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July 11, 2016

Todd Hamilton

Troon, South Ayrshire, Scotland

MIKE WOODCOCK: I'm delighted to welcome the 2004 Champion Golfer of the Year, Todd Hamilton to the interview room. Todd, thank you for joining us this afternoon. I guess, after such a memorable victory here in The Open in 2004 after the playoff with Ernie Els, you must have some wonderful memories coming back here to Royal Troon. Can you just talk about how it feels coming back in to the scene of such a memorable victory for you.

TODD HAMILTON: Well, yesterday was the first time I'd been back since 2004, so I noticed the clubhouse was redone inside. I couldn't even remember how to get to the driving range, it's been such a long time ago. Had to get pointed in the right direction for that.

The course, obviously, I could remember all of the holes, but I think they built a few new tee boxes, obviously, further back. They never build them further ahead anymore. And I think in the 12th year since I won here in '04 my driving distance has gotten a lot shorter, because the golf course, at least today, played very, very long, especially the back nine.

But, as you mentioned, I have good memories here. I don't remember everything that happened, but I remember enough to make it a very memorable and cherished event. Would like to have some other good memories this year. Doesn't have to be a victory, but at least have some good golf and play some good golf.

Q. Apart from obviously winning the Claret Jug, is there one moment that stands out from 2004?
TODD HAMILTON: I think you know it really didn't sink in that I had actually accomplished what I did 12 years ago until I got home and was able to show the trophy off to a lot of friends and family back home. I was fortunate that my wife and three kids were here and my mother were here to watch. My oldest child was 6 at the time. I had a 4-year-old and a one-and-a-half, so I don't think they remember very much of it at all. If anybody remembers, it would be the oldest one at six. But I think it really hit home when I got home in Texas and was able to show the trophy to my friends back home and some other family members back there.

During the tournament, I wish I could remember everything that happened. I was fortunate enough to be sent a tape of every day of the tournament. And I've actually watched the tape of the final round maybe three times in the 12 years since it's happened, and doing that kind of rekindled some things that happened, and I think just getting home and knowing that that two-day period where it finally sunk in that you won the Open Championship and having that trophy to show to whoever it may be.

I know when I'm at home I love to play golf all over, different places, and the year that I had the Jug, I would take it to different courses around the Dallas area where I live. And as a "thank you" for letting me bring a group of players out there, I would leave it in the pro shop for the four to five hours that we played our round, and I got more joy out of seeing other people look at it than probably me actually having it.

Q. If I can, have you ever been tempted to come back before now? And how did winning the Open change your life?
TODD HAMILTON: I never have been tempted. Not superstitious or anything, that kind of a reason, just never have been -- I guess the closest I would have been is Turnberry. That's fairly close to here. But I always wanted to have good memories and didn't want to mess it up by coming here and hitting a drive in a bunker where I shouldn't or three-putting a hole where I shouldn't.

So as far as changing my life, obviously the monetary gain that I saw was great. I'd had success over in Japan for 11 or 12 years and had made a nice living there. So it wasn't like I came into a lottery-style amount of money, but it did help as my wife and I were moving into a house that fall in 2004, so it did help.

I think I was 38 years old when I won. I think had I been 22, 23, 24 right out of college, I think it would have made a much bigger impact, hopefully a better impact. Meaning I wouldn't be big-headed, you know, if something happened that quick right out of college, and hopefully wouldn't let it go to my head too much. But being 38, I had kind of been around the world playing a lot and had success, had some downturns in my game. So I think that year was just kind of a culmination of everything that I had done since I got out of college and turned professional. So it really didn't change my life.

Some people say I got a little bit taller and maybe a little better looking, a little smarter because I was getting asked my opinions on everything, but I don't think it really changed too much.

Q. One of the things we remember from '04 was the story you told us about the elephant. I just wonder whether you became more famous and did you get your statue?
TODD HAMILTON: No statue, no. I assume I would be more famous than the elephant, although somewhere underneath the ground she's still there. I haven't been back to see the little memorial they have set up for her, but, yeah, I think that was in about 1974 or 5, I think.

Q. '72.
TODD HAMILTON: '72 it was? Okay. So I wasn't quite 10 years old. I remember going to the fair that they had set up or the circus they had set up. But I don't really remember that happening.

Q. They have changed though the town sign: They say it is the birth place of the 2004 champion.
TODD HAMILTON: I think so. I was actually there not too long ago, within the last month, month and a half maybe. Drove through, saw my father, was on a way to a Champions event in Iowa driving from Michigan. So we passed through. The side of town we went into, they hadn't changed it, but the other side, they may have changed it.

