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July 7, 2004

Todd Hamilton


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Todd Hamilton, thanks for joining us. You grew up about an hour and 15 minutes from here. It's your first start at the John Deere Classic since 1993. It's a nice homecoming after winning the Honda Classic last year. Just talk about returning to the John Deere Classic.

TODD HAMILTON: Well, it's special to be here. I've got a lot of friends and family around the area. Although my golf hasn't been very good, it seems like three years since the Honda Classic, and it's only been about three months. Having all the friends and family in town here, I hope to give them something to cheer about. I don't really know how to play, as, like I said, I haven't been playing very well, but this is a goofy game. As you saw at the Honda, there was probably no indication that I should have done well, let alone win the golf tournament.

As I said, it's a goofy game and anything can change, and I hope today is the day that it changes.

Q. Actually you hope Thursday maybe is the day it changes.

TODD HAMILTON: Well, I've got to have a little confidence today (laughter).

Q. Is there more pressure playing back in front of all the family and friends like this?

TODD HAMILTON: Probably a little bit. I expect a lot out of myself anyways, so whether it's pressure put on myself by myself or pressure knowing that you have a lot of people cheering for you in the gallery, it doesn't matter, because I expect a lot out of myself.

I will say for me personally, if I'm playing well, I tend not to be as nervous, but if I'm not playing as well, not really knowing how my game is going to react through a round, then the nerves kind of set in.

Q. How does this course set up compared to the course where you won the Honda Classic? How does this set up for your game?

TODD HAMILTON: It's similar. Off the tee it's pretty generous, as the Honda course was. I only played it one time, and that was Monday. I'm really not too familiar with it. I know the Honda course was very hard and fast. I think this one is going to play a little softer. I know it was soft on Monday and I think it rained quite a bit Monday night, maybe even yesterday a little bit. I wasn't in town yesterday.

I think as far as the firmness of the golf course, it's quite a bit different. Around the greens it's kind of similar. There's a lot of little areas where you need to hit little chip-and-runs or high lob shots, depending on where you miss the greens, and the greens have some slope to them, just as they did at the Honda. Maybe not quite as severe.

So it is a little bit similar, although I think the condition as far as the firmness is quite a bit different.

Q. Casey Wittenberg is also a rookie. It's a little bit of a different story.

TODD HAMILTON: He's a young rookie.

Q. You probably don't feel really like a rookie out here?

TODD HAMILTON: No, not really. I remember playing in Japan, and they had Ichiro come over, playing for the Mariners. He played pro baseball in Japan for a long, long time, and he came over here and I believe he won Rookie of the Year, which I thought was kind of odd because he played in the professional leagues for such a long time.

But I guess technically he was a rookie in the major leagues here, and I think it's the same with me. I'm sure he didn't feel like a rookie, as his play showed when he got over here. I feel the same way. I've played pro golf now for 17 years, I think. I had a lot of ups, a lot of downs, and I don't feel like a rookie, although playing the courses for the first time is quite difficult to get accustomed.

When I played in Japan, usually the first week I went over there, I would leave on Monday morning, arrive Tuesday evening, play in the Pro-Am on Wednesday and then Thursday the tournament started. The first week went very fast, which was nice. But these weeks tend to be a little bit longer because I'm getting there on Monday, trying to play either a practice round or in the Monday Pro-Am, another practice round on Tuesday.

I haven't played in too many -- this is only the second Wednesday Pro-Am that I've played in, so the weeks seem to be really long as compared to when I was in Japan. They seemed to go by quicker because I was familiar with everything.

Q. How many times did you play in this tournament in Oakwood and what do you remember about those rounds?

TODD HAMILTON: I know I played at least two, maybe three times. I'm not sure on that. This course compared to Oakwood is completely different. It's quite a bit longer. The greens are a little bit bigger.

I think the last time I played -- maybe not the last time I played in a tournament at Oakwood, but one of the times I had poison ivy, not a very good recollection, and it was about 95 to 100 degrees. This was back when it was -- I think it was in July, just about this time, and of course, the blisters of the poison ivy would rupture and the sweat would carry it down to another part of my skin that didn't have anything wrong with it, and it spread really fast that week.

I think if I played it three times, which I think I did, I think I only made the cut once, so I didn't really have a lot of success.

One experience I had is I actually played in the Pro-Am as an amateur. I was 15 years old, I believe it was 1980, and that was like a pro tournament for me. I mean, that was pretty cool. I thought that was fun, and I think I made nine birdies for our team that day. I shot about a 5-under, I believe.

My pro was Cesar Sanudo, I think. I don't know if anyone even knows his name.

Q. When you come to a tournament where players like Vijay are in the field, is he the guy that you look to beat from the getgo?

TODD HAMILTON: Not necessarily. Golf is a crazy game. Just because you're ranked higher or have made more money than another person doesn't mean you're the shoe-in to win. You know, when the Bulls were winning all their championships, they were the team to beat, and they very rarely lost. But if you look at golf, say a golfer plays 30 events a year, which is quite a bit, he might only win -- if he's a golfer like Vijay, he might only win three times. Well, that's not really a very good average.

I've always thought if you're good enough to get your Tour card and play on the Tour, you're good enough to win a tournament. A lot of golf is feel. Some weeks you don't have a very good feel or some days you don't have a very good feel, and that one day might make the difference between winning a tournament or finishing 10th or 5th or something like that, but he would definitely be one of the guys that you would think would be up there.

Q. How do you feel right now going into this tournament as opposed to other tournaments because there's such a sense of familiarity? You're near family right now, friends and family nearby, you're comfortable with the area?

