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April 17, 2009

Todd Hamilton


MARK STEVENS: We'd like to welcome Todd Hamilton to the interview room. Todd shot a 66 today and stands at 8-under for the tournament.
Todd, if you start off and give some general comments about your round and your thoughts about the weekend.
TODD HAMILTON: Yeah, I've been driving the ball quite well and that continued this week, which is something you really need to do here to have a chance to shoot a good score.
Some things I haven't been doing well over the last four years, three years, my irons are starting to get better. My chipping, pitching, bunker play and my putting has been a little bit better the last couple of weeks, I guess. I think that's why I've played well last week at the Masters and continue this week.

Q. Could we follow-up, are you on The British Open exemption or you have an exemption another way with the money list or something else?
TODD HAMILTON: For the Tour?

Q. Yes.
TODD HAMILTON: This is my final year of an exemption. I was allowed a five-year exemption for winning The Open in '04 and this is the final year for that. So I need to do something.

Q. You talked last week a little bit about Japan, you had a run where you had a little bit of success, and parlayed it for a while. With what you did last week, do you get a little bit of that feeling now?
TODD HAMILTON: Yeah, I haven't played all that great for quite a while. The end of last year I actually started playing better. I saw some good finishes, not great finishes, but it seemed like I always had 40 for nine holes that messed up a good tournament or a 73 or 74 that messed up a nice four-day tournament. But I did see some good things at the end of last year and I was actually excited to play this year and I got off to an awful start. I think I had made two out of my first nine cuts, leading up to The Masters. But it's funny, I didn't feel like I played poorly, just a few drives here and there, if they end up in the fairway it takes away two or three bogeys. And those 73s and 74s are now 70s or 69 or 71. So I just feel like I've been beating my head up against the wall and not getting anything out of it.
For some reason I finished Bay Hill, Sunday at Bay Hill, I shot 75 on Saturday and Sunday, I made the cut, and finished poorly. I wasn't able to get back to where I live in Dallas until that Monday. And this is the week before The Masters. I skipped the Shell Houston Open to prepare, and the wind was blowing about 30 to 40 miles every day it seemed like. And we've been playing a lot of wind this year. I just got tired of doing it. I got tired of fighting it. I got tired of seeing me hit a good drive and walk 240 steps and then hit my next shot, and then go to the opposite direction, hit a good drive and walk 340 steps. It's a big guessing game.
So I didn't touch a club from Sunday at Bay Hill until Friday the week before The Masters. I went and played golf with some friends, it blew a little bit, but it was manageable. And then I played the next day on Saturday, it blew 30 miles an hour again. So I was kind of frustrated that I didn't get a chance to practice the way I wanted to, but looking back, that Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, the time off I had could have been a blessing in disguise because even if I'm not playing well and I'm not one that takes time off. I still like to get out there because I always have friends that will call and want to play golf, and I enjoy their company and enjoy playing golf with them.
But I think if I would have gone out there and tried to fight the wind, I would have been in a sour mood. And again I would have felt like I was just beating my head up against the wall and getting nothing out of it. So it was probably a blessing in disguise that I took those four days off, not by choice, but just the way the weather was.

Q. Do you think maybe you had worn yourself down physically?
TODD HAMILTON: Not so much physically, maybe mentally. I played some good rounds earlier this year and just got nothing out of it, I'd shoot a good score on, say, a Thursday and then play terrible like Friday and miss the cut by a shot or a couple of shots.
And then the cuts, I made two cuts, the cuts that I did make didn't finish that great. I had like 39th and Bay Hill I don't even know, 50-something, so even though I felt like I was playing okay I didn't have much to show for it. So maybe more mental fatigue than physical. As you can see, I'm a big workout fan (laughter).

Q. On the subject of the wind then, how has the wind been here for you the last couple of days?
TODD HAMILTON: I'll tell you what, the wind is tricky here, it's not blowing ridiculously hard. Where I live in north Texas when it blows, it blows, and it's a heavy, heavy wind. Out here it seems like it might blow pretty good 15, 20 miles an hour and then you get amongst the trees and it stops blowing. The hard thing about the wind here is it's tough to figure out the direction. It seems like it's blowing in a circle all day. You stand out there and you see a guy hit an 8-iron for his second shot, and he goes over the green and then you're about the same club-wise as him for your shot. And you think, well, he just caught a gust, it's downwind I'll hit a 9 and then all of a sudden the wind changes a bit and you end up short of the wind. There's a little bit of luck involved when you hit. Obviously you've got to choose the right club.

Q. Is that what happened at 5 with the wedge you had in your hand there?
TODD HAMILTON: Yeah, I thought I hit a pretty good one. I was kind of in between. I knew I had to hit that club good to get it there, to account for the spin, because I was going to hit it hard, so it was going to spin a lot. I felt like I hit a pretty good one, coming in there kind of low and it just got knocked down. I can't be disappointed with it. I was disappointed with the result, but not the way I hit it.

