A Strong Effort that Leaves OHair All Wet

By Associated PressMay 13, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 THE PLAYERSPONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Sean O'Hair didn't look at the water surrounding the 17th green, only the yellow flag that was waving gently 132 yards away.
 
In any other situation, the safe play is to the middle of the notorious island green on the TPC Sawgrass. But this was late Sunday afternoon at THE PLAYERS Championship, and O'Hair was two shots behind Phil Mickelson, who already had found land.
 
O'Hair told his caddie and father-in-law, 'I'm not playing for second.'
 
Two holes later, he wound up in 11th place.
 
O'Hair's hopes ended when his 9-iron flew a yard over the back of the green, making a splash he never saw, leading to a collective groan that he won't soon forget. His face was awash in utter shock, and he bowed his head as he walked to the drop area.
 
Then he put another ball in the water, this one skipping toward the back of the green and taking one place hop over the boards. When the hole was over, O'Hair had a quadruple-bogey 7, allowing Mickelson a carefree walk up the 18th hole to victory.
 
O'Hair also took bogey on the 18th, as he simply tried to get out of Mickelson's way. The outcome had already been decided. But that extra shot gave him a 76 in the final round, and the difference between runner-up and 11th place was $747,000, which is more than O'Hair earned from his only PGA TOUR victory two years ago at the John Deere Classic.
 
'I'll make plenty of money in my career,' O'Hair said. 'I want the crystal.'
 
O'Hair, 24, had a one-shot lead over Mickelson going into the final round, and that was erased on the first hole. Mickelson took his first lead with a 15-foot birdie on the seventh, and O'Hair came right back at him, holing an 8-foot par putt on that hole to keep in range, tying Mickelson with an 8-foot birdie of his own on the ninth.
 
It was only the second time O'Hair had played in the final group, the first time on such a stage, and he handled it well. And even after his forgettable finish, and the terse words out of his mouth about not winning, there were lessons.
 
'I think I'm going to win here,' O'Hair said. 'I don't think it's an 'if.' I think I will win here. I'm not going to let this bother me.'
 
It was a wild swing in emotions and expectations from a day earlier.
 
Late in the third round, he figured his tee shot on the 17th was well over the green, and O'Hair bowed his head and stood there with hand on hip, waiting for the inevitable. Instead, it stopped 5 feet away for the centerpiece of a birdie-birdie-birdie finish to take the lead.
 
On Sunday, he was posing.
 
'I thought it was good,' he said. 'I hit a perfect shot. When the crowd screamed, I thought it was going to be a cheer. And it was a groan. That's when I knew. I was little bit shocked.'
 
No one was more impressed than Mickelson, known for attacking flags when he has to. Mickelson said the wind was toward the island green when they walked to the tee, then felt the wind switch as they got ready to play.
 
If the wind hadn't shifted, Mickelson said O'Hair's tee shot would have been just right.
 
'I have a lot of respect for him the way he attacked 17,' Mickelson said. 'Unfortunately, the wind changed a little bit and went from hurting him to helping him, and the ball went long.'
 
O'Hair can look back on other mistakes, but not many.
 
He failed to make birdie from the bunker in front of the 11th green, and he missed birdie putts inside 10 feet on the 15th and 16th holes, as did Mickelson said.
 
But he doesn't regret going after the flag on the shortest, and most dangerous, host at Sawgrass.
 
'I' m not going to play for the middle of the green, take my two-putt and take second place,' O'Hair said. 'I was in a good spot to win, and I definitely tried to win. And unfortunately, I got kicked in the teeth.'
 
Related Links:
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  • Thompson wins Race, loses tournament after short miss

    By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 8:52 pm

    The drama went down to the very last hole in the LPGA's final event of 2017. Here's how things ended up at the CME Group Tour Championship, where a surprising miss from Lexi Thompson opened the door for Ariya Jutanugarn to win in dramatic fashion:

    Leaderboard: Ariya Jutanugarn (-15), Lexi Thompson (-14), Jessica Korda (-14), Pernilla Lindberg (-13), Eun-Hee Ji (-13)

    What it means: There were scenarios aplenty entering the final round, with nearly every season-long accolade still hanging in the balance. Thompson appeared set to take them all as she sized up a 2-foot par putt on the final hole - a stroke that looked like it would take her to world No. 1 for the first time. Instead, the putt barely touched the hole and allowed Jutanugarn to rally to victory with birdies on the closing two holes. Thompson still took home $1 million for winning the season-long Race to the CME Globe, as it was a reverse scenario from last year when Jutanugarn won the $1 million but not the final tournament.

    Round of the day: Sei Young Kim made the day's biggest charge, turning in a 6-under 66 to close the week in a share of 11th at 10 under. Kim made eight birdies during the final round, including five over her first eight holes en route to her lowest round of the week while erasing a third-round 75.

    Best of the rest: Jutanugarn seemed like an afterthought as the tournament was winding down, but she kept her hopes alive with an 18-foot birdie on No. 17 and then capitalized on Thompson's mistake with a clutch birdie on the difficult final hole. It capped off a final-round 67 for the Thai who now ends what has been a tumultuous season with a smile on her face.

    Biggest disappointment: Thompson faced heartbreak after the penalty-shrouded ANA Inspiration, and she again must handle a setback after essentially missing a tap-in with everything on the line. Thompson can enjoy a $1 million consolation prize along with the Vare Trophy, but a tournament win would have clinched Player of the Year honors as well as her first-ever trip to world No. 1. Instead, she now has the entire off-season to think about how things went awry from close range.

    Shot of the day: There were only three birdies on No. 18 during the final round before Jutanugarn laced one down the fairway and hit a deft approach to 15 feet. The subsequent putt found the target and gave her win No. 7 on her young LPGA career.

    Watch: Fleetwood gets emotional with family after Race to Dubai win

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 19, 2017, 5:30 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood took home the season-long Race to Dubai title on Sunday after a T-21 finish at the DP World Tour Championship.

    He was, understandably, emotional after learning his fate while sitting with his wife and baby following a career year in which he won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship and the French Open and finished fourth at the U.S. Open.

    Luckily for us, cameras were rolling:

    Matsuyama after Koepka rout: 'Huge gap between us'

    By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Hideki Matsuyama offered a blunt assessment after finishing 10 shots behind Brooks Koepka at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix event.

    Koepka waxed the field en route to successfully defending his title in Japan, shooting a 20-under par total that left him nine shots clear of a runner-up group that included PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele. Koepka's score was one shot off the tournament record, and his margin for victory eclipsed Tiger Woods' eight-shot romp in 2004.

    Matsuyama appeared set to make a final-round charge after a birdie on No. 2 was followed by an ace on the par-3 third hole. But he played the next eight holes in 3 over and eventually finished alone in fifth place following a 2-under 69. Afterwards, he stacked his game up against that of Koepka in a telling comment to the Japan Times.

    "I feel there's a huge gap between us," Matsuyama said.

    The Japanese phenom entered the week ranked No. 4 in the world, though he will be passed in the next rankings by Jon Rahm following the Spaniard's win in Dubai. Matsuyama won twice this year on the PGA Tour, including the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but he has largely struggled since missing out on a maiden major title at the PGA Championship, where he tied for fifth.

    Matsuyama was a runner-up to Koepka at the U.S. Open earlier this summer, and the 25-year-old seems headed back to the drawing board before defending his title at the Hero World Challenge in two weeks.

    "I don't know whether it's a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well," Matsuyama said. "It seems there are many issues to address."

    McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

    By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

    When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

    Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

    Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.

    While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

    Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.