Sean O’Hair: A Fresh Start…Again

The headline out of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas is that Webb Simpson seems to be in control of the tournament at the 54-hole point. He has a 4-stroke lead over a childhood friend, Chesson Hadley. They grew up together in Raleigh, North Carolina. But while Simpson has already won a U.S. Open in his career, Hadley, younger, just won his PGA Tour card this year.

Hadley has a 1-stroke lead over Jeff Overton, who has a 1-stroke lead over Jason Bohn, who has a 1-stroke lead over Sean O’Hair and five other guys who are all T5. 

O’Hair is of interest because he had the low round of the day, shooting an 8-under, 63:

You know, I played okay yesterday.  I just couldn’t quite see it on the greens.  And all of a sudden I was three or four over par at one time.  I just kept telling myself to be patient [and got it back to just 1-over].

I’ve been playing some nice golf, and it was nice to come out today and get started off quick.  I was 3‑under pretty quickly and turned at 4, and kind of started off slow on the back nine but that eagle helped on 15.  So it was just all in all a great day.

After a famously tumultuous relationship with his estranged, tough-love father (that may be too kind), O’Hair went on to become a genuine star on the PGA Tour. From 2005 to 2011, he won four PGA Tour events and played on the winning 2009 Presidents Cup.

But things had began to head south in 2011, his last win masking 11 missed cuts and just $548,000 in winnings.  Not bad, but not enough to have kept his card absent his win; the 125th spot earned $668,000. He fired two caddies and his swing coach through the good years, Sean Foley. The win bought him 2012 and 2013 and the freedom to make changes.

He seemed to get religion in 2012, getting back up over $1.1 million, but 2013 was not kind. In 22 events, he missed half the cuts and made a paltry $269,000. It was not a good time in his life; he realized that he was going to have to play in the four Finals tournaments on the Tour in order to keep his card:

I think it was a tough time this year for me, especially late because I was realizing I was going to lose my card.  I just had to get my mind right going into those events.  I knew I had an opportunity to get my card back, but I had to be in a right spot mentality.  It was a disappointing time for me.

I was able to get my mind right, and I played fairly well [finishing T8 in the Tour Championship and earning his card back].  I just feel like the last month and a half or so I’ve been getting some momentum.  I really feel good about my game right now, everything about it, from putting, ball striking.  I really feel like I can play some great golf right now.  I think it helped me to kind of go back to basics and simplify my game.

One of the people who has made this resurrection possible is his father-in-law, Steve Lucas. He was on the bag as a stabilizing influence when O’Hair was trying to climb up out of the relationship with his father, bolstering him rather than castigating him. And now he’s back on the bag:

Yeah, he just makes me real comfortable out there.  Every round of golf I play away from the PGA Tour, I play with him.  He knows my game better than anybody out there.  It’s just comfortable.  He talks to me when I’m playing bad, and he kind of gets me pumped up and ready to go.  When I’m playing really well, he keeps me calm.  That is what you need out here.  I think a good caddie is more of a psychologist than anything.

He has been a great help for me and I wouldn’t — I definitely wouldn’t be here, I wouldn’t be back on Tour, without him.

It is one thing to go from nothing to something; a life’s-dream achievement. But it is quite another to go from something to nothing and back to something again. Hooray for the indomitable human spirit!

For more details on O’Hair’s comeback, see AP Writer, Doug Ferguson’s, “Sean O’Hair Takes Hard Step Toward Getting Back.”

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