Q. So going back to what you were saying about days off, it did you more good to rest your brain or to rest your game?
TODD HAMILTON: Both. I think both of those kind of go hand in hand. A good friend of mine that caddies out here for a guy, let's see how he puts it, he says anybody that has their name on their golf bag is a registered lunatic, meaning the pro golfers at some point are going to go nuts. This game will drive you crazy. But I think resting your mind and resting your game, at least to me, they kind of go hand in hand.

Q. Off of that, during this stretch, do you start thinking back in your life and maybe there might have been another occupation you might have pursued or are you still okay with this?
TODD HAMILTON: I don't know how to do a whole lot of other things. My father owned a grocery store when I was growing up and I was a pretty good bagger. I could sack groceries pretty good. I didn't like to dust off the shelves. I didn't mind carrying the ladies' groceries out for them. But I wouldn't want to have to do -- no offense to the people that do that, but I wouldn't want to have to do that.

Q. Todd, you mentioned before that because of the exemption running out, you need to do something this year. How difficult is it to carry that kind of pressure into tournaments? Did that contribute, perhaps, to the slow start this year and how have you put it aside maybe these past couple of weeks?
TODD HAMILTON: I actually thought this was going to be a good year for me. On the off-season I had a good finish to the end of the year last year. I think I had my best finish in the last tournament I played. And the last half of last year I had a lot of good solid finishes, not great. It seemed like when I made the cut and finished the tournament I was 30th. Next week make the cut, finish 35th; next week, make the cut, finish 37th. A lot of good finishes, but not great. I felt like this was going to be a good year. And getting off to a slow start, I think that's when I started thinking, man, you better start doing something and not waste your opportunity. You've got one year of a free pass left, you better start getting after it.
It's a very fine line out here. You can feel like you've played real well for one day and shoot two or three over par real quick. A lot of times you can feel like you haven't played that great and shoot three or four under, just because of a couple of key shots on real tough holes that you get by those hard holes and then of course you take advantage of the easy holes.
I really didn't think about the exemption part of it, at least not at the start of the year. I wanted to get off to a good start so I could have it taken care of instead of have to play 10 or 11, 12 straight weeks at the end of the year knowing that you're running out of tournaments and you've got to make that amount of money.

Q. You're talking about missing cuts and making cuts, how much do you think about cuts when you get into a tournament? Do you think about it until Friday afternoon all the time?
TODD HAMILTON: For me I think it is, I think. I don't know if I'm an oddity, but if I'm doing well, I'm not as nervous as if I'm struggling to make the cut. I'm sure there's probably other golfers that do it the same way. But if I'm doing well -- the hard part for me about playing good golf is the technique side of it. I've never really been great technique-wise, but I don't mind playing in front of a lot of people. For me that's the easy part.
Golf is a great game. You can go out by yourself, you can become a great driver of the ball with nobody around. You can be a great iron player on your home course when no one's there. You can become a great chipper, great putter. But if you're going to go into professional golf, you have to be able to do that in front of a lot of people. To me that is easier than hitting shot after shot after shot in the fairway or iron after iron after iron on the green, putt after putt after putt to the hole. To me that's a lot harder than playing in front of a lot of people. To me, I played the Asian Tour for five years. We played in 10 or 11 different countries in southeast Asia. And then I played in Japan for 12 years. I think playing over there that there's a saying that there's a billion Chinamen that could care less how you do, for whatever. And I kind of used that to my benefit, although I wanted to do well, there was none of my friends over there. My wife traveled for a little bit. I had not many friends. I'd met some Japanese people in Japan, but for the most part nobody really cared how I did. And to me that was great because it didn't put any pressure on me, any outside pressure, all the pressure that I had was from me. So I learned to play golf kind of like that.

Q. That leads me to my question: Has there been a downside to being The Open champion?
TODD HAMILTON: No, I don't think so, although I've struggled for, gosh -- I actually played well the end of that year in '04. I had a good maybe -- I think '05 at the start of the year up to this tournament I was playing quite well. I think I had a really good finish in '05 here, like a 20th to 25th place. And it seemed like after that I just tanked. And ever since it's been a struggle to get close to where I was. And only recently, the last half of last year and these last couple of weeks have I felt like the feelings that I had back in '04 when I first started as a rookie.

