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May 15, 2006

Sean O'Hair


CLAIR PETERSON: Thanks very much for coming out on a typical Midwestern May day. It's really an exciting time for the John Deere Classic right now. We kind of view this as the official start of the countdown, although many of the media count down much longer than that, and we appreciate that, too.
But we have the excitement building. The golf course came out of winter in great shape. There is a gentleman that we'd like to introduce, and as you know, the format and formula for this is that we'll say a few opening remarks and then all of you will have a chance one-on-one to talk to individual people. But we have a new golf course superintendent here at Deere Run, a gentleman by the name of Paul Grogan, who's been in the business for 20-some years, most recently from the TPC at Twin Cities. Paul, if you would just want to raise your hand so they know who you are.
If you want to talk to Paul afterwards, he'll be sticking around.
Our volunteer chairman this year is someone who's been involved with the tournament for a long time, been on the board for this is his ninth year, Tom Bracke. Tom, I'll let you say a few things.
TOM BRACKE: Thanks, Clair, appreciate it. Hopefully we'll stay dry today. This is about as balmy as we've had in the last couple days. Sean was saying it was about 101 heat index in Dallas, so you're fortunate that you have to play today. It's very lucky that we have Sean to come to this event. It is a time commitment obviously in travel, and we appreciate that very much, Sean.
Like Clair said, my job this year, I work with the board of directors. We have an outstanding board of directors, a new board this year. I'm wearing pink to commemorate last year because our success was over $3 million. For a town and a community of our size, that puts us probably per capita the biggest on the Tour as far as charity. Pam Anderson came up with the "Think Pink," very successful. I see a lot of pink shirts out there today, and we're going to do a similar theme again this year with the American Red Cross.
Again, we have a lot of charities that we want to get the money out to. Many of the people in this room work with different charities, so we're excited, again, to offer the Birdies for Charity program and the partner program, things of that nature.
Obviously we have a great tournament coming up in July with the title sponsor John Deere. Our tremendous defending champion, Sean O'Hair, shot 66 yesterday, in top condition, so we're excited to have that. We just want top thank all of you for coming today.
CLAIR PETERSON: Sean, every year we kind of welcome a new member in the family, and Sean last year was such a great story, such a great young man. You have to understand that he, on Mother's Day, yesterday, agreed to get on a plane from Dallas and come here just to be with us. This is something that quite honestly happens less and less on Tour. Many of these press conferences and media days are teleconferences. I want to make sure we thank Sean effusively for that.
As you look in the media at some of the things that define Sean's golf career -- you have to remember, he turned 23 the days after he won the John Deere Classic, which we all think what we were doing on our 23rd birthday, and it's probably something much different than what Sean was doing. He accomplished a lot at a very young age.
He was last year the second youngest player on the PGA TOUR. He was also, from a money standpoint -- only one other player in the history of his rookie season earned more money on Tour last year, and that's another one of our favorites, Todd Hamilton. Sean eclipsed $2 million last year, had a 2nd place at the Byron Nelson, obviously won here. Through some work of our board members and the PGA TOUR and John Deere, we got his passport for him, and he jumped on a plane and went over with maybe nine holes of practice, finished tied for 15th at the British Open with another one of our favorite players, Mark Hensby.
So he's had a tremendous start already. He qualified by getting through all three stages of Q-school in 2004, and as all of you know, that's the most pressure-packed and some say the toughest tournament in the world. To get through all three stages and get through the final stage in his first attempt is something really, really special.
He's a really special guy, Sean O'Hair.
SEAN O'HAIR: Thanks a lot. It's really neat to be back in the Quad Cities. I'm kind of right now experiencing -- I'm not taking as much time as I'd like being here, but it's nice to be back here at this awesome venue. It brings back a lot of great memories. Coming down the road coming in here brings back a lot of -- I'm not used to it without the tents and everything. Whenever I was here it's set up for the golf tournament. But it's awesome to be here, and I appreciate Clair's fine words. He's being a little too nice, to be honest.
