Saturday, April 28, 2007

O'Hair's 2nd round interview

Here are highlights from Sean O'Hair's second-round interview at the Byron Nelson Championship. He shot 1-under 69 and trails Luke Donald by one shot.

PGA Tour: We welcome Sean O'Hair to the interview room. Sean with a 1-under par 69 today. Just maybe talk a little bit about conditions out at TPC and we'll open it up for some questions.

SEAN O'HAIR: Sure. Well, the wind was a little bit different today, so I just -- obviously I didn't play TPC yesterday so it didn't really have too much effect. I think obviously I knew that Cottonwood was going to play a lot easier so there was going to be some good scores out on Cottonwood. You know, it just was -- for me today was not a very good ball-striking day, and it was a little bit kind of one of those days where you're just trying to get along and trying to get a feel for the greens because obviously I haven't played it -- I guess I played it Monday, so it's been a while since I was on the golf course. So I was just trying to get a good feel for the weekend, and obviously the greens are a lot different than they are over at Cottonwood. You know, just trying to get something going, and I think I did a good job hanging in there, especially on the back nine. I was playing pretty good, made eagle on 8, got things going -- excuse me, eagle on 7, got things going, made a birdie on 9, and just from there I missed a few makeable putts. Then all of a sudden my swing was a little bit off and just was struggling to make pars coming in. But I'm happy with where I am going into the weekend.

Q. On 14 you made a great save there. A, how long was that putt; and then B, what happened on the next hole?

SEAN O'HAIR: That putt, I mean, I couldn't -- I guess it was about 25 feet, and it just -- one of those putts where you've just got to -- I guessed right, and luckily it was just hard enough to go in. I struggled a little bit with the speed of the greens today. Some of them don't have grass on them and they're a little bit faster, and then like on some of the holes coming in, they had a little bit more grass and so they were a little bit slower. You know, 18 is a perfect example. You know, 15 was just -- actually I made a pretty good swing and I just yanked it a hair, and I just went at it so hard that it just kept going left, and I was expecting that wind to kind it take it over to the right a little bit, and it just never did. I really hit that drive hard. So, you know, I guess it started on 13, pulled it left, and that was the first shot I pulled, and I was pulling a few shots on the front and then I started hitting the ball good, then pulled a shot on 13, made bogey, 14, over-corrected, and then pulled it on 18, and then I hit some nice shots coming in. But it's nothing major.

Q. You said you were trying to get a feel for the weekend. Do you feel like you've got a pretty good idea of --

SEAN O'HAIR: Yeah. I'm tuned in. I'm very much looking forward to this weekend.

Q. Sounds like you figured something out coming in or something.

SEAN O'HAIR: You know, you just -- I'm liking how everybody is talking about the greens because they're not talking positive about it. It's just, like -- and for me, I just think that, yeah, you're going to miss putts that you feel like you should make and that's fine, but the more greens you hit, the better. I feel like -- you know, I'm going to get it tuned in on the range this afternoon, and hopefully -- obviously the more greens you hit this weekend, the better off you are. I think my game, the way I feel and everything, I'm liking how I feel going into the weekend and I like my position going into the weekend.

Q. If you work on a change in your swing, something you've decided you want to change, how long will you work on it before you'll actually take that change to the golf course?

SEAN O'HAIR: Well, immediately. You know, I'm kind of the feeling of, you know, if you're good enough to get out here, what you have is good enough. So making an overhaul is pointless. You may as well give up your TOUR card in my opinion. Now, Tiger obviously is different. Tiger can probably hit it left-handed and still play pretty good. You know, for me it's just a tweak here or a tweak there, and so if I go see my instructor and he says, okay, you need to start doing this a little bit and I'm hitting it all over the place, I'm going to tell him, give me something else because that obviously isn't working. But I can kind of get a feel for it in ten swings, and if I can't get a feel for it, it's not the right thing for me. Normally it's improvements, so I'll take them straight from the driving range to the golf course.

