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GULLANE, Scotland -- Former Open champion Todd Hamilton has enjoyed his perk of returning to the tournament each year, even though there has been hardly a hint of success since he defeated Ernie Els in a playoff at Royal Troon in 2004.
Hamilton, 47, was a surprise winner in an aggregate playoff over Els, and his victory propelled him to rookie of the year honors on the PGA Tour at age 38. He won twice that year after a successful career spent mostly in Asia.
He went out early Thursday at Muirfield and shot 2-under-par 69 -- his first score in the 60s since winning the tournament nine years ago. He has missed six cuts, including four in a row.
And that somewhat mirrors his career, which has not seen him win since, with limited success around the world.
"I definitely thought my golfing career would have been better after that than it was," Hamilton said. "Looking back, though, I had done a lot of good things overseas at places that people probably wouldn't know that golf even exists. I played a lot in Japan; I played a lot in Asia. So when I won the Open, I was kind of at the end. I was 38, so I was kind of at the end or close to the end of a decent career. I thought it was decent. I just didn't do it on the European Tour or PGA Tour."
Hamilton has played just five times this year on the big tours, making three cuts on the European Tour early in the year in Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Dubai, but missing in his two starts on the PGA Tour. He's spent most of his time on the Web.com Tour, where he has missed seven cuts in 10 attempts.
"Confidence," is what Hamilton cited for his woes. "This game is a lot of confidence, any sport, really. I didn't try to do a lot of stuff that I didn't feel comfortable doing."
He played the Asian Tour for 10 years and also on the Japan Tour, where he combined to win 14 tournaments, all the while commuting from his Dallas-area home. But since the Open victory, there have been mostly struggles. He's made only two cuts in the Open, for example.
"Terrible," he said of the past nine years. "I try not to reflect on it. It's been trying, I guess. There's been days where I didn't want to play."
On Thursday, at least, he found something. Hamilton was in the top 10 when he finished.
"I do enjoy this style of golf," he said. "I think it takes a person that is very happy with not only their game but themselves. You've got to be very confident and do stuff you feel you can do, otherwise you chase the game. And on courses like this, it is very difficult."