Anyway, with the little time that I've been on Tour, I've been very lucky because I've been able to play some pretty cool tournaments, The Masters, the British Open, PGA, some of the World Golf Championships. Whenever I think of the John Deere, I think of first class. The John Deere Classic is probably one of my favorite events of the year, not just because I won it; it's because of the sponsor, John Deere. I mean, it doesn't get any better than that. They do a great job of putting a ton of effort and a ton of money and a ton of time into the event, and I know that the PGA TOUR and the players are very fortunate to have a great sponsor like John Deere to be sponsoring an event like this.
To put on a tournament as good as this, you've got to have a pretty good tournament staff. That's, once again, first class. When it comes to Clair, I think it's coach class (laughter), but Clair does a great job. He gets a lot of people fired up out there. He's out there quite a bit at these different events each week, and he does a lot of traveling for recruitment of this event. He does a great job.
There's so much involved in putting on a great event. You've got to have the volunteers. I mean, if it wasn't for the volunteers, this tournament wouldn't be a tournament. It's really cool to see the community get involved, and for me coming off the 18th hole kind of in the hunt -- I kind of came out of nowhere. I guess I really wasn't expected to play well. But I kind of came out of nowhere, I was playing well, and just the -- I don't know, the feel from the crowd was great. When I made that last putt, I could feel the energy from the crowd. They kind of took me in a little bit, and it's awesome.
As far as this course is concerned, I can't say enough about it. It's one of my favorite TPCs. I'm a huge TPC fan. The grounds crew did a wonderful job last year getting it ready for us. It's one of the best conditioned golf courses, it's probably one of the best layouts, and as far as just the whole tournament, it's awesome. I'm very much looking forward to coming back and kicking some serious butt (laughter).
But anyway, it was an honor and still is an honor to be known as the defending champion of John Deere Classic, and John Deere Classic will always be close to my heart, and this is kind of where things have started for me. This tournament is very important to me and my family. That was one of the great memories that I have of it is my daughter and my wife being there on the green with me and accepting the trophy is pretty special.
Clair wanted me to talk and give you a little story about what happened from this event on. I think the Western was the week prior, correct? I think at the Western it was probably one of the worst ball-striking weeks I ever had. I had no clue where the ball was going. I actually was fortunate enough to make the cut but finished probably dead last, I can't remember.
But I got on the bus, which was actually a pretty cool thing. I don't know if we're going to be doing it this year. It's a pretty cool thing; they've got lunches and beverages and all the players and their families get on these buses and they shuttle us here. They've got the cars waiting for us. It's kind of like first-class treatment.
I played some practice rounds, and I had no clue where the ball was going. I'd probably lose 10, 15 balls each practice round. I think I had to go back to Titleist and say, hey, I need some more balls.
But actually Wednesday, I went over to Borders, either Borders or Barnes & Noble, and I got some Jack Nicklaus books and actually was looking at some photos of My Golden Lessons and Golf My Way and got some ideas and kind of was working on it, I guess, Thursday morning in my hotel room, and I was trying it on the range and I actually was hitting the ball pretty good. I got fortunate and just had a great ball-striking week, the putts were falling, and it was strange because Sunday I woke up and I had the feeling. It was just like this inner calm, this peace of mind that I was going to play well.
I was five shots behind, and I wasn't thinking of winning or any of that. It was just this weird feeling that I never felt before. I haven't felt that way since then, either.
I played a phenomenal round of golf and just was fortunate to pull out with the win, and obviously sharing that with my family and then having the choice of going to the British Open and having to go through that mess.
John Deere was awesome. They worked very hard to get me, I guess, a passport in, what, 24 hours. They flew me on their corporate jet back home. What they did for me is phenomenal, and I can't say that many people would have done that. You know, I feel blessed that they were able to do that. That's one of the reasons why this tournament will always be close to my heart.
The British Open, I got there -- it's all a blur, but I got there Wednesday, and I was exhausted. I hadn't slept, I guess, in two days. So I got there, took about an hour and a half nap. My father-in-law woke me up and said, "Hey, we are playing the British Open tomorrow; you might want to go play a practice round."