Q. So when you practice do you tend to spend more time in short game stuff?

SEAN O'HAIR: No, I work pretty hard on shaping shots. There's a certain ball flight that I want, and I really work hard on trying to start the ball where I want to and do what I want to with the golf ball, and you make sure that your setup is what you want and check your lines and all that stuff. But yeah, you spend a lot of time on short game. That's where the game is won is on the putting green and around the greens. I guess a perfect example is 14. If you don't make that up-and-down, you know -- obviously, to be honest with you, it was a pretty fortunate up-and-down, but that right there saved my round, I think. That was a huge momentum builder.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

O'Hair's post-round interview

With a 5-under par 65, Sean O'Hair, 24, from West Chester, is the first-round leader of the Byron Nelson Championship.

Here are highlights from his post-round press conference:

PGA Tour: We welcome Sean O'Hair to the interview room here at the EDS Byron Nelson Championship after an opening round 65. Sean currently sitting 58th place in the FedExCup points standings through the season. I spoke with you earlier this year at Harbour Town, and obviously after getting off to a slower start this season you've definitely turned it around, Top 15 your last four events, I believe, and under par in 11 of your last 12 rounds. What's kind of been the difference between earlier this year and now?

SEAN O'HAIR: You know, I'm working on some things that I really believe in. I went back to an old instructor of mine, and things are starting to click. For me, and I think for everybody, golf is just about confidence, and it's just going out there with the feeling I'm going to play well, and that just wasn't the case at the beginning of the season.

Q. What are you working on? You said you were working on some things you believe in, and talk about the -- when did you change instructors from and to?

SEAN O'HAIR: You know, actually the guy I'm seeing, Steve Dahlby, we kind of parted ways right before I won, which was the week right before John Deere. And ever since then, I've seen a few guys. I was working with Gary Gilchrist for a while, and I guess it was right after Bay Hill I started seeing Steve again. He came out to Shell Houston and we started working again, and just immediately the chemistry was there and things started clicking. As far as what we're working on, I'm just -- I've been working hard for the past, I guess, year and a half on my backswing and it really hasn't been making too much sense. You know, all of '05 I just was working on my downswing, just working on -- through impact I was trying to get less handsy, just really release the club more with my body, and that's kind of what I've gotten back to. And that's, you know -- I don't know why you change.

Q. I think it was Butch Harmon who said one time that you can go down to the range and look at the pros working on their backswing, you know those are the pros that aren't making any money (laughter).

SEAN O'HAIR: Yeah, the backswing really doesn't matter. To me it's like when I work on my backswing, I just lose my rhythm. I think I've always had some pretty good motion, pretty good rhythm in my swing, and whenever I started working on my backswing, I lose feel where the club is, and I just lose sight of my shot shaping. It's like I'm not even playing golf. But now it just feels -- there's a few key things that I'm working on, and every day I'm hitting the ball great. So it's just trying to improve on that.

Q. Was there one thing in particular that clicked? Because at one point it's just been since then you've just been Top 15.

SEAN O'HAIR: Yeah, I truthfully believe that with golf, we all strive to understand our games. My game is different than say Vijay or top players; I mean, anybody out here, my game is different than theirs. There's a few things that -- you know, a few things, maybe a handful of things, that make me play well. You know, obviously for somebody to come out here and compete with the best, you've got to have confidence. You see the best players in the world, whether they're playing well or not, they have confidence in their ability, and I think that's because they understand their game. And I'm starting to get to that point where I understand what makes me play well, and it's just -- certain things to do, whether it be working out, whether it be things to do after a round or before a round. I'm starting to kind of get into some routines and stuff, just stuff like that that helps you play better. So there's a few things that have clicked, but ever since I switched back to Steve Dahlby, I just -- just the understanding of my game has just kind of hit me.

Q. Two years ago when you were the runner-up and you led a couple rounds, that was kind of what a lot of people saw as a big breakthrough for you. How different are you now as a player and how much have you learned about yourself in these two years?

