During the recently completed John Deere Classic, Todd Hamilton discussed his unexpected victory in the 2004 British Open and what it’s going to take to defend his title this year at St. Andrews. The Open Championship commences this Thursday.
CHRIS REIMER [Moderator]: This is Chris Reimer, media relations coordinator with the PGA Tour. Joining us today from the John Deere Classic where he will be competing this week is Todd Hamilton, the 2004 British Open Champion and 2004 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year. How about we start off with a few opening comments about how you are preparing this week to defend your title next week at St. Andrews?
TODD HAMILTON: You know, it's two different, completely different style of golf courses. I'm really not doing anything differently, not working on any low shots that I'll probably need next week. I actually went back to my old stomping grounds where I grew up and played a couple of days with my father and his friends. So I've been playing a little relaxation golf and really haven't done anything as far as preparing for next week. Hopefully I'll have a couple good days of practice, especially good days of weather to get some good work in next week when I get over there.
Q.: I just wondered, kind of the obvious question to start things off, how your life, if it has really, I'm sure it has to some degree, changed since last July? I know that you've always been a guy that enjoys being under the radar to a degree, and certainly winning last year raises everybody's expectations for, and you obviously you probably have not had the success that you'd like to have had. Can you just address how your life has changed a little bit and if you are trying to kind of keep it, you know, like you just addressed a little bit, just keep it under the radar?
TODD HAMILTON: Obviously it's changed quite a bit. I think the first two or three months right after was very difficult. Luckily I had two weeks off directly after the Open Championship, so I wasn't entered in a Tournament and had to pull out. I think that would have looked bad. So luckily I had two weeks off, I was able to kind of wind down and enjoy and savor what had happened. It picked up at the end of last year; I traveled quite a bit all over the world. I went to India for a Skins match. I went to Japan the following week, to Hawaii for the Grand Slam. From Hawaii, I went to South Africa, and from South Africa back to Los Angeles and that was all back-to-back weeks. So I really didn't have much time at the end of the year to maybe prepare or sit down and enjoy what kind of year that I had, especially with the holidays. That took a little bit of time away from playing golf and you have to start back up again at the Mercedes in Hawaii. I really didn't have a lot of downtime or a lot of time to relax at the end of the year. Coming off a year in Japan, the year before of playing about 22 weeks, I think last year I played around the world, maybe 35 weeks' worth of golf. So it was kind of a shock even for a guy that enjoys playing a lot of golf. I think it really shows in my play so far this year. I haven't really played terribly but I haven't gotten much out of my play. It seems like I'm using up a lot of energy to shoot 71, 72, 73; whereas you want to have that energy put forth and shooting 4-under, 5-under rounds. Hopefully I'm setting myself up for a good second half of the year. It was very hectic, and at times it was kind of a struggle and a pain in the rear end to do all of the interviews and answer the same questions over and over and over. But, I would love to have that opportunity to answer all of those questions again at some point in my career.
Q.: With the Claret Jug, apparently you took it around to a lot of places. How fun was that to surprise people with and can you tell me some of the strangest places that you took it?
TODD HAMILTON: I actually got more of a kick out of people seeing the Jug I think than me actually having it. Obviously it was a great thrill to win the Tournament and be able to carry the Jug with me or keep the Jug for a year. But there were a lot of people that when I took it out to certain golf courses around the Dallas area, there were a lot of people that saw it and, you know, I think they were in awe of what they saw. I don't know if it's the oldest trophy in sport, but I know it's one of them. A guy from the Royal and Ancient told me the Jug that I have is 120 years old. So it's quite an honor to have possessed it for a year. Hopefully I get the chance to do it again. I would say the weirdest thing, not really a weird place, but one of the kind of odder nights that we had, I got invited through a friend of mine to have dinner at Al Biernat's down there in downtown Dallas. If I took the Jug this there, Al Biernat, the owner would put some money toward the dinner. And he said, "Bring as many people as you want," which is a very nice gesture of him. I think there were probably about 10 or 12 of us that went. Walked in there, a Friday night, packed. I felt uncomfortable carrying this big case with the Jug in there and he was waiting right at front door for us. Took the Jug, had a table reserved for us and ended up filling it with a bottle of champagne for us. And we had our dinner, and probably halfway or three-quarters of the way through dinner, in walked Jerry Jones and I had never met Mr. Jones before. I don't know if he spotted our table with the Jug in the middle or he was told about it, but he came over with a couple other guys, I believe his son was with him and another guy, I can't remember the guy's name, but there were three of them. He came over and kind of touched it and actually got my picture taken with him. So that was probably the weirdest thing that happened. Obviously I was in the right place at the right time to finally meet Mr. Jones.