I said, all right, so I go and warm up on the range, and someone said, "Hey kid," and I look behind me, and there's Tom Lehman. He's like, "Do you want to go play a practice round"? I'm like, what are you doing? So we go play a practice round. It's me, him, David Frost and Tim Petrovic. Tim is a good friend of mine and we had a good time.
I don't know if you've been to St. Andrews, but there's no idea where to hit it. It's just a bunch of bushes and shrubs. There's no trees and nothing to look at. You've got some grandstands and stuff to aim at, but they were showing me these lines that I would have never guessed to pick. If it wasn't for those guys, I probably would have shot 95-95.
I was fortunate enough to have a good tournament. I think I tied for 15th or something. It was something I'll never forget, just because St. Andrews, Jack Nicklaus's last British Open, Tiger Woods winning. I mean, it gives you goosebumps thinking about it.
From then on, it just kind of was a snowball effect, and here we are now. I'm not obviously playing as well as I would like to this year, but actually I got to see some light at the end of the tunnel last week, and I think last year was kind of the same thing, just kind of playing the same as I was this year and then played well at the Byron Nelson. Hopefully we'll have a repeat this year.
I'm playing actually some pretty good golf, I'm just not scoring yet. I'm very excited about being here, and I know a lot of my friends out on Tour are looking forward to coming here, especially for that "Think Pink." We're looking forward to that. I appreciate all you guys coming, and I'm very honored to be here and very honored to be your champion. Thanks again.
Q. Did you talk to Jack at the British Open?
SEAN O'HAIR: You know, I talked to Mr. Nicklaus during The International actually. He had a press conference, and I introduced myself, and I didn't really get to talk to him much because he was pretty busy, but he mentioned a little bit about it, and he asked me what I found, and I told him, and I talked to him about it briefly, but that was about it.
Q. (Inaudible).
SEAN O'HAIR: You know, I'm not really struggling. Believe it or not, I'm probably ten times a better player than I was last year. I'm hitting the ball better. Actually my stroke is better on the putting greens. Everything is better, it's just I haven't been able to, I guess, put the score together. I've actually been seeing Dr. Rotella, and I was talking to him about it. A lot of the great players, they go through times where they're playing great golf and they're just not scoring, and that's when he says, you know, you've got to be a little more patient.
That's when you go from not scoring to playing really on the verge of playing some great golf.
You know, I think last week was kind of the start because I had two really good rounds. I shot 72, 66, 71, 66. It's starting to come around a little bit.
I think what it is is kind of a combination of having such a good year last year and having those expectations of coming out and trying to do better and putting that pressure on yourself. You know, the thing I've got to remember is I'm still young. I've got a long career ahead of me, and I've still got a lot to learn. I think this year is going to be a good year. I'm actually very excited about it to be honest with you.
Q. (Inaudible).
SEAN O'HAIR: I don't feel like a different golfer. Like I said, I feel like a more complete player. Obviously I'm more experienced.
I think it's definitely different; I'm expected to play well. Last year was just kind of like, well, there's no pressure to play well. I think it's a learning experience for me to learn how to deal with that and learn how to cope with that because hopefully if I do what I want to do in this game, I'm going to have people expecting me to play well in major championships, I'm going to have people expecting me to win major championships.
It's just learning how to cope with it. It's not going to happen overnight. For me right now it's more mental than anything. The game is there; I've just got to get out of my way. Right now it's just learning how to do that. Last year it really wasn't an issue, it was just go out there and play, and away you go.
I'm trying to get back to that frame of mind. I think that's what you see with some of the better players out there. If they have a bad week, it's no big deal, and then if they're expected to win, they just go out there and play. I'm trying to learn from the best. I've been playing a lot of practice rounds with Tiger, trying to surround myself with the better players and learn from them.