SEAN O'HAIR: I think I might have gained a pound since then (laughter). As far as a difference, there's not a whole lot of difference. You know, I think I'm more seasoned, I'm more experienced. I mean, this was my 12th event in '05 -- no, it wasn't my 12th event. I can't remember what event it was. But, you know, just as far as my personality, I think everything else is pretty much the same. I still get nervous on the first tee and all that stuff, but I think my game is completely different. I think I understand it more. I kind of know what's going on. I'm a lot more comfortable out here. But it's nice to always come back here because this is kind of where I broke through. This is where I finally realized that, hey, I'm good enough to be out here. You always have that question in the back of your mind, you're making cuts, you're making cuts, but you're like, well, I'm not really sniffing anything. But when you come here and play as well as I did in '05 and kind of hang in there with some great players right behind you, it proved a lot to me that, hey, I'm right there.

Q. Also, back then, it seems like everything was very chaotic, wasn't it, things really spinning in your life at that time?

SEAN O'HAIR: You know, there was a lot -- I think it was more dealing with the media about that stuff than anything. I kind of had my life in order. You know, I really wasn't having any problems, and I think once the media kind of got involved in that situation, it made it a little bit more difficult for me. But, you know, it never really -- that stuff is long gone and it's been long gone for a long time. It's just -- you know, I never really even think about it. It really wasn't that big of a deal for me because I think my play showed it because if it was a big deal I don't think I would have been playing as well as I did in '05. So if that answers your question --

Q. I wasn't really referring to that. As I recall you guys had just had a baby or something.

SEAN O'HAIR: We had my first child, which was nothing but a blessing, and we just -- we had a great time taking her around. Right now it's a little more chaotic having two kids now, having a toddler and a baby. But it was -- ever since I had my daughter I played better, so my wife was like, let's have more.

Q. Would you remind me of your father-in-law's last name?


Q. The little slump you went through, how hard was that? Was there a low point? What was the problem in the game?

SEAN O'HAIR: You know, I don't know if I could call it a slump. I mean, I definitely -- if I look at it on paper, I would call it a slump because obviously five missed cuts, I played like a dog on the West Coast. But '06 I did the same thing. I don't know if it's just a matter of a brain fart on the West Coast or just not being ready because it's the beginning of the year or a slump. I really don't know what it is. But it's definitely something that I'm going to try and get my hands on and turn that around. It stinks starting the way you do because, I mean, people start sitting there saying stuff about you and you actually start second-guessing yourself a little bit, and that's not always healthy. You know, it would be nice to start off the year next year with a better start and just be a little more consistent. I've been working harder than I've ever been, and you've just got to sit there and say, when you're going through a time like that, hey, I'm doing the right things and it's just going to come around. You see a lot of guys out here who have been out here for a long time go through stuff like that, and they always seem to pull through. I think I've learned to fight through those times. I mean, I've played on the mini-Tours, I went through all three stages of Q-school and went to Q-school six times, so I know how to deal with stuff like that.

Q. How satisfying is it to you that the story now is about your play on the course and not so much about family stuff like it was?

SEAN O'HAIR: You know, it's good. You want to be known for obviously who you are as a person and your game, those two things. You don't want to be known for other stuff. You know, I think as far as my life, my life is in a great spot. I mean, I've got two beautiful kids that I love to death and I've got a beautiful wife who does nothing but support me. I've just got a great support system, and I just think that I'm very blessed and I'm very fortunate to be in the situation that I'm in.

Tiger: Never played Merion, Pine Valley

As much as he gets around, Tiger Woods has never played the two greatest courses in the Philadelphia area, Merion or Pine Valley.

I had heard this from the clubs themselves, but I never knew Tiger to talk about it or confirm it -- until now.

During a practice round visit to the site of this year's U.S. Open, Oakmost Country Club outside Pittsburgh, the few gathered media got Tiger to talk about where he has and hasn't played. That led to this exchange, as quoted by Doug Ferguson of the Associated Press:

“Ever been to Merion?” he was asked.