Q.: Michelle Wie is playing in the event at the John Deere and has an outside, outside chance to qualify for the British. Curious as to whether you've seen her play this week, and what you think about her efforts in trying to make the British Open field?
TODD HAMILTON: I haven't had a chance to see her in person this week. I just got up here to the Tournament site this morning. I did watch the news last night in my room and got to see her a lot on the television. But she is a great talent, obviously a very good golfer, but to be that good of a talent at 15 years old is very impressive. I think she's got a great future ahead of her. I think it would be great for golf, women's golf especially, but golf in general if she were to one day make a cut in a men's event. I don't know how long it's been, but I know it's been done before. I think if there's anyone that could do it, she could do it. She definitely is very talented.
Q.: When we spoke back in February, you mentioned the difficulty of trying to schedule a chance to go back to Onarga (ph) and all of the towns in your home area to show the Jug off, and I'm curious when you went back and played some relaxation golf with your father and all that, was that your chance to go out and visit the all those people out there?
TODD HAMILTON: Yeah, there were probably three or four courses that I really wanted to show it off to. A lot of those courses, those four courses I played growing up had a lot of support from a lot of the members from those courses and those towns in general. I took it a couple of days ago, we took it to a place Fort Madison, Iowa that I used to play a lot with my father, and a couple of his friends also took it to the golf course where I grew up in Illinois. Left it in the shop at both places while we played our rounds. And then I also took it up to a golf course called Gibson Woods which I've played a lot when I was in college and left it in there for our round. I played a lot of golf over the last couple of days; I played three rounds in two days. But as you mentioned it was my only chance to get back and do that, and I felt that it was necessary to have them see what I had done with all my hard work and the support that they gave me over the past, gosh, probably 20 years or so, or more even. So it was nice they got to see it. As I mentioned earlier in one of the questions, I get a bigger kick sometimes of people seeing it than I actually do of having the Jug this past year.
Q.: And I'm also curious, obviously the trip to Onarga and Biggsville and all of those are important; why didn't you just pack up from there and go straight to St. Andrews and not necessarily play the John Deere?
TODD HAMILTON: Well, my mother lives probably 20, 30 minutes from the golf course. I have a lot of friends in the area. I didn't grow up in the Quad Cities but it's fairly close, an hour and 15 minutes away. So I have a lot of friends, and even family, that are near here that don't get a chance to travel around and see me play golf. I don't know if I will play the John Deere every year that I play on Tour. But this is only my second year. I enjoy the golf course, and it's a chance for me to see some old friends from high school and spend a little extra time with those friends and family.
CHRIS REIMER: You made some comments about playing St. Andrews, talk about what you're most excited about getting out to the course and going there as defending champion.
TODD HAMILTON: I had a chance to play it back in college almost 20 years ago. I believe we played the St. Andrews course twice. I don't remember very much about it. Obviously the last couple of holes are fresh in my memory, the first hole, and I remember a few holes splattered out there and away from the clubhouse. I think probably the biggest thrill I'm going to get is standing on the tee that first round being announced as the reining Open Champion. I know they have done it here on the PGA Tour, not every week, but quite a few weeks over the past year, and no matter how bad you're playing, it's always nice to hear your name mentioned in that phrase. Again, I hope I get a chance to relive that feeling. That was a great feeling. I've had a great time the last year. I hope I've been a good ambassador for the Open Championship, and as I said, I'd like to have that feeling again. It was a lot of fun.
Q.: How much different of a person are you a year later? I know you guys have moved into a new house, and really you had a lot of things that went on last year. How much of a different person are you this time?
