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An Interview With: Todd Hamilton

JULIUS MASON: Todd Hamilton, ladies and gentlemen, joining us at the 86th PGA Championship. He's making his second appearance at the PGA Championship. Some opening thoughts on the golf course and we'll go to Q&A.

TODD HAMILTON: I actually haven't seen any of the golf course. I'm going out in about an hour, hour and a half. I have a friend in Dallas that was up here in the last month that said it was the most unbelievable golf course he'd ever seen, so looking forward to it.

Q. How has your life changed in the last couple of weeks?

TODD HAMILTON: I'm getting a lot of writer's cramp, signing autographs. Actually, the two weeks after was quite busy; I did a lot of media things the two days right after the Open Championship. I'm getting a lot of requests for autographs sent to my house, whether it be for pictures or old gloves or golf balls for grandkids, things like that. Kind of hectic the first couple of weeks after, but it's kind of slowed down a little bit.

Q. Is it true that the main street of Oquawka runs directly into the Mississippi River, and what else can you tell us about that time?

TODD HAMILTON: True to the street going right into the River. About the town, there's 1,500 people, no golf course in the town. The golf course I grew up on was about probably 10- or 15-minute drive. We have seven bars or taverns for 1,500 people, which is pretty good odds if you like to drink. There's really not a whole lot going on there, to be honest with you. If you do something wrong, everyone seems to know, so you have to watch what you do.

Q. What was it like getting back and playing last week, and how are you going to handle the expectations now that they have been increased in this tournament?

TODD HAMILTON: It's actually pretty relaxing. The two weeks that I spent at home after the Open victory, in 14 days, I probably played golf six or seven of those days, and for me that's unheard of. If I don't play golf in two days, I'm ready to get out and kill somebody. It was nice to get out and play and compete again.

The expectations I'm not worried about because I'm very hard on myself, so whatever anybody expects me to do, I will probably expect more from myself, so I'm not worried about that.

Q. This course is also a links-style course, and how does it set up for and you do you think you merit Ryder Cup consideration if you don't qualify in points as a captain's pick?

TODD HAMILTON: The golf course I actually can't really comment on it because I haven't been out there to play it yet. I have heard it's a links -- it's got a links look to it, but as you said, there's a lot of forced carries which you really don't see on a links-style golf course, so I can't answer your first question the way you want it answered.

As far as the Ryder Cup, that would be great to play on it. I feel that although what I've done to earn points has only been in the first seven or eight months, I feel like I'm playing well; I could contribute to the team. When I played in Japan for 12 years, I won two match-play events over there, so that might have a little bit of merit, although it wasn't against the fields that we see on the European Tour or U.S. Tour. They are still match-play victories.

If I don't get chosen, I'm not going to be upset about it or go hibernate for two or three months and be upset about it. Hopefully I'll some day be able to play on one of the Ryder Cup teams. I think it would be a great honor.

Q. There was a stretch from like '97 and 2002 where there were four guys who won multiple majors, Tiger and Ernie, the usual bunch, and you were the ninth major winner in nine events. Do you have any theory as to why things have gotten balanced out like that, and has possibly the course set up for majors been an equalizer in any way?

TODD HAMILTON: I think that the answer to your second part will answer the first part, also. I think maybe just the course setups. I know the U.S. Open, although Retief had won one before, very, very difficult. It took a lot of patience, it took a lot of good shot-making, but more so a lot of patience and a lot of trust in your game and your course management.

This is a golf course here where you might see another first-time winner because not many guys have played it. I know some guys that have snuck up here and played it a few times, but not to the point where they can be comfortable day-in and day-out on it. So I think maybe the courses that they have been playing for the major events lends itself to guys getting their first major victory.

Q. Have you watched the tape of the British Open at all, and just what are your thoughts about playing with Ernie that day, because he had a lot of good things to say about you and you've known each other for a long time. What are your thoughts about him as a player?

TODD HAMILTON: I actually watched -- probably a week after the tournament was over with, I watched the back nine holes. I was more nervous watching even though I knew the outcome than I was playing, which sounds kind of odd.

Ernie and I had a great last round together. We didn't talk a whole lot. We actually played the third round together, also. But we were focused on doing our job so there wasn't a lot of chitchat other than "nice shot" or "nice putt" or "good save," things like that. But I did sit down and watch it, and it was quite enjoyable.

