CARNOUSTIE, Scotland (Reuters) - Former champion Todd Hamilton believes the unusual conditions prevalent at this week’s British Open could prompt a “quirky winner”, maybe even the first 50-something to land a major championship victory.
The previously unheralded American took the golfing world by storm when he captured the coveted Claret Jug at Royal Troon in 2004 and it remains the solitary major triumph of his career.
The recent hot weather will provide bone-hard fairways when the tournament starts on Thursday and Hamilton says that makes it difficult to predict who will bag the $1.89 million first prize.
“It could be a week where the ball is running so much you might get a quirky winner,” Hamilton told Reuters as he prepared to play a practice round on Tuesday.
“If you get a guy who is accurate, the extra run that you get from your tee shot favors the guy that doesn’t hit it that far. I think this could be a week when a guy in his 50s or mid-to-late 40s could possibly do something crazy.”
The 52-year-old Texan identified Germany’s Bernhard Langer, and Americans Tom Lehman and Mark Calcavecchia as the most likely senior citizens to perform strongly at Carnoustie.
“Someone like Langer is playing real well,” Hamilton said. “He had a fantastic time on the U.S. Senior Tour last season. This year hasn’t been quite as good only because it was so good last year and it was hard to back that up.
“But he drives it real well, he has experience and you just never know. I played with Tom Lehman last week and he drove the ball real well too and I think you are going to have to do that to have a chance to succeed this week.
“Mark Calcavecchia is another guy who drives it real good and I’m sure he gets excited about coming over here for the Open so I would say those three members of the older crowd could have a shot at it.”
Hamilton, who sports a Claret Jug putter cover to commemorate his 2004 Open victory, said the two-iron might be the most important club in the bag on the Carnoustie links layout.
“I’ve read that a lot of players are carrying driving irons and if you can carry the ball 240, 250 yards and get 30-yard of run, that’s 280 yards right there, and that’s with no wind,” he explained.
“If you get some wind too you might see guys hitting 300 yards-plus with a driving iron so it’s definitely a week to keep it in the fairway.”
Hamilton, who now spends most of his time on the Senior Tour, achieved only one other regular PGA Tour win, at the 2004 Honda Classic in Florida.
But he is hoping to find that elusive extra special something in his game that can inspire him to turn back the clock.
“I haven’t been very consistent lately but then again 14 years ago I wasn’t playing very consistently either and look what happened?,” he laughed.
“You just never know. Golf is kind of like riding a bike. If you are off, all of a sudden you can get that feeling where you feel real good again and can see all the shots and confidence comes back and we feel young again,” Hamilton said.
“Hopefully, I can find that one swing key here that will last the whole week and I make a few putts too.”
Editing by Ed Osmond