After identity crisis, O'Hair gets fresh start

By Doug FergusonOctober 8, 2013, 11:22 pm

SAN MARTIN, Calif. – The greeting from Frys.com Open president Duke Butler is meant as a joke, even though it has some truth to it.

''Happy New Year,'' he tells players when they arrive at CordeValle Golf Club. That's still 85 days away – except on the PGA Tour calendar. For the first time, it goes to a wraparound 2013-14 season that begins Thursday.

Sean O'Hair is most likely to take him at his word. Not only is it a new year, it feels like a new start.

Just over a week ago, O'Hair completed one of the most gratifying months of his career with his best result of the season. It was only a tie for eighth. And it was on the Web.com Tour. But it meant he could keep his job.

''Got it done,'' he said. ''Got my card back.''

The first step forward was to take what felt like 100 steps back. Just four years removed from beating Ernie Els in singles at the Presidents Cup, O'Hair went through such a miserable year that he wasn't sure he wanted to keep playing golf.

He lost confidence in his swing. He suffered what he called an identity crisis on the golf course.

''I forgot myself as a player, how I swung and how I played,'' O'Hair said. ''And then taking that on the golf course, I almost forgot how to act and how to think. I really just got to a point where I just kind of was blank out there and lost my fight. Anything you could possibly do wrong, I did wrong this year. I just had to take a step back and had to first ask myself, 'Do I really want to do this anymore?'''

Burnout at age 32 would be understandable.

O'Hair was a product of an overzealous father who was caught up in the arrival of Tiger Woods a generation ago. He groomed the boy to be a golfer and made him run a mile for every bogey. O'Hair eventually sought his own way.

With a new wife, and his father-in-law as his caddie and calming influence, O'Hair won the John Deere Classic in 2005 and reached the Tour Championship as a rookie. He won three more times, including the Quail Hollow Championship just two months after losing a five-shot lead to Woods.

Woods used to wonder if O'Hair's regimented upbringing made his mind tougher or his heart too tender.

O'Hair was never tested more than he was this year.

''Do I really want to do this anymore?''

''I don't want to be mediocre,'' O'Hair said. ''I still think I've got my best golf ahead of me. That's kind of what answered that question for me. I don't want to just hang around and be one of these struggling journeymen. I did that early in my career, and I don't want to do that again.''

He began working with Washington psychologist Julie Elion this summer. For the Web.com Tour Finals, the four tournaments he played to earn one of 25 cards, he put father-in-law Steve Lucas back on the bag. At home outside Philadelphia, he began working on his putting with the pro at White Manor, John Dunigan, who used to teach O'Hair's wife before she went to Florida Atlantic.

It was humbling to return to the Web.com Tour, but O'Hair saw it as the only way back.

''A gut shot,'' he said. ''It was like, 'Do I really want to do this?' There were a lot of tears this year. It was hard. It was hard on my wife. It was hard on me.''

O'Hair wasn't the only player who had to start over.

Ryo Ishikawa, who played on the previous two Presidents Cup team and began racking up wins on the Japan Golf Tour when he was 15, for years had it easy. He received three special invitations to the Masters. He received rock-star status and could get whatever sponsor exemption he wanted. But he failed to keep his PGA Tour card. So as contemporary Hideki Matsuyama was getting ready for the Presidents Cup, Ishikawa was at Web.com Tour events in Indiana, Ohio and North Carolina.

He has his card again. He earned it.

So did Heath Slocum, who just four years ago made a 20-foot par putt to win The Barclays over Woods, Els, Steve Stricker and Padraig Harrington.

''In a 12-year career, you can take a lot for granted,'' Slocum said.

All of them are at the Frys.com Open, wanting to get a head start on what feels like a second chance. It doesn't figure to be easy. Jack Nicklaus said last week, ''We've got more good young players than we've ever had before.''

O'Hair is 31, the father of four. His world ranking is No. 301. He has a long way to go, and the Frys.com Open is only a start.

But at least it's a start.

''I was in this situation and could either say, 'I should be here' or 'I should be there' and kind of sulk about it,'' O'Hair said. ''But instead I thought, 'You know what? I'm here. It is what it is. And I need to make the best of it and I need to humble myself to where I'm just any Joe Blow. I need to earn my spot again. I was glad I did that.''

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook played a six-hole stretch in 6 under and shot an 8-under 64 in breezy conditions Saturday to take the lead at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook began the run at La Quinta Country Club with birdies on Nos. 4-5, eagled the sixth and added birdies on No. 7 and 9 to make the turn in 6-under 30.

After a bogey on the 10th, he birdied Nos. 11, 12 and 15 and saved par on the 18th with a 20-footer to take a 19-under 197 total into the final round on PGA West's Stadium Course. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player is making his first start in the event. He won at Sea Island in November for his first PGA Tour title.

Fellow former Razorbacks star Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were a stroke back. Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 on the Stadium Course. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. They are both winless on the PGA Tour.


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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Jon Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium Course to reach 17 under. The top-ranked player in the field at No. 3, Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

Scott Piercy also was two strokes back after a 66 at the Stadium.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course, and Harkins shot 68 on the Stadium Course.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium Course to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time.

The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. The Southern California recruit had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over for the week.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine – and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Mickelson misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.

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Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

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LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 8:23 pm

The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.

The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.

The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in the Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at  Club de Golf de Panama.