Q. Do you think you might have lost maybe not some fire but maybe a little motivation? Maybe you took the exemption for granted?
TODD HAMILTON: Openly, no. I would never take anything like that for granted. It's almost like, as I kid I dreamt of something like that happening. I grew up in a very small town, 1,500 people. I played golf on a nine-hole golf course. So to do something like that, and I'm not the only story like that, there's other stories like that, but to do something like that, see all your friends and family, have them witness that, it's almost like that's it. You've accomplished what you've dreamt of or what you set out to do. And although I didn't quit trying to do well, it looks as though once I won The Open Championship in '04, it looks like I just kind of quit trying to achieve things. But don't get me wrong, I tried to continue to play well, especially with all the confidence that I had, you know, rookie, wins a Tour event, wins a Major event, got a five-year exemption, should be set up for a lot of good years ahead.
My last year in Japan, '03, I won four events. So I had won those four in Japan and the two on the U.S. Tour my rookie year in 18 months, I won six times. So I was very confident with my game. I was doing some things well. And then it seems like after -- I'm going to pinpoint this event in '05, after this event for some reason I just lost it. And if I knew I'd be in Vegas. I wouldn't be playing golf.

Q. Are you aware of your place maybe in another part of golf history, some people point to your use of the Hybrid at the British Open as starting the Hybrid craze, what do you think about that?
TODD HAMILTON: You know, guys kind of used 3-woods to do the same thing I did with the Hybrid. Guys would putt/chip with the 3-woods from just off the greens. I think Tiger was one of the first ones I ever saw do it. I don't know, I guess I was just in the right place at the right time. That club that I had, it was a Hybrid club, 17 degrees that I had bent to 14 degrees that I used as a 3-wood. I never really found a 3-wood that I enjoyed hitting or had confidence with. And for some reason I put that club in, I think it was at Augusta in '04. I was able to draw it a little bit better than a 3-wood or even my driver. And I just liked -- to me it gave me some security because the face was a little bit longer, there was more area to hit the ball on than the 3-wood. I don't know if that's scientific fact, but mentally to me it looked like it was better. And it was a great club over there just after the greens. A lot of guys would putt, some guys maybe a 4-iron, chip-and-run. But for me it was a good fit for the conditions over there.

Q. They're out of business, aren't they?
TODD HAMILTON: That company is, yeah. And the guy that owned it is going to jail for something, I don't know. I don't know what he did (laughter).
It's funny, I won a tournament in Japan, actually a couple of events over there, the following years a couple of years after I won the tournaments are no more. I wouldn't sit too close to me (laughter).

Q. It wasn't Madoff, I guess?
TODD HAMILTON: No, I can't remember. I don't know the guy's name. He bought the company, SONARTECH was the company. He bought the company and I think he had something to do with the Edmonton Oiler hockey team, but I don't know the guy's name.

Q. Just last question I had was that you got through it and you got through your first ten holes today, 7-under the tournament, 4 today and then a string of pars. How many birdie opportunities were there during that stretch?
TODD HAMILTON: I had a good chance at No. 1, which is my 10th hole, I missed about an 8-footer there. I birdied the second hole, two-putted.
3, I had a good chance standing out in the fairway, had I short iron in there but I hit a poor shot, missed the green.
Missed green at 4, made a good up-and-down.
5, hit a pretty good shot, came up short of the green, though. Chipped it, made par.
6 didn't really have a great opportunity.
7 had a pretty good chance, had about a 20-footer.
8 I missed the green but I was in a good spot to get up and down.
9 I hit a good iron off the tee and a good second shot in there about, I don't know, ten feet or so. I was fortunate the guy that putted before me was on the direct line. I had to move my coin out of his line. So I got to see the line there. It was a good deal finishing with birdie. I did that yesterday, I birdied 18 to finish. So it's always good to finish on a good note.
MARK STEVENS: If you could go through your bogey-free round, just the birdies.
TODD HAMILTON: As I mentioned -- I'll start on No. 1, although I started on 10 today.
The second hole made a good drive down there, 4-iron and second shot in. I had 208 yards to the front. I was kind of blocked out by some trees, so I just played to hit on to the front left part of the green, although the pin was clear on the right-hand side. Two-putted from I guess about 50 feet.
9, I just mentioned I had a good iron there, left side of the fairway, gave me a good angle to the pin. It was in the back right of the green. Hit it in there about 8, 10 feet. And knocked that in.
13, I hit a Hybrid club off the tee. I had about roughly 130 yards, hit a good pitching wedge in there to about three feet, made that for birdie.
14, pin's on the front left there today, I hit a 6-iron, I think we had about 175-ish, somewhere in there, hit a good shot in there to about 12 feet, knocked that in.
And 16 I hit a good drive there, it was into the wind off the tee, kind of a tricky little tee shot for me because you have to draw it around some trees, and I don't like to draw it. I hit a good drive, though. Had about 110, I think it was, and hit it up there just below the hole, which was a good spot, tough to get close to have a good uphill putt. I had probably an 8-footer there.
It's always good to make five birdies in your round, but it's even nicer not to have any bogeys.

