Hamilton returns to scene of his triumph at The Open
When Todd Hamilton played his first practice round at Royal Troon on Sunday it provided a trip down memory lane for the 2004 winner of The Open.
Hamilton, who beat Ernie Els in a four-hole play-off for the most coveted trophy in golf, has not been back to Troon since his victory, but he is now making up for lost time.
“I don’t remember everything that happened,” the American said, “but I remember enough to make it a very memorable and cherished event. I would like to have some other good memories this year. It doesn’t have to be a victory, but I’d like to play some good golf.”
It is surprising, perhaps, that Hamilton has not played Royal Troon since his year of years on the Ayrshire coast. He has played at nearby Turnberry, he says, but has resisted the chance to return to the scene of his greatest triumph.
“I have never been tempted,” he said. “I always wanted to have good memories and didn’t want to mess it up by coming here and hitting a drive in a bunker where I shouldn’t, or three-putting a hole.”
Hamilton, 50, would be the first to admit that he was not considered a front-runner for The Open in 2004. Looking back, however, he says the omens were good that week, particularly on his first walk of the course after arriving a day late because his plane had been delayed.
“I remember coming up 18 and seeing the scoreboard. There were eight to ten names on it and my name was one of two that were tied at the top. They had done a trial run of the scoreboard and my name was up there (on four under par) with Darren Clarke. They had my name at the very top, which I thought was kind of odd.”
Also that week, Hamilton had eaten in a local Italian restaurant where his caddie, ‘Bambi’ Ron Levin, had told the owner they would bring back the Claret Jug on Sunday evening after they had won it. And so they did.
“When we got there, all the blinds were shut but the lights were on inside. So we knocked on the door. I remember somebody coming to the door and the blinds kind of parted. I saw two eyeballs look out and I held up the trophy case and all of a sudden the blinds shut.” A little while later the door was opened and the ensuing party ran into the early hours of the morning.
The secret to Hamilton’s success, he explained, was playing conservatively on a fast-running course. “I hit a lot of irons off the tee to stay clear of the bunkers. I didn’t try to do anything I didn’t think I could do. I was in only two bunkers all week.”
What he would give for another good showing.