Q. You gave Bambi a replica of the Jug. Where did that idea come from? Can you just kind of talk about that. That seemed like kind of a cool thing.
TODD HAMILTON: For you that don't know, Bambi was the guy that caddied for me in 2004, his real name is Ron Levin, L-e-v-i-n, he got the nickname "Bambi" because he started caddying on Tour at a very, very young age. Probably, I don't know, 19-ish.

I just came up with the idea. I think I inquired if it was possible to get him a replica, and they said, yes. When they told me it was, I think it was 3 or 4,000 pounds, I didn't know if I really wanted to do it (laughing), having just written him a check for 10% of the winner's check.

But, no, seriously, I thought it was a good gesture. That was my first year of having him caddy for me. I know he had caddied many, many years before that. I don't think he had ever won as a caddy with any player, and that year counting the Open Championship, we won two times as a team. Also back in March of that year at the Honda. So I just thought it was a nice gesture.

Again, inquired about it. Got everything going, got it made up, and I forget when I gave it to him. It was supposed to be a Christmas present for him. But I don't know if I got it in time to give it to him for Christmas. I want to say I gave it to him early the next year, but I could be wrong about that.

Q. That night after you won you were going to go to that Italian restaurant in town, which I don't think it's there anymore.
TODD HAMILTON: It's not there anymore. I heard he's got one in Prestwick and another town. But the one we went to is no longer there.

Q. Can you just recall that night, the Sunday night.
TODD HAMILTON: The Sunday night?

Q. Yeah, the Sunday night.
TODD HAMILTON: To set it up, I think we -- I heard stories that we went there every night, but that's not true. I know we went there once, and I believe it was on a Tuesday. Might have been Wednesday. As we were being served, the guy that was the owner asked what we were doing in town, are we here for the golf? Yes. I don't know if we initiated that we were playing in it or he asked if we were playing. And Bambi, Ron, piped up, "We'll bring you the Jug back Sunday night when we win."

Well, I hadn't been playing very well, and of course you never would envision that would happen. Well, lo and behold, come Sunday night it was about probably 7:30 when the playoff finished, we had the Jug.

So I remember doing a lot of media stuff after, and by the time I got home it was probably close to 10:30, 11:00. So we all took quick showers. My wife and I had rented a house with my kids and my mother and we took quick showers and we went down there. And the Jug comes in a like a big cameraman case. Very hard-sided, shiny, silver colour. Looks like you would carry a big, gigantic camera lens in it, padded inside. And it's probably two and a half feet long and maybe, I don't know, eight inches high. So it's a big case and we had it with us in the cab ride there.

When we got there, all the blinds were shut but the lights were on inside. So we knocked on the door. I remember somebody coming to the door and the blinds kind of parted. Saw two eyeballs look out and I kind of held the trophy case up, and all of a sudden the blinds shut. Nobody opened the door though.

Somebody else came. The blinds opened. Two more sets of eyes, which I assume was the owner of the place, and they unlocked the door. I showed the case again. They unlocked the door, let us in, and we probably were there till, gosh, 3:00, 3:30, maybe even 4:00 in the morning. So probably a good four hours we were there.

We filled it up with champagne. The guy cooked us nice pasta dinners. It was basically a party they were having for the workers as kind of, I guess, a "thank you" for their work during the week of the Open. Guy sent me some nice pictures of that night after, and I still have them somewhere in a drawer. It was a pretty cool night. Understatement.

Q. It's going to be the first time that a lot of people around the world would have seen Troon being played in a big championship. It's 12 years ago now. Can you just give us a sense of what you have to do really well in order to score really well around Troon? What was the key to the success you had and what is it this time, you think?
TODD HAMILTON: I remember when I played, I played very conservative. I hit a lot of irons off tee shots, off the tees to stay clear of the bunkers. Basically, I didn't try to do anything that I didn't think I could do. If it called for a 2-iron or 3-iron off the tee, that's what I did.

I had a very good week scrambling, getting the ball up and down, and I putted extremely well. I don't think I hit in any fairway bunkers at all. I remember being in two bunkers. One was a greenside bunker on the 7th hole on the front right. I didn't get that up and down. I missed maybe a four- or five-foot putt. The other bunker I was in was about on No. 6, I think. It's about 25 or 30 yards short of the green on 6. But I was there in two. 6 is a par 5, so I was able to hit it out on the green and make a par.

So I don't remember hitting in any fairway bunkers which, not just on this course here at Troon but all the links style courses, that's a killer. I try to make those play like water hazards. I knew if I hit in there, it was going to at least cost me a half shot, if not more.