Q. Given the way you won at Royal Troon, do you now find yourself kicking yourself that you didn't do this years earlier?

TODD HAMILTON: No, not really. I'm kind of glad that it took me a while to find out how to play golf. I think I appreciate it maybe a little bit more than some guys, that had they done the same thing out of college or two or three years out of college, they might think it was going to be easy for the rest of their career.

I struggled, struggled to get my card for 17 years. I tried eight times in those 17 years, but I felt it was a learning process. I played golf in Japan for 12 years, taught me how to win golf tournaments, and it taught me a lot of patience, which served me well two weeks ago.

So I wish it would have happened a little bit earlier, but I'm kind of glad it happened the way it did.

Q. You're different than a lot of your fellow players in that you haven't even played the course yet. A lot of people have been coming in over the course of the last month or came in last week. What was your rationale behind walking out on Tuesday and getting your first taste of it?

TODD HAMILTON: I actually -- when I won the Honda Classic in March, I only got one practice round, the Tuesday before.

At Troon, I had played Troon when I was at university in college, but I didn't remember anything about the course. When I played there this year, I played eight holes on Tuesday and then I played 18 holes on Wednesday.

So I almost like the fact that I don't know a lot about the golf course where I can go out and feel that it's like the back of my hand like I know it real well. I think you pay attention a little bit more when you're not sure what's out there. I think your focus is a little bit better when you're not sure what's out there. So I don't mind it. As long as I can take good notes today and tomorrow, I think I'll be okay.

Q. You were asked about the first-time winners in the majors for the past two years, and among them are the Mickelsons and Furyks, people who people thought would win one, but also the Curtises and the Micheels. Is there a huge gap between the elite and guys who come out of nowhere?

TODD HAMILTON: I don't think there's as big of a gap as what people might think. A lot of times, all it takes is one good shot from you to win, or one bad shot from the other person. I saw that two weeks ago at the Open. Ernie and I played great the whole day. We both made our mistakes in the round, but once the playoff started, it seemed like the difference was going to be one good shot that ended up us making a birdie or one bad shot that cost the person a bogey or double-bogey, and it was the shot Ernie hit on 17 in the playoff.

So a lot of times, it's just a good bounce here or there or a bad shot from the other person, which you never root for the other guy to hit a bad shot, but sometimes that happens.

Q. What's the most enjoyable thing you might have done in the last couple of weeks, and has anybody said anything really funny to you, maybe a fan or anything like that?

TODD HAMILTON: Enjoyable things, probably sleep. Probably the two weeks after the victory, I bet I averaged five, six hours of sleep a night, which for me is not very good. I'm kind of cranky when I don't sleep much.

I haven't had too many strange incidents or requests or anything like that, yet. I probably will. I know I've got a lot more friends than I used to have, though.

Q. Just curious, when you talked about being more nervous watching it than playing it, even though you knew the outcome, why would you still be nervous?

TODD HAMILTON: A good question (laughing).

Sunday of the tournament, I felt very calm. I don't know why. I had the same feeling back in March at the Honda Classic, which I won. It seemed like whatever I did, it was going to work out in my favor, whether it be by four shots or by one shot. There was one time during the final round when I thought I wasn't going to win and that was when Ernie had the putt on 18 in regulation to win it outright, and I thought he was going to make it.

When he didn't make it, I felt that I had an awfully good chance because he looked a little dejected, a little down on himself for missing the putt, so I felt I had just as good of a chance in the playoff as he did.

I can't explain why I was nervous watching it. I know if I hear myself on TV or on a radio, I hate listening to myself. I think it's the same way when I watch myself play golf; I don't like to watch myself or listen to myself.

Q. You mentioned earlier about growing up in a town where if you did anything wrong, everybody knew about it. I wondered, first off, if you had any favorite stories about things you were not able to get away with, because you grew up in a place like that, and secondly, just whether the aftermath of all of this has been as fun as you would have thought it was. You talked mostly about sleep and stuff like that.

TODD HAMILTON: I was actually a pretty straight?and?narrow kid growing up, so I didn't do a whole lost things where I got in big trouble. My father owns a grocery store in town, so if I did do anything wrong, all of the people would go to him and he would hear about it and then I would be in big trouble. I was pretty good about staying out of trouble.

