OHair-Raising Experience for Rookie


ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- The last 60 hours were still a blur for Sean O'Hair when he trudged off the Old Course at St. Andrews late Wednesday afternoon after his only practice round for the British Open.
It started with his unlikely victory in the John Deere Classic, where he closed with a 65 and earned a trip to St. Andrews. Monday was his 23rd birthday, which he celebrated with a phone stuck in his ear as people in high places tried to arrange for a passport. He got it Tuesday, just in time to board a flight to Scotland.
And even that wasn't a chance to catch his breath. O'Hair can't sleep on planes.
'I was a little low on energy,' O'Hair said. 'But right when I walked down these steps and onto the first tee, I got goose bumps. It was definitely worth coming.'
It was a trip no one saw coming, least of all O'Hair.
Eight months ago, he had never played anywhere but the smallest of minor leagues. Only the hardcore golf fans would remember him from that '60 Minutes' episode in which father boasted about treating him as a commodity, forcing him to turn pro before the kid even got out of high school.
Since earning his tour card last December, O'Hair has gone from nowhere to No. 53 in the world ranking in just 18 starts. He has a victory and a runner-up finish (Byron Nelson Championship), has earned a trip to the PGA Championship, and is likely to at least finish in the top 40 and get to the Masters.
'I thought about all that stuff,' O'Hair said. 'It really cool. I told my wife she would have to pinch me because this feels like a dream.'
First things first.
O'Hair finally left the course about 8 p.m. to grab something to eat and sleep as long as he could. He tees off at 10:15 a.m. with Danny Chia and Patrik Sjoland, and with the handicap of having only seen the Old Course once.
He at least got to play his practice round with Tom Lehman, a former Open champion, along with David Frost and newcomer Tim Petrovic.
'When I got here from the airport and saw the grandstands on 1 and 18, I've never seen anything like this in my entire life,' O'Hair said. 'I don't know how well I'm going to play. I really don't know the course, but I'm going to do my best. It's really a huge honor to be here.'
The only negative part of his trip was that he could only come with Steve Lucas, his father-in-law and caddie. O'Hair's wife and 5-month-old daughter had to stay behind in Philadelphia.
O'Hair might be the only professional golfer who didn't have a passport, although he can be excused for that since he didn't even have a PGA Tour card until last December.
He came to St. Andrews with his family when he was a teenager, but hasn't seen his passport since. O'Hair said tournament officials at the John Deere Classic worked furiously to get him a new one.
But he never thought about not coming.
'It was the right thing to do,' O'Hair said. 'It's a great experience for a player. It's respectful to the John Deere Classic, because they worked hard to get you a spot. And a lot of U.S. players say this is the best major. I don't know, because I haven't
played the others.
'But there is something a little different and special about here.'
He'd like to take back some memories from St. Andrews, and he already has one -- getting here.
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