TODD HAMILTON: Good question. I don't think I've changed any. I still feel I'm a pretty grounded person. I haven't let the success I had last year go to my head; I hope not. I know I've got a lot of friends that would make sure, they would put a halt to that if I got out of line. I don't think that the success that I have has made me go out and buy a lot of new things that I feel I need to have to live up to that success. But it is nice to be able to, if you want -- if you want something and maybe need something that normally you would have to save up for a couple of years or a year to purchase, it's nice to be able to go out and just buy it. I don't spend a lot of money, but it is nice to be able to not worry about, gosh, our TV doesn't work, we're not going to have TV for a couple of months until we can save up some money to buy a new TV, but I don't go overboard. We've got three children and we're trying to save up for them to have a nice life ahead of them. I think winning the Open Championship has shown me there's a lot of different people out there, both good and bad. And one thing I've learned a little bit over the last year is I've learned to say no I think a little bit more. There was a lot of time taken away from myself and my golf game, which is understandable. That's all part of it. I don't -- I never was and I still don't think I'm the type of person that likes to say no to people, whether it's signing autographs for 30 minutes or sending an autograph, maybe an autographed hat or a picture to a charity that they can auction off. I think if it ever happens again, and I hope it does, that I'll be a little better able to handle the situation next time.
Q.: What was your biggest indulgence, one thing?
TODD HAMILTON: Biggest indulgence? You know, we bought my wife a very nice car. I haven't really bought anything extravagant. We bought my wife a nice car. She was next in line to get a new car, so she benefited it more than I did.
Q.: Ben Curtis was saying the one thing that he felt after winning so early and out of kind of nowhere was just the pressure. You already spoke to it a little bit, obligations and that, but is that part of the quicksand that you walk through is just feeling that pressure to live up to it?
TODD HAMILTON: Probably a little bit. I want to do well every day, whether I'm practicing or whether I'm in a Tournament. If I shot a 66 just playing with friends, I want to shoot 66 or 65 the next day. Obviously in the Tournament, if I shot a good round, I want to have another good round the following day. So any pressure that's put on me from fans or media or even friends and family, I don't -- I don't let it get to me. I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well. Just haven't done well this year. Obviously after last year, I expected a lot, and things haven't turned out this year like I anticipated they would. Now, we're only maybe just past halfway for the year, so there's still a lot of golf Tournaments left and I hope to have a good second half of the year.
Q.: What did you learn mainly, was it just to say no, or were there other things that if you had to do differently, you would?
TODD HAMILTON: I think managing your time. You've got to realize that on days there might be a lot of people, especially practice rounds, there might be a lot of people in between holes that are going to ask you to sign things. That's not just for me, but that's other players. They have to realize that and they have to plan their time accordingly. It seems like this whole year, I've been rushing around, I don't know if I've planned my time as well as I could have. Again, it goes back to not being able to say no as much as I would have liked to. It sounds kind of selfish, but, you know, just because you win a major event does not guarantee you success, especially success without practicing. Some guys, they don't need to practice much; some guys, they need to practice more. I'm a person that I really need to be near a golf club or near a golf course to continue to have success.
Q.: We spoke when you guys came through for the Nelson/Colonial two weeks, and you talked about your hectic and how much you wanted to enjoy as many stops as you could your first couple of years on Tour. You've taken a week here and a week there, playing this week and going across the Atlantic to play next week, how are you physically? Do you think fatigue might play a role, or do you think the couple of weeks off might have recharged your batteries?
TODD HAMILTON: I think the couple of weeks off definitely helped. I don't think the trip overseas will affect me at all. I spent a lot of time in Japan, 12 years, and I would fly over there five or six times a year. As far as jet-lag, I'm pretty good at handling that. It might take me a day or so to get accustomed to it, but it won't take quite a long time for me. Definitely the weeks off I've had over the past month or so have given me a little more energy; been able it take a few days off. I've obviously played golf in those two weeks off, but have taken probably more time off from playing golf than I normally would. It's been nice, actually, to just kind of sit down and do nothing or maybe stay home and get caught up on some things that needed to be taken care of, paperwork, laundry, things like that.
--Courtesy PGA TOUR.