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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 July, 2004, 20:28 GMT 21:28 UK
A Troon triumph via Tokyo
By Jamie Lillywhite
BBC Sport at Royal Troon

Todd Hamilton

Todd Hamilton took the slow road on his journey to ultimate golfing success at the Open.

The 38-year-old spent 12 seasons plugging away on the Japanese Tour, until finally securing a US card this year after eight attempts.

He was born in Galesburg, Illinois, a small town with a population of 1,500.

He began playing golf at the age of seven on a nine-hole course, before graduating to America's highly-competitive college circuit whilst at the University of Oklahoma.

Turning professional in 1987, his first bid for the big time came on the Canadian Tour from 1988-89.

His adventures in the Far East began in the early nineties and he became the Asian Tour's top money-winner in 1992.

"It's probably a good thing I didn't know my financial backers had only given me one more year," he said.

Before that, there were occasions when he considered quitting the game.

TODD'S TALE
1965: Born Galesburg, Illinois
1987: Turns pro
1988-1989: Plays on Canadian Tour
1992: Wins Asian Order of Merit; joins Japanese Tour and goes on to win 11 times
2002: Wins PGA Tour card for 2003 at eighth attempt
2004: Wins Honda Classic on US Tour; becomes Open champion at Royal Troon
"I knew I was a decent golfer. I knew I tried hard. I knew I worked hard," he said.

"Sometimes I think what kept me back was that I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well.

"And a lot of times in tournaments like this, if I happened to get into them, I didn't really feel that I belonged.

"So maybe all that can change now."

Winning the Asian Tour title secured him a berth on the more lucrative Japanese Tour the following year.

He was to win 11 times in his long spell there, with his most productive campaign coming in 2003 when he won four titles.

But there were occasions when he considered quitting the game.

Ironically, his Japanese Tour play-off record is one win in five attempts.

For me winning my PGA Tour card was like winning the Open Championship
Todd Hamilton

A place on the US Tour remained his dream, but year after year he was denied, until late in 2002 he tied 16th at the US qualifying school and finally gained a card.

"For me winning my PGA Tour card was like winning the Open Championship," he said. "It's something I'd always dreamt about."

After three unsuccessful tournaments in 2003, Hamilton embarked on his first full US Tour campaign this season.

He missed the cut in two of his first three events but then claimed a 40th and a 15th, before he came to the Honda Classic in March.

Rounds of 68, 66 and 68 gave him a four-shot lead going into the final round.

As the pressure mounted, his lead began to dwindle. But a sensational finish yielded birdies at the final two holes as he defied Davis Love by a single shot to capture his first US title.

He made the cut in his Masters debut, but missed three weekends in succession after Augusta.

The US Open at Shinnecock Hills came in the middle of another run of three missed cuts. But then everyone struggled at Shinnecock Hills.

The experience gained from my victories in Japan helped me here
Todd Hamilton

Hamilton's Open debut came way back at Muirfield in 1992, when he finished 12 over and missed the cut.

He qualified for his next appearance at Lytham in 1996, finishing 44th, but failed to make it to Sandwich last year.

Prior to this week, he had no sub-70 Open rounds to his name.

In a true story of persistence, with shades of the film Tin Cup, he now has three, plus a Claret Jug and a lifetime's exemption to the most famous tournament in the world.




WATCH AND LISTEN
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