Prior to the 2004 season, Hamilton had been playing on the Japan Golf Tour for 11 years. In his first season on the PGA Tour, he won a major championship.
How did he do it? With a mix of brilliant golf and a golf club that single-handedly revolutionised the golf equipment industry. That club was a 17-degree Sonartec Md hybrid bent to 14 degrees.
“What’s it called, is it called anything, the club?” asked one reporter after Hamilton had lifted the Claret Jug. “It’s made by a company called Sonartec,” was the champion’s reply.
The week before the 2004 Open Championship, Hamilton was playing in the John Deere Classic. He was continuing to work with the Sonartec Md hybrid, but he wanted it to go further. Williams had found a Fujikura Speeder 3-wood shaft that worked well and cut it to 42.5 inches long. He had also bent the loft even further, changing it from 15 to 14 degrees. It made all the difference. Both Hamilton and his caddy Levin wanted it to put it in the bag in place of the 3-wood for his trip to Royal Troon the following week.
While walking the course ahead of the event, Levin considered the deep pot bunkers the most treacherous hazards on the course. Hamilton couldn’t hit the ball far enough to carry them with a driver, so Levin built their strategy around playing short of them. That’s where he believed the new Sonartec addition would prove key.
The ‘light bulb’ moment for the importance of Hamilton’s new 14-degree Md hybrid came on the 11th hole during his Wednesday practice round.
“The 11th at Royal Troon is not only one of the toughest driving holes on the course, it’s one of the toughest driving holes in golf,” said Levin. “Todd stood up there on the Wednesday and I remember it almost rolling 300 yards straight down the middle.”
The ability to use the hybrid from a number of different situations also proved a key part of that strategy. On the way from the driving range to the first tee every day, Hamilton would drop ten balls beside the practice green and putt them using the hybrid to ‘get a feel for how far the ball was running out’.
All of a sudden, Levin knew they had a club his player was very confident with off the tee – something he couldn’t say for his driver – and one which was also very valuable around the greens.
“Personally, I’m one of the worst chippers in the world and always elect to putt or run a ball whenever I can,” said Levin. “Whenever Todd asked my opinion about whether he should chip it or putt it, I would always say putt it or hybrid it. Todd’s one of the best long putters I’ve ever seen and the hybrid is just an extension of that.”
Originally published on bunkered on July 12, 2016.