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April 10, 2009

Todd Hamilton


BILLY MORRIS: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We are delighted to have Todd Hamilton with us. Todd had a very fine 70 today, and stands 6-under par for the Tournament.
Todd as you know won in a dramatic playoff in the 2004 British Open, parring all four extra holes for the win. He captured the Honda Classic in 2004, and at age 38, he was named the PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year. He has won 14 international titles and has played in five Masters Tournaments. His best finish was tied for 36th, and that was last year. He finished the first round of this year's Tournament with a 68.
Todd, we are delighted to have you with us. Would you like to make a statement or go direct to questions?
TODD HAMILTON: Thanks for showing up just for me. Go ahead, fire away.

Q. Did you see signs of this coming in your game?
TODD HAMILTON: Probably nothing like this, no. As I mentioned out there, I don't know if you were out there, but on paper, my year has not been that great. Not counting this event, I made two out of nine cuts. But it wasn't to the point where I can lose all hope.
You know, I may have had some 74s and 75s, but a drive five yards left here, five yards right there, a couple of times during the round, and those 74s and 75s could have been even pars; a few putts here and there, also. So on paper, it doesn't look very good, but it wasn't to the point where I was going to quit playing the game.

Q. Could you talk a little bit about 15? You talked about how that eagle kind of got your juices going. What club do you use for approach into the green and how far?
TODD HAMILTON: We all hit pretty good drives. I made a really good par on the hole before on 14, it didn't look like I was going to make bogey but I made a good putt for par there. Doing that gave me a little extra momentum, a little extra incentive to hit a good drive there and maybe have a chance to reach that green. As I mentioned, all three of us hit good drives there. I think the longest club we had in was a 3-iron.
My ball was a little further left than the other two. They had straight shots right at the green. I had to kind of hook it around those trees on the left there, and hit a really good shot. Fortunately, the greens have been very receptive the last two days, because I think the shot I hit years past would have trickled over the back of the green. They seemed to be a little bit softer this year, and my ball was able to stay on the green.

Q. Were you sitting in the rough?
TODD HAMILTON: No. I was in the fairway but I had to hook it around some trees there, I don't know,190 yards out, you had to hook it around. Ended up hitting a 5-iron probably about, I don't know, 25, 30 feet. And one of the other guys in the group had almost the same putt before me, so I got to watch his ball and made a good read, hit a good putt, and luckily it went in.

Q. Whose ball was it that you read?
TODD HAMILTON: Steve Flesch.

Q. How much was the tee up on 15? Seemed like it was up a good 15 yards or so.
TODD HAMILTON: From the back of the tee, I would say about 15 yards, maybe five steps on, five, six steps on from the front toward the back.

Q. How much of a difference does that make, and also I wonder if you could speak to why it seems like just moving the marks up five, ten yards, seems like it makes a bigger difference than five or ten yards.
TODD HAMILTON: You know, to be honest, if the tee is moved up a little bit, that fairway really narrows up with those trees on the left. So although the tee is moved up and playing shorter, you have to be a little more precise with your tee shot at least the distance I hit it. Some guys may be able to drive it past.
When the tee is back, it's a lot wider area. You may not be able to hit the green. You can hit a good shot left and have to hit a snap-hook or lay up, but the further back the tee is, the wider the area to drive it.

Q. You talked about taking a break and it might have helped you, but is it hard for you to take a break? You're kind of a golf junky.
TODD HAMILTON: Used to be. Used to be when I was a kid. If I didn't play more than one or two days, I was angry for some reason.
But lately, it seems like we played in a lot of wind lately out here on TOUR, and as you know, it blows back where we both live. And it's been blowing quite a bit lately. It's no fun to do it every day. You're hitting drives and they are going about 240 yards and next hole you hit a good drive and it goes 340 yards.
So it's very tough to get a handle on how you are playing golf when you are playing golf that way.

Q. You said you were not overly concerned about missing the cuts that you did to start this year. To what extent over the past five years, though, has your confidence wavered or your frustration level?
TODD HAMILTON: Directly after I won the Open in 2004, I actually played pretty good. The end of that year, I had a couple of good finishes, and then probably the first half of the next year, I had some good finishes and made a lot of money.
And from then on, I had not played all that great until maybe the last half of last year, 2008. I made a lot of cuts -- I had not made a lot of cuts in that period.
And then all of a sudden I started making cuts. Although my finishes were not spectacular, had I had one better round out of all four rounds, I would have had some really, really good finishes. It seemed like I was always finishing between 25th and 40th for like seven or eight straight weeks.
So it was nice to be able to play on a weekend, but it was frustrating knowing that 73 that you shot, had it been 69 or 70, you would have had a lot better finishes.

