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American Rookie Todd Hamilton Is 133rd Open Champion
by: Ernest Fretwell
(GoodNewsAmerica.us) Atlanta July 14, 2004 - Playing with a putter from a used club bin Rookie American Todd Hamilton realized a dream win at the Open Championship. He started out playing with coffee cans his parents set up in his back yard as a child in the small Illinois town of Galesburg. He's been a journeyman player on the Japanese Tour with 11 wins. This year he finally got his tour card and promptly won he Honda Classic in Palm Beach, CA March 14th. British betting houses had not a single bet on this American who's best Open finish to date was 44th in 1996.
The back nine on Sunday at Royal Troon separated the men from the boys in the battle for the Claret Jug. A dramatic back nine finish left the tournament in a 4 hole playoff between American Todd Hamilton and South African Ernie Els.
With Mickelson on his was to a finish of -9 with pars on the last two holes, the drama of the back nine came to a head. The grouping of Hamilton and Els both holed birdies at the Par 5 16th. A remarkable birdie at the difficult Par 3 17th catapulted Els within one of Hamilton and one ahead of Mickelson.
Heading to the 18th hole Hamilton knew a par would get him into at least a playoff , Hamilton put his drive in the long rough down the right side. His lie was marginal, but did not look like it could be advanced very far. With 204 to the green he had little chance of putting for birdie. With an 8 iron he hacked it back to the left rough into the gallery. The gallery fence impaired his swing, and he was allowed a one club length drop into a decent lie. He landed it on the green about 20 ft past the hole. If Hamilton made this putt, Ernie Els would have been forced to make his birdie for a playoff, but he left it a bit short and made bogey. Els then missed his 10 ft birdie putt and sent the championship into a playoff.
The 4 hole cumulative playoff was the 5th playoff for the Open Championship in the last 10 years. With no obvious advantage to either player Hamilton hit a safe drive down the right hand fairway. Els stepped up to the tee with a driver and stroked a perfect drive about 40 yards short of the green and 81 yards past Hamilton.
With a light breeze from the right and 121 to the hole, Hamilton hit a full sand wedge and backed it up 20 ft short of the pin. Els bumped a skid and stop shot to 12 ft right and past the hole. Both players two putted for their pars at the 1st.
Hamilton hit a driver on the 2nd where he had bogeyed earlier in the day that ended in the wispy left-hand rough. Els hit driver just into the short rough deep down the right side. With 108 to the pin and a not so great lie Hamilton rolled a 3/4 sand wedge to within 15 ft of the back right pin position. Els lobed a sand wedge to the back of the green from a difficult look at the pin . Both players two putted again for par.
Moving over to the 228 yard Par 3 17th, Hamilton was the first to play and hit a 4 iron 16 ft short of the pin. After waiting for a jet to pass overhead, Els left his 4 iron short and was left with a difficult chip. Els' second shot is left about 10 feet short and to the left. Knowing that making this birdie could almost wrap up the championship, Hamilton ran it by about 2 ft. After a birdie about an hour earlier at the 17th Els missed his par and settled for bogey and Hamilton taped in for par. In a replay of the 18th hole an hour earlier, Hamilton took the long walk to the the tee with a one shot advantage.
Halving the hole would make Hamilton the Champion but he left his drive short and in the cross-walk. Els hit a drive about 80 yards farther down the right side of the fairway. With over 200 yards to the hole Hamilton hit a 5 iron that barely cleared the pot bunkers in front of the green from a tight lie. Needing a good shot Els hit a 6 iron, similar to his putt from an hour earlier. After Hamilton carefully walked off his shot, he hit a fantastic chip with a utility club 2 ft from the hole. With an aggressive stroke Els scurried it past and taped in his par. Hamilton then taped in his par to win the Open Championship.
Upon accepting the trophy for his win he promptly congratulated his opponent Ernie Els and low Amateur Scotsman Stuart Wilson while calling the Open Fans the best he had ever seen.
Shot of the day
At the 10th he had a ball on a hill at waist level in the deep rough. He was only able to advance it to more deep rough, with another stroke he advanced the ball out into the fairway. A chip and two putts later he carded a double to fall to -7.
After the double at the 10th, Els left his drive at the 11th in a bush. From the tee it looked dead. He decided to play his second waist level shot in as many holes. His ball was sitting visible on the outside of the bush. In a bold play he decided to club the ball from the bush rather than taking an unplayable lie. His chop from the bush landed in thick rough, but he got the right bounce from his third shot to 15 ft. He made the putt for the par of his life that left him 2 back from the leaders.