Q. How fearful were you last week that you were going to be disqualified?
TODD HAMILTON: That I was going to be disqualified? I wasn't. I knew what I did was proper. I think I was walking out to the car, getting ready to go home and the guy, Fred Ridley is his name, he's in charge of the rules there, and he came up to me and he said he had to ask me a question. And I said, I bet it was on No. 18. He said, "No, no, it was about No. 5. We had a patron call in, said you'd moved your mark out of the line of another player, but he didn't see you move it back." And I thought back and I said, "Sir, I did move it back." I did it. He putted it up and tapped it in and I moved it back real quick. I usually do it as soon as the guy that I moved my mark for, as soon as he's done, I do it as long as I'm not standing in someone else's line, I get it out of the way so I know that I've done it. I don't forget about it.
When I mentioned it was probably about 18, what happened on 18 was it was quite windy when I finished on 18 and that was my last hole on Friday. And I hit a good shot in there about 12 feet. As I set my ball down to get ready to putt, as I set it down, I picked up my coin and a gust blew my ball about three or four inches toward the hole. It was kind of a downhill putt and I looked up at my playing partner who was Steve Flesch. And I said, Steve, did you see that? And he said, "No, I didn't see it." And I explained what happened. And I asked him, I just played the ball from where it lies now? And he said yes. I inched forward a little bit, marked my ball, set it down and ended up making it for birdie to finish off the round. So I knew what I had done was correct. I just probably did it so fast that the guy didn't see it. He was taking a bite out of his pimento cheese sandwich.

Q. You were tied for second at that time?
TODD HAMILTON: Yeah, I can remember exactly what hole, where I was, where the pin was, what I used to line the coin up with, but I probably just did it so fast that he missed it. It's funny, the two times I've won out here I had the same thing happen. The Honda Classic, I don't remember what round it was, I can remember the hole, and in The Open Championship somebody called in after the fact and said what I had done. It wasn't about moving my mark out of someone's way. The one at the Honda was. The one at the Open was early in the round, my final round, when I -- before I placed my ball to putt I kind of tapped my coin. And I end up making a putt that hole. I'm kind of superstitious, almost to a fault. So not every hole, but if I have a big putt, I give it just a little tap. And the guy called in -- I didn't know until the next day that a guy had called in. And I was doing some media things in New York City and my manager said, hey, we've got to make a call to Peter Gossett, who is the head of The R&A. I didn't know what it was about. She explained before we got in touch with him that I had to tell him what I was doing. And he said, "Somebody called in it looked like you were tapping down some marks in front of your ball." And I said, no, I explained just what I said to you, I'm kind of superstitious, I was tapping my coin when I have a big putt. And he says, "Well, there's no penalty on that. We don't like people to do that, but there's no penalty."

Q. Have you ever been penalized for something like that?
TODD HAMILTON: Not out here. As a junior golfer I hit the wrong ball. We were playing a junior tournament and Titleist had given out golf balls to everybody in the field. They used to have these little -- it was a one-ball box, just looked like a third of a sleeve of golf balls, but it was just one box. And every golf ball they gave out said "Black Titleist" with a red No. 1. I was probably 12 or 13, 14, not smart enough to have a Sharpie and put your initials or mark on it. So I figured that everybody that day was playing that red No. 1 golf ball. And I hit one down the fairway and the other guy was playing with, same thing. I don't know how we figured out I hit the wrong ball, but I ended up hitting the wrong ball. So now I always mark my golf ball.
But I've never, other than out-of-bounds or in the water, I've never, knock on wood, been penalized out here. I actually almost missed my tee time out here my first year. I was staying about five away, it's the Hilton now, might have been a Marriott then, on 278, William Hilton Parkway, and it was the afternoon tee time. I don't remember what time it was, I'd like to get out here an 1:15 to an hour before. So I'm cruising through the gate and the cars are lined up pretty long. And that hour started dwindling, got to 50 minutes, 40 minutes, I got out here about ten minutes before my tee time. I left in plenty of time to get here. I was so steamed when I got to the range. I hit a few pitches real quick and teed up about five or six drivers, and just whacked them and then putted real quick. I had about ten minutes to warm up.

Q. What did you shoot?
TODD HAMILTON: I think I shot about three or four over, not very good. It took me about four holes before I was calmed down.

Q. So you don't tap anymore?
TODD HAMILTON: No, I still do it. The way I look at it, you see guys that push the coin down with their putters, to me it's the same thing. If you ever see me tapping, you know it's a big putt and I need to make it.

Q. If you're on television Sunday in the final and you're doing that, so the viewers will know what you're doing?
TODD HAMILTON: If you're watching, say check it out, see what that guy just did, that's good luck for him.
MARK STEVENS: Thank you, Todd, for all your time. We appreciate it. Good luck this weekend.

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