What was the second part of your question?

Q. Just whether the aftermath has been as fun as you would have thought it would be. You talk in terms of being happy to get sleep now. Has it been fun?

TODD HAMILTON: It's actually been pretty neat. I had a chance to do some media things in New York City the day after. One of them was throwing out the first pitch at the New York Mets baseball game, which I thought was pretty cool. Of course I watch a lot of sports and I see all kind of people do that. I thought that would be a neat thing to do and was fortunate enough to be able to do it.

Q. A lot of people worry about how they are going to throw. Were you stressed?

TODD HAMILTON: I was fine. They had me miked up for the PGA TOUR Productions. It was about 90 degrees out and they had me wear a jacket, and the jacket was one size too small. So I was worried about being able to get it to the catcher, to be honest. But I didn't hum it in there like some guy might; I just kind of lobbed it in there. It would be a great pitch for a softball game.

It has been very fun. One thing I've got a big kick out of is people see me carry the case around. I had a guy at the airport last night or yesterday afternoon when we got in, I've got the trophy with me in a big, silver case. Some guy, I don't know how he knew it was in there, but he crossed the street, his father then crossed over, I think maybe his brother and uncle came over. By the time they all got over there, there were about four or five of them, and there was a lady with a camera, she happened to have a camera there. They asked if the trophy was in that case, I said yes.

"Do you mind if we get a picture of it?" We were loading the car, and I had time to do it. So I took it out and they got a picture of it. It's kind of neat seeing the faces of people that enjoy watching and playing golf. When they see the trophy, it's kind of neat to see their reaction to it.

Q. Going back to the playoff, the 17th hole for a second, do you think that you forced Ernie's hand by hitting a great shot yourself, and can you tell us what determined the order of the playoff in terms of who had the honor on the first tee?

TODD HAMILTON: We chose -- actually I chose -- I don't know what they were, just little -- they were not paper. It's kind of like a button with the No. 1 and 2 on it. I chose first and chose No. 1, so I got the honor.

As far as the 17th hole, we were both kind of tentative with our putts on the first two holes. He had a very good chance on the first hole. I had a good chance on the second hole. We were both very tentative.

Maybe my shot on 17 looked closer than it was. It was kind of on-line with the hole, and sometimes when that happens, it's very hard to distinguish how far you are from the hole. I'm going to guess mine was 15 to 17 feet away. But from the tee box, it looked like it was ten, or closer, feet away. So maybe just by the way the ball was positioned in line with the flag, that may have made him try to hit a shot he was not comfortable with or maybe thought he had to hit a lot better shot than he really needed to.

Q. Going back to your experience at The INTERNATIONAL last week, did you feel more confident on the course and what distractions did you face that you were not used to and how did you deal with that?

TODD HAMILTON: I felt quite comfortable and confident. I didn't get a chance to really play a lot of golf when I was at home, the two weeks after the Open Championship, so I was a little hesitant about what was going to happen last week as far as my golf was concerned.

I felt like I was still swinging well. I felt the same bounce that I had over in Scotland. I liked the format of the points system. It was very difficult to figure out, though, with the altitude, how far your shots were going, and I had only played that tournament one other time and that was ten years ago. So the practice rounds for me were very important.

Second part of your question?

Q. Just the distractions that you had to face for the first time and how you had to handle that.

TODD HAMILTON: All of the media stuff has really been a pain (laughter).

No, it's neat because all of the people recognize you now. And for you to stop and sign their hat, it's like giving them 20 or 50 bucks. I think that's the greatest thing in the world. I try to do as good of a job as I can with the limited amount of time that I've had the last couple of weeks of doing that, so it's nice to see the smile on their faces.

Q. I understand you say that you have the British Open trophy with you?

TODD HAMILTON: I do.

Q. Do you travel with it?

TODD HAMILTON: The only reason I took it to Colorado last week was because my caddie is from Boulder, which is probably 30 or 40 minutes away. He wanted to show it off to his friends. I didn't know my father was going to show up last week. I knew he was going to come up here, he lives in Illinois very close to here. I wanted him to see it. He showed up last week and was able to see it there.

I probably will not carry it every week, no. It's awfully heavy.

JULIUS MASON: Todd Hamilton, ladies and gentlemen.

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