TODD HAMILTON: Yeah, I'm comfortable with the area, but like I said, I've only played this golf course once. I think it's, what, five or six years old? So the guys that have played here a bunch maybe have a little bit more advantage than I did. I might know where to go eat better than they do, but golf-wise they get a heads-up on me.

I guess if you're not playing well, which I don't really feel that I'm on top of my game at all, it is nice to be around familiar surroundings, and if you can find keys that you can work on to improve your game, maybe being around familiar people or a familiar area can make it easier on you mentally that you don't have to worry about trying to find your golf game. Maybe it'll just happen.

Q. Are you staying with your mom?

TODD HAMILTON: Yes. She lives in Rock Island. I think it's about a 20-minute drive from here.

Q. You went to play golf yesterday?

TODD HAMILTON: I went down and played golf with my father in Burlington, Iowa, and a couple of his buddies that helped me get started financially playing golf.

Q. Where did you play?

TODD HAMILTON: We played at a place called Spirit Hollow.

Q. You're talking about not being on your top of your game right now. What's happening in that regard?

TODD HAMILTON: I think one thing is I've played a lot of golf. I enjoy playing golf. Even when I am at home taking weeks off from tournament golf, I enjoy playing golf. Playing golf with my friends is a lot different than playing golf out here, but I still enjoy it, and I think having played so many tournaments, I believe this is my 20th tournament for the year, and the year is really only half over -- when I played in Japan I used to play 20 tournaments for the whole year, but our Tour in Japan didn't start until March, so we had a couple months before we got started.

So maybe I've been playing a little too much. In defense of that, this is all new to me. It's exciting. I've seen all these tournaments on TV. The course is on TV. As a rookie, I want to play as much as I can without getting too burned out, so I know next year, hey, I kind of like that city or that tournament or I like that course, so it'll be better for me next year knowing which courses are good for my game or which areas that I like.

So maybe playing so much, practice a lot, play a lot of tournament, pressure-filled golf, maybe that's part of it.

Q. Kind of nice having that victory, hence having that luxury?

TODD HAMILTON: Yeah, it's a very nice situation to be in. I went from not knowing which tournaments I was going to get into. Now I have to find tournaments to skip to rest for the other tournaments. It's a really tough decision being a rookie and being able to play in all these tournaments. You know, you feel bad because you were looking at -- I know I didn't play at the Booz Allen Classic. Well, that was a tournament that at the start of the year that I would have died to play in. It just so happens I took that week off.

Q. Ichiro got tired his rookie year, too (laughter).

Playing this week and playing next week, was there any concern or is there any concern about the trip overseas?

TODD HAMILTON: No. You're talking to a guy that made five or six trips a year to Japan on a 13-and-a-half-, 14-hour flight. I've got no problem with jetlag, plus if I didn't play here as a semi-local guy, I think I would have been crucified -- I know my dad would have had some words for me. My mother, too. I've got no problem getting on a flight Sunday night and shooting on over there.

Q. What if it's Monday?

TODD HAMILTON: If I leave Monday?

Q. Any concerns that this tournament might go until Monday?

TODD HAMILTON: It doesn't matter.

Q. You're talking about your rookie year and everything. Do you think about Rookie of the Year honors?

TODD HAMILTON: Not too much. I know Zach Johnson, a rookie, has been playing really well this year. It's kind of nice to see guys -- I guess I'm not real young, but young guys do well, but it's nice to see new faces do well. I was kind of hoping when I won the Honda that it would get some of the guys, either the Nationwide guys that hadn't been out here before, they got their cards on the Nationwide, or the guys that went through the qualifying school with me, I was kind of hoping that it would show those guys that anything can happen. I know Kevin Na, a young kid, has been doing well this year. Of course Zach won the Atlanta tournament maybe three or four weeks after I won the Honda. So it's nice to see that.

Like I said earlier, if you're good enough to get your card, whether it be through the Nationwide, the qualifying school, or if you're allotted seven sponsor invites like Bill Haas, he's got a chance to get his card that way, if you're good enough to get out here, you're good enough to win.

Q. I know you said you haven't been playing well the last couple of weeks, but how much fun is this right now? Do you have to pinch yourself every day that you're playing on the PGA TOUR, that days like this you're having a press conference to talk with people, a press conference after the Honda Classic? How much fun is it right now?

TODD HAMILTON: I will say for two, maybe three weeks after the Honda it wasn't very fun at all because I'm not a person that likes to return phone calls or get phone calls or do things like this. I know it's part of the job and it's a good problem to have, but I'm not a big fan of doing that.

It was real stressful for a couple weeks after that. I grew up in a small town about an hour and 15 minutes from here, 1,500 people. My dad got 150 phone calls from people. I remember looking at my phone, I was driving up to Bay Hill, I think, right after Honda, the week after. My phone holds ten messages, so I got on there, cleared them all off, turned the phone off for 15 minutes. Turned it back on, ten more messages. So I guess it's like paying taxes. You don't enjoy it, but it's a good problem to have.

A friend of mine called me five minutes after I made the last putt at the Honda. My messages were full. Tried to call me, couldn't get through. Good problem to have.

Q. Vijay doesn't like these things, either.

TODD HAMILTON: He probably has to put up with a lot more than I do (laughter). That's one thing I've always thought. I know Tiger probably gets ribbed for maybe not signing enough autographs or doing something, but what he has to go through and how he plays golf going through that, incredible.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Todd Hamilton, thank you very much.

End of FastScripts.

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