportunities, 14 and 18.

TODD HAMILTON: 14, I hit a good shot in there with a sand wedge to about eight feet, nine feet maybe, hit a pretty good putt, just didn't read it, maybe didn't hit it hard enough, just broke off at the end.

18, actually hit a good shot into 15, hit an 8-iron in there to about three and a half feet, didn't hit a good putt at all.

Then 18, hit a good shot into about seven feet, again, just didn't hit it hard enough. Had it read well, just didn't give it enough gas.

Q. You talked a little bit about 7. When you went down the 8th fairway, what was your line of sight like toward the 7th green?

TODD HAMILTON: For the second shot? I really couldn't see anything. I could barely see the bunker, the front bunker through the trees, and I could just make out the top of the ShotLink tower, which was a pretty good line. I believe that was to kind of the middle of the green.

Q. You couldn't see the pin from there?

TODD HAMILTON: No, I couldn't see it.

Q. Just hit it over the trees --

TODD HAMILTON: Right at the tower, and hopefully it was going to be in the middle of the green.

Q. When you and Sean played together did he call you Todd or Mr. Hamilton?

TODD HAMILTON: He called me Todd. I'm old but I ain't that old.

End of FastScripts.

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