Bill Nichols

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Todd Hamilton totes his bag to U.S. Open

Westlake’s Todd Hamilton went old-school in his attempt to qualify for the U.S. Open on Monday. The 2004 British Open champion carried his own bag for 36 holes.

In going back to his roots, Hamilton returned to form. He shot 67-68 at Dallas Athletic Club’s Blue Course, earning one of four spots into the June 16-19 U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club.

Michael Smith of Lafayette, La., won medalist honors at 7-under 133, two strokes better than Hamilton. Dallas’ Harrison Frazar and Colleyville’s Greg Chalmers got the final two berths in a playoff with Michael Whitehead of Sugar Land, Texas.

Dallas’ Justin Leonard, playing in Hamilton’s group, made second alternate. He finished 138, one stroke better than Dallas amateur Jordan Spieth, 17.

Hamilton unveiled the no-caddie look by choice, saying it improved his rhythm. Never mind that he did this for more than eight hours in grueling conditions _ 100-degree temperature with virtually no breeze.

``Just one less guy to worry about,’’ Hamilton said, laughing. ``I’ve been close to playing well, so this is a good start. It’s nice to see some good shots.’’

Hamilton, 45, is overdue. The two-time winner has made only five cuts in his last 24 PGA Tour starts. After losing his playing card, he has made only four starts this season, with his best finish a tie for 42nd in Puerto Rico.

But on Monday, Hamilton found an old Titleist ball on the range with the inscription ``Smiles.’’ He made his bag one ball heavier just before teeing off.

``I’m thinking there’s a member here who’s got a very bad temper, and that’s his reminder to not get mad,’’ Hamilton said. ``That was my key swing thought _ `just have fun with it.’’’

Coming off a tie for 32nd at the HP Byron Nelson Championship, Spieth continued to play above his age. The recent Dallas Jesuit graduate thought he was way out of contention after making double-bogey on his ninth hole in the afternoon.

But with rounds of 71-68, he finished only three strokes behind the playoff threesome.

``I made only two birdies in the first round, and you can’t make just two birdies out here,’’ Spieth said. ``I knew I had to keep firing in the afternoon. But my speed was off with my putter. It just wasn’t my day.’’

Many players struggled with heat and fatigue in the afternoon. Frazar, battling back from hip and back injuries, made his move during the toughest stretch, firing a 64 in the afternoon.

``It’s been a long hard year,’’ Frazar said. ``It took about nine months before I could play 18 holes without feeling pain. But physically I’m feeling fine now.’’

Frazar’s strong finish was remarkable considering he put himself in a deep hole with a triple-bogey on the par-3 14th in the early round. He and Chalmers then made par on the first extra hole.

``I figured at that point I had nothing to lose,’’ Frazar said of the triple. ``I
t's a confidence boost for me. Right now I'm looking for confirmation I've got a pretty good golf game. I'm starting to see things click.’’


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