Todd Hamilton's 2004 Open Championship win is one of his two PGA TOUR wins.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
GULLANE, Scotland -- Todd Hamilton was a well-traveled 38-year-old PGA TOUR rookie with a resume that included 14 international victories when he beat Ernie Els in a four-hole aggregate playoff and won the 2004 Open Championship at Royal Troon.
The surprising victory came just four months after Hamilton picked up his first, and as it's turned out, only other TOUR win at The Honda Classic. What could have been a springboard to greater success, though, has turned out into a nosedive into near-oblivion for the veteran, who described the last nine years in the simplest of terms as "terrible."
"There's been days where I didn't want to play golf," Hamilton said candidly.
Thursday at Muirfield was not one of them, though. The American made four birdies in a round of 69 that was his first in the 60s at the Open Championship since the career-defining final round in 2004. He was steady, too, hitting nine fairways and 13 of 18 greens in regulation.
"I enjoyed it. I do enjoy this style of golf," Hamilton said. "I think it takes a person that is very happy with not only their game, but themselves. You've got to be very confident and do stuff that you feel you can do, otherwise you try to chase the game. And on courses like this it is very difficult."
But Hamilton wasn't talking like a confident man as he discussed the last nine years that have included just three top-10 finishes on TOUR and a high finish of 133rd on the money list. He opened the 2013 campaign with three made cuts on the European Tour and was hoping for a good year but he came back to the States and hasn't finished higher than 41st on the PGA TOUR or Web.com Tour this year.
"Seen a lot of good things, but I offset that with a lot of bad things, and a little bit of mediocre stuff in between," Hamilton said.
The missing link, he says, is that all-important confidence.
"You can watch a guy in the NBA one night, go 10-for-11, next night he's 1-for-15," Hamilton noted. "So I've had a lot of 1-for-15's the last few years."
Hamilton, who is now 47, says he's probably recognized more often in the UK than in the U.S. given his Open victory. In fact, he had dinner at a fish-and-chips place the other night and the owner immediately pegged as a golfer, even if he couldn't remember Hamilton's name.
"I definitely thought my golfing career would have been better after that than it was," Hamilton said. "Looking back, though, I had done a lot of good things overseas at places that people probably wouldn't know that golf even exists. ...
"So when I won The Open I was kind of at the end. I think I was 38, so I was kind of at the end or close to the end of the decent career. I thought it was decent, I just didn't do it on the European Tour or U.S. Tour."
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup will be missing five major champions as well as one former PLAYERS champion when The Barclays begins on Thursday.
Angel Cabrera, who has two majors on his resume, as well as former British Open champs Ben Curtis and Todd Hamilton and PGA winners Rich Beem and Shaun Micheel, won't be participating after missing the cut at the Wyndham Championship.
All came into the week ranked outside the top 125 in the FedExCup standings and didn’t earn any points as a result. Other notables on the sidelines are Henrik Stenson, who won the 2009 PLAYERS Championship; Rocco Mediate and Boo Weekley.
The leaders have yet to tee off at the Reno-Tahoe Open, but they are already facing pressure to go low in the final round.
Troy Matteson had made five birdies in his first 11 holes to get to 10 under, three off the lead held by Scott Piercy.
Canadian Matt McQuillan has also made a much needed final-round move. He’s 4 under through nine holes, and sits at 9 under. McQuillan entered the week 148th in the FedExCup standings, putting him on the Playoffs bubble.
The winner of the Reno-Tahoe Open will earn a spot at next week’s PGA Championship if already not qualified for the event. The only player near the top of the leaderboard that is in the field next week is Steve Elkington, who won the PGA Championship in 1995.
Elkington is tied for third at 10 under, and leads the five major champions that made the cut in Reno this week (Todd Hamilton – 7 under, Justin Leonard – 6 under, Shaun Micheel – 4 under, Jose Maria Olazabal – 1 over).
LA JOLLA, Calif. – Jhonattan Vegas has just made consecutive birdies at Nos. 9 and 10 to move back into a tie for the lead with Bubba Watson for the second time on Sunday.
Vegas picked up his first PGA TOUR victory last week in a playoff at the Bob Hope Classic. The last player to win consecutive events was Tiger Woods in 2009 at the Buick Open and World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational.
The Farmers Insurance Open is just the third event of Vegas’ rookie season and his fifth since turning pro. The last player to win multiple events in his rookie year was Todd Hamilton in 2004.
No rookie has ever won the Farmers Insurance Open but Gene Littler won the tournament as an amateur in 1954.
If Vegas ends up winning on Sunday, he would be the first player in more than 13 years to win his first two PGA TOUR events consecutively. The last player to do that was David Duval – who actually won three straight starts – in 1997.
One more interesting stat? Woods reached $2 million in earnings quicker than any other player --- needing just 16 events. If Vegas were to win today, he would have $1,955,880 in just four.
The cut line currently stands at 3 under. That’s not good news for Todd Hamilton, who is one off that mark after a second straight 71. Hamilton, 210th on the money list, needed to win to secure a card for next season and avoid q-school.
James Driscoll and Troy Merritt, among others, are also in precarious positions on the wrong side of the cut. Driscoll came into the week 154th in money, while Merritt is 121st and both would likely drop into unenviable positions by missing the cut.
Merritt also has a lot at stake in the Kodak Challenge. He’s currently tied for the lead and should he miss the cut today (and not birdie the par-4 17th) would almost certainly be in a playoff for the $1 million prize, unless Rickie Fowler or Aaron Baddeley were to eagle the hole. -- Brian Wacker
So much for that. Todd Hamilton’s drive went in the water on the par-4 18th and as a result the one-time British Open champion dropped back to 3 under after a double bogey on the finishing hole.
Right next to the 18th hole, on No. 9, Troy Merritt had so such trouble. His tee shot split the fairway and two shots later he made par to finish with a career-best 64 that has him one off the lead.
Merritt entered this week just inside the proverbial bubble at No. 123 on the money list, so a strong performance here would all but lock up his PGA TOUR card for next season. If things ended right now, Merritt would jump 45 spots to No. 78 ( click here for our live projected money list).
It’s not as if Merritt has played all that well of late, however. He has just one finish in the top 50 since April, and that was a tie for 49th at the Wyndham Championship. Thursday, however, he hit 11 of 14 fairways and hit 16 greens. He also had just one miss from inside 10 feet with the putter. -- Brian Wacker
There hasn’t been a lot of movement up the leaderboard from those in the afternoon wave, but Todd Hamilton is making a run at the lead thanks to six birdies over his last 11 holes. He’s now 5 under through 16 holes.
Hamilton doesn’t have full status on TOUR -- he finished 133rd on last year’s money list and he has work to do at 216th currently -- so a strong finish here would obviously go a long way. Hamilton has made just two of 17 cuts this season, which includes missing his last six straight on the PGA TOUR. Without full status this season, Hamilton has also spent part of this season playing on the European Tour.
The cut line continues to sit at 1 over, which is a good thing for Kris Blanks, who has now made five straight birdies to sneak back inside the line (actually right on it) after an opening-round 77.
Blanks, who tied for fifth in Hilton Head and was second in Puerto Rico, had missed three of his last five cuts and was headed toward another weekend off before going on a birdie run here in the second round. Blanks has seven birdies in all today and has four holes left to try to hang on.
Others who aren’t so fortunate: Jason Gore, Todd Hamilton, Kevin Stadler, Michael Sim, Shaun Micheel, John Daly and Chris DiMarco. All of them are currently on the outside looking in. -- Brian Wacker