Q. Would you just compare the conditions yesterday to today, pin placements and weather-wise?
TODD HAMILTON: I think yesterday the pin positions, they were set not all of them, but a lot of them were set in spots where guys could hit shots that didn't seem like they were very good direction-wise, but with the slope around the hole location, it would kind of funnel down closer.
Today it seemed like most of the flag positions were different, completely different; where you could be five or ten feet a little right or left, and you catch the slope and it ends up 30 or 35 feet.
Condition-wise with the wind, obviously today is a lot more difficult. Today was more like Monday or Tuesday was. Maybe not quite that bad, because the weather is a little warmer. But you can set a golf course up very difficult; if you have no wind, the guys on the TOUR are going to play very good.
You throw in some wind with a tough setup golf course, that's when you see some trying times.

Q. Is this the last year of your exemption?
TODD HAMILTON: Yes, it is.

Q. Is your great play a coincidence; what do you think?
TODD HAMILTON: I don't know. I played golf in Japan for 12 years, and I went through a stretch, when I first started there, I played well, won some events.
Then I didn't win anything or do that great for four or five years, and then I won a tournament. Then I had about another four years where I didn't do very well. And then the last year I played over there, I won four events out of, I think I played 20 or 21 events. So there was nothing to indicate that something like that was going to happen.
I think just knowing that I had done something well before, I found a couple swing keys and I remember one, I found a driver that I really felt comfortable with. I never really drove the ball that well. When I did, I usually played well, because my short game was pretty good, and I would hit my irons well. But I found a driver that I really, really liked.
That last year I played golf in Japan and I really took a liking to that driver, and I think that's what set up the year for me.

Q. Speaking of short game, you must have hit a hundred like long bump-and-run shots Wednesday at the short range. Where did you envision maybe needing that shots here?
TODD HAMILTON: Well, there's a lot of shots here where you can hit it pretty good on the green, catches the slope and runs off. Now you've got maybe ten or 15 yards to the front of the green, and only five yards to the pin. The lies are very tight. It's hard to get the club underneath the ball to get the height that you need to stop it quick, so you need a lot of touch with these shots. It's a little tougher over here in the States to play a bump-and-run shot than it is over in Europe. The ground seems to be a lot tougher over in Europe and the grass is cut down real tight. So you don't have the resistance of that ball running through that grass that you do here.
So you need to practice a lot more over here to get the feel of, is that ball going to get stuck up in that grass, or is it going to scoot on top and run by.

Q. Two-part question. The first part, what parts of your game do you attribute your good play of these two days to?
TODD HAMILTON: Probably driving. I've been driving the ball well for a while, knock-on-wood. My putting has not been all that great. My irons haven't been that great. My short game has not been that great. But it seems my driving has stayed quite well the last two days, and it seems like each one of those other three components has gotten a little bit better.
My chipping has been a little bit better and my putting has been a little bit better and my irons have gotten better. So instead of shooting 74 like I may have today, with those other three components not very good, I shot 70, because those three areas were better.

Q. The second part, does it make some sense that a low-ball hitter from West Texas and a former British Open Champion are sitting at the top of that board, because of the wind?
TODD HAMILTON: I would have said if you would have had a lot of wind yesterday and today, yes. Although, this is a course -- I'll say we are lucky the greens are receptive. If they were as firm as they usually are, I think it would be really, really difficult with this wind. And I think that's why you saw really good scores yesterday, and you are probably going to see some decent scores today. But I don't think you're going to see -- what, did we have 38 under par yesterday? I don't think you'll see that.
But we are very lucky. The shot I hit on 15 to make eagle, years past, that would have been back, probably halfway to the pond behind the green on 16.