Assuming the weather and the wind direction is the normal wind direction, one through nine is your best opportunity to score out here, from what I've seen. I played here yesterday for the first time since 2004, and those holes were into the wind, which is unusual, except for No. 8. 8 kind of jogs a different direction. So usually 1 through 7, and then No. 9 are straight down, and then 8 kind of goes back into the wind a little bit. But yesterday it was just the opposite. 1 through 7 and 9 were slightly into the wind. It wasn't a big wind, but it was enough to change your strategy off the tee. Then 8 was a little bit -- actually, 8 was kind of cross, downwind. And from 10 on in is usually into the wind, off the left. Although number 12 would play downwind under the normal wind. So the front nine is where you need to score. You can't falter on the front nine, because the back nine is so difficult.

Today the back nine played very, very long. When I was here in '04, I don't remember the course being as green as it is, so that tells me it's rained a lot here. The rough in places is very lush, very dark green, especially at the bottom, which is where your ball's going to be, so it's hard to get out of that.

I would think the course would play a little bit harder this year, assuming you don't get any crazy weather. It will play a little bit harder than it did 12 years ago.

Q. You said that it wasn't a life-changing event, but were your expectations at the time that as a competitor you'd be putting yourself in that kind of frame more often in the years afterwards?
TODD HAMILTON: After having won? Maybe not so much having chances to win or many chances. Maybe a chance here and there, but I didn't expect that I wouldn't play as well, yes. If there was a tournament I thought I would do well in, it would have been the Masters. I felt that my short game, my putting was very good. The only problem I would have had at Augusta would be the drives. Because most of the holes go out and turn to the left, and my ball goes out and turns to the right. So for me to hit a good drive on those holes, would be like putting a square peg in a round hole. I think the best I ever did there was about 15th place.

But if there was ever one where I thought I would have a good chance, it would have been that course as my short game, I thought, was better than average. I never really drove the ball well, so the U.S. Open would have been a pipe dream for me to win. I thought once I won in '04 on a links course -- I've always enjoyed playing this style of golf. I don't think I'd want to do it every day because I think it would drive you nuts in the end. But every once in a while if you've got a few days to prepare and learn all over again how to play and judge your bounces and rolls and things like that, I think it's fantastic golf.

Then the PGA, it seems like anymore you've got to shoot 15- to 20-under. So that one seems like you've really got to be on to win. Whereas I think the Open Championship, you've got to play really smart and stay away from big numbers because it's so difficult to make birdies. And a lot of times your best shot with a short iron might be 25 feet, and sometimes we as players may not realize that. But a lot of times the gallery over here does because they're so educated in their golf. Sometimes a 9-iron to 25, 30 feet is a good shot over here. Whereas at home in the U.S., that's worse than average, probably.

Q. This may be jogging your memory a little bit, but you played a late practise round, I want to say it was Tuesday or Wednesday night. You were one of the last in, and it was kind of pissing rain a little bit. Do you remember coming up 18 and seeing they were fiddling around with the scoreboard? Do you remember that moment at all?
TODD HAMILTON: I do. I actually got in late. I was playing the John Deere the week before, and I had a flight from Moline, Illinois to Chicago, which got cancelled due to bad weather in Chicago. So I took that same flight. That was Sunday night of John Deere. So I took that same flight the next day on Monday. So that got me in Tuesday, I'm going to say between 10:00 and 12:00 here. So I was already a day behind. I was tired. I wasn't playing that well. I do remember going out and just kind of writing down what I thought were pretty good notes, where to go, where you can't go, kind of judging what I should be hitting off the tees and how I wanted to play each hole.

I do remember coming up 18 and seeing the scoreboard. There were 8 to 10 names on it. And I think the two names at the top, or at least they had scores as well. And my name was one of the two that were tied at, I think it was 4-under. They had just kind of done a trial run of the scoreboard, and my name was up there with, I want to say it was Clarke, maybe Darren Clarke, but I could be wrong on that. And I think they had Duval at -3, and again, there were 8 to 10 scores. But they had my name at the very top, which I thought was kind of odd.

Q. When you look back at all the little things that happened that week, such as your caddy saying you're going to bring the Jug back to the Italian restaurant and your name on the scoreboard, do you look back and look at those pieces as signs that was going to be a magical week?
TODD HAMILTON: Looking back, obviously, when you see that stuff before your eyes, before the event happens, I guess those are the people that read the cards and tell you what your life's going to end up being. But looking back, there were a lot of odd things that had happened. The scoreboard you're talking about, the restaurant ordeal that I mentioned earlier, on the flight over, my wife sat by a priest from, I think he was from South or North Dakota, and they conversed about what each individual was doing, where they were going, and my wife mentioned that we were coming over to play golf. He ended up praying for us.

So there were a lot of odd things that happened. Obviously looking back you can put the pieces together and fill out the puzzle, but you would never see those pieces individually and before the event even started, whatever event might be, put them together and think that you were going to win, but it makes for good stories for you guys. Fills those papers.

MIKE WOODCOCK: Todd, thank you for joining us this afternoon. And great to hear your memories of 2004, and best of luck this week.

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