“Never,” Woods replied, and he could see where this conversation was headed. “I’ve never even been to Pine Valley or Seminole.”

Pine Valley is annually ranked the best course in the country by some publication, and it was strange Woods has never been in the southern New Jersey area long enough to play it. Jack Nicklaus went there during his honeymoon.

Seminole should be no problem once Woods builds his palace in south Florida. He played Sunday afternoon with Bob Ford, the longtime head pro at Oakmont who spends his winter as the head pro at Seminole. Ford can probably set something up for him.

“I just don’t ever go anywhere out of the way to play golf,” Woods said. “I’m either at a tournament, or getting ready to play in a tournament and working on my game at home. I love to play, but I’d rather stay home with my buds at Isleworth or Newport Beach.”

Merion will host the U.S. Open in 2013, so as long as Woods can qualify that year, he’ll eventually get to see the plaque on the 18th fairway — as he’s walking past it to his ball — where Ben Hogan struck his mighty 1-iron in the final round of the 1950 U.S. Open.

CBS nixes Daly TV commercial

First, John Daly loses his PGA Tour card. Now he can't get any love from CBS. The network won't run Daly's latest Maxfli commerical because it shows him driving a golf cart while drinking what appears to be a beer.

If you need a refresher on Daly's bouts with booze, you ain't been following golf.

"Any implication that participants are drinking in excess or performing an activity that requires a level of alertness while drinking does not meet network standards," Leslie Anne Wade, CBS spokesman, told the NY Times.

Really, you can't make this stuff up.

For the rest of the story, click here.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Why Phil Switched to Butch

For the past couple of weeks, much of the inside-baseball buzz in golf has been about Phil Mickelson possibly dumping his longtime swing coach (and good friend) Rick Smith in favor of Butch Harmon

Aside from being Tiger Woods' old swing coach, Harmon is arguably the highest-profile of the small world of celebrated swing gurus. He's also no stranger to self-promotion, which never sat well with Tiger.

I first heard of Phil's possible switch the Monday morning after the Masters. One of my playing partners that morning at Augusta National was Jaime Diaz from Golf World and Golf Digest, who is one of the most plugged-in writers on the circuit. Jaime knows everybody and goes everywhere. That morning, he confessed to be tired because he had been up much of the night writing the Phil-to-Butch story for that week's Golf World.

It was a tough story to report and write, said Jaime, because every where he turned, he got mostly denials from all the principals involved. But Jaime's radar was up and functioning, and he knew he was onto something. Still, he had nagging worries: What if his eyes, his ears and his gut were wrong? Writers hate to embarrass themselves and their publications. Truth is, Jaime said that morning, he wouldn't be surprised if his editors held the story until he could get more confirmation.

GolfWorld did run it and, once the cat was out of bag, the denials became less and less strident. Within a week, the Mickelson Camp had issued a statement to the golf press confirming the whole thing.

Somewhere, Jaime breathed a sigh of relief.

This week, Jaime's colleague at Golf World, John Hawkins, another plugged-in scribe, weighs in with a column with more details, headlined "Why Phil Switched to Butch."
And now, suddenly, Butch is talking -- at least to Brian Hewitt at The Golf Channel. Here's a column Brian just posted on The Golf Channel's website discussing his newest client.

Monday, April 23, 2007

O'Hair on a roll

After a balky start to the season, Sean O'Hair on a roll.

The 24-year-old from West Chester finished T-15 at last week's Zurich Classic of New Orleans, giving him his fourth Top 15 finish in as many weeks. The previous week, O'Hair got his first Top 10 finish of the year, 7th at the Verizon Heritage.

Before that, O'Hair had back-to-back T-14 showings at the Shell Houston Open and the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Contrast that to five missed cuts out of his first six starts.

O'Hair, PGA Tour rookie of the year in 2005, has now made $485,946 through 10 tournaments, ranking him 58th on the money list.

He's also playing this week at the Byron Nelson Championship.