Q. On a number scale of ten, and the greens are as fast and firm as they ever are, how much do you think they are?
TODD HAMILTON: If ten is the furthest and the quickest --

Q. Not a Stimpmeter.
TODD HAMILTON: I would say the last two days, firmness, seven maybe, eight. And speed-wise, probably eight, also. They are not ridiculously fast. Sometimes you can walk on a green and you can just feel and hear it every once in awhile, and you know that it's quick.
Many times, it's very hard to find your ball mark on greens that are firm and quick. This we, we have been able to find them pretty easily.

Q. What were your expectations coming in, and do they change or do you have to fight against them changing now, given your position?
TODD HAMILTON: I don't think I had any expectations. I was just happy to have a chance knowing this could be my last one, and I wanted to play like it wasn't going to be my last one. I wanted to have a chance to come back.
I think the time off that I had last week at home was really beneficial to me. I had been beating my head up against the wall, seems like all year. Felt like I was playing pretty well and just getting nothing out of it.
I took four days off, not because I wanted to, but because it was really windy at home. And didn't touch a club for four days, so maybe that was a good thing.

Q. Does your approach change now, your mind-set?
TODD HAMILTON: No, I feel very relaxed. I always know that I can play golf at this level. It doesn't happen as often as I would like, and probably a lot of guys would say that. But I feel if I can get off to a good start, usually I'm okay, knock-on-wood.

Q. You among a handful of folks have excelled in Major Championships and can handle Major Championship pressure; coming in does that give you an extra sense of advantage or urgency, knowing that you've gone through this before and a lot of the guys on the board have not?
TODD HAMILTON: I think so, especially guys, if you are just talking about this Tournament, that definitely helps. But especially for guys that have never played here before.
It's one thing to get here and play Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday; it's another thing to play in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, so on and so on. And you could even go back to the mid-70s for a lot of the guys. So they know this course like the back of their hand.
I think there's a lot of good, young players on the TOUR that when they get in position, places that they have never been before, they might struggle the first couple times they do it. I think it helps to have a good caddie, especially at a place like this. But it definitely helps if you've been in that position before.
I played behind a guy today, the last couple of days, that it's his first time here. He was probably 6-under par with nine holes to go, maybe ten holes to go today. And I don't know what he finished, but I know he was struggling on the back nine with the wind, and maybe some of the pin positions.
So it definitely helps if you've been here before.

Q. Would you go through your birdies and bogeys, what you hit and how long the putts were and everything?
TODD HAMILTON: Yeah, I bogeyed the second hole. I had about, gosh, I don't know,90 yards,95 yards to the hole and chunked it. Actually I didn't hit a chunk; I didn't hit it hard enough. Hit it in the bunker and was buried. Missed about a 15-footer for par there.
No. 6, I bogeyed. I didn't hit too bad of a shot. If it's about three steps left, it would have caught the slope and rolled down toward the hole, but it stayed up top and actually ran through the green, and I had a tough little chip through some fringe and then on to the green. Ended up missing about a 12-foot putt there for par.
8, I hit a bad drive in the bunker, ended up laying up and I had to hit a 6-iron in for my third shot there, but I hit a really good shot to about four or five feet and made that for a birdie.
9, I hit a good drive. I hit a 6-iron to about four feet. Made that for birdie.
10, I didn't hit the drive that I wanted, but I got lucky that it stayed in the fairway out to the right. It didn't catch the slope and go down. It was actually a good angle because the pin was on the left side there, middle left. Hit a 5-iron to 15 feet and made that for a birdie.
No. 11, I hit a good drive, but was just playing for the front right part of the green and just missed the green by two or three steps. I hit what I thought was a pretty good chip that ran by about eight feet. Missed that, so I made bogey there.
15, I hit a good drive, 5-iron, probably 30 feet maybe, 25, 30 feet, and knocked that in for an eagle.
16, I got a little greedy there. It's only 9-iron today, and I tried to knock it in there close, and ended up hitting in the bunker. Hit a good shot out, but I missed the putt about six or seven feet, and ended up making bogey.
Then the last hole, hit a very good tee shot but my second shot wasn't struck the way I wanted. Got very lucky, came up low and bounced up to ten feet and made that for birdie. I hit a 9. That hole is playing easier than normal, it's playing straight downwind, the tee shot.

Q. How far away was your shot on 15?
TODD HAMILTON: 15, I'm going to say 215.
BILLY MORRIS: Todd, thank you so much and good luck the rest of this week.

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