Saturday 21 April 2018

Ice-cool 15-year-old star Cole delivers yet another Hammer blow for Tiger

Cole Hammer spoke in a press conference during practice rounds on Tuesday at Chambers Bay
Cole Hammer spoke in a press conference during practice rounds on Tuesday at Chambers Bay
Tiger Woods addresses the media at Chambers Bay yesterday

James Corrigan

As if Tiger Woods does not feel old enough at the moment, then a remarkable young amateur called Cole Hammer delivered another blow to his sensitivities yesterday. "My first memory of the US Open was Tiger winning in 2008," he said.

Of course, that success happened to be Woods's last Major victory and, in truth, does not really seem that long ago. But then Hammer is only 15 which makes him the third youngest ever to play in the US Open. And he also may just be the laidback.

"Do I just sit here and talk?" Hammer asked the press officer when setting down in the interview room.

Over the next 15 minutes the young man from Texas, who actually looks younger than his years, amazed all in attendance with his cool demeanour. Indeed, the 'cool' word featured rather heavily. "It's been really cool to play with some of the guys you look up to, like Webb Simpson, Brent Snedeker and Jordan Spieth," Hammer said.

"And today I was on the range next to Rory McIlroy - it was really cool being able to hit balls next to the No 1 player in the world. He hits it so far, it's crazy."

For his part, McIlroy believes it "crazy" for a 15-year-old to be playing in Major; and that comes from someone who shot 61 at Royal Portrush as a 16-year-old. The same applies to Spieth, the 21-year-old who became the second youngest to win the Masters two months ago. "It's amazing that he's here," Spieth said.

"He's getting better experience than I had at his age." Hammer only entered qualifying for "a bit of fun".

"I just thought it would be cool to play with some and pros and see how my game matched up," Hammer said.

Despite being only nine stone, it matched up incredibly. Hammer shot a 64 and 68 and had to withdraw from a junior event he planned on playing this week.

With his father, Grant, on the bag, Hammer's aim is to make the cut. "I'm just glad to be here," he said. "But I definitely want to try my best to make the cut, see what happens. I feel like my game is in a good place right now. So hopefully I'll be able to play pretty well, I guess."

Longer term, his dream is to play on the PGA Tour and emulate Spieth, who he calls "my role model". The 2012 US Kids World Championship winner has already committed to attend the same Texas college as Spieth in 2018 and by then his "Hammertime" nickname will surely have stuck.

"Everybody calls me that, but I have no idea who MC Hammer was," he said. "I wasn't born when that song was popular."

Irish Independent

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