It's a learning experience, all of this, and I'm not going to get it for a while, but when I do get it, hopefully I'll be one of the best. I think I have the capability of just being one of the best. It's just going to be a work in progress for a while. I'm only 23. I have some time.
Q. (Inaudible).
SEAN O'HAIR: Are you talking about the chip or the iron shot behind the tree? Well, was I was thinking is R-rated. I really can't say (laughter). When I hit that drive, I actually hit a pretty good drive, and I was unfortunate to get the bounce that I did, but it happens. I actually was fortunate, though, with the lie, that I had a pretty good lie because it was on trampled grass and everything, I just had some tree trouble.
It's a pretty scary shot because you've got the water on the left and the fairway slopes toward the water and I had to hit a low shot and I knew the shot was going to feed toward the water, so I had to hit it pretty much perfect. I hit it a little too high, and I'm like, "here we go." It wasn't just like that, it was a little bit different (laughter).
I just got a lucky break. It somehow didn't go in the water and went up there. I wasn't too comfortable with that chip shot to be honest with you. I had a lot of green to work with and I wasn't going to go high with it, so I went low, and it's hard to judge the speed. I don't know, it just was one of those things where you're just nervous and somehow you pull it out. That putt, you know, you're feeling the jitters. I knew I would make the putt. I thought I was going to get in a playoff.
It's one of those things, though, I think -- I watched the footage because actually some friends threw a party for me when I went back, which was pretty cool. We watched some of the footage, and Paul Azinger said, "He'll never forget that putt," and he's right, I'll never forget that putt. Hopefully I'm going to have one of those putts to win the U.S. Open or the British Open or something like that. I'm always going to refer back to the John Deere, and I'll never forget that. It's pretty cool thinking about it.
Q. (Inaudible).
SEAN O'HAIR: No, I'm pretty calm out there, but what it is is learning how to deal with not my temper but learning how to deal with the expectations, and there's a lot involved with the mental side. It's not just, well, have a good attitude and you're going to play good. It's a matter of managing your concentration out there. There's a lot of distractions out there. It's when you hit a shot, moving on and going to the next shot, that whole one shot at a time phrase; that's a big deal.
But for me right now it's learning how to deal with the expectations, not so much of everybody else but of myself. I had a good year, and I've got a certain, I guess, image or a certain thing that I see for myself for the future, and I'm trying to achieve that. I don't want to be just a good player on the PGA TOUR; I want to be one of the best players of all time. That's pretty high obviously because you've got some pretty phenomenal players.
It's just learning how to deal with the goals. You want to set goals for yourself because that's what gets you out there every day and working two hours on the putting green every day. But you've got to learn how to manage your goals because for me, I want to be No. 1 in the world tomorrow, and that's not going to happen; that's going to take a lot of time and it's going to take a lot of hard work.
I guess learning how to just take it, I guess, one goal at a time or one day at a time, however you want to put it, that's what I'm working on more right now.
Q. (Inaudible).
SEAN O'HAIR: No. You know, with Steve -- Steve is my best friend, always will be. Him and I have got a very special relationship. He's kind of like my dad and my mentor and my best friend all wrapped up in that big body of his.
You know, with Steve, last year was supposed to be a temporary deal. He just wanted to help me get comfortable out here until I found somebody, a proper guy to carry my bag. Last year we just had a breakout year, and it was one of those things that you just didn't want to mess with.
We just decided to ride it out, and then we kind of had the same mentality going into this year, just kind of like let's do whatever until we find somebody. To be honest with you, I never really found anybody.
And then Steve came up to me the other day and said, you know, we kind of need to think this thing out because I think it's time for you to move on, and we've delayed this long enough. It never really was a long-term thing.
I actually was fortunate enough to run into a guy who carries for Gary Player on the Champions Tour, and we've kind of hit it off the last couple weeks, and hopefully we continue improving. I think it's going to be a good team.
Steve's and my separation business-wise on the golf course was a mutual thing. He's got his own business that he kind of put on hold for me, and I think it was time for him to kind of go back and do what he does. I mean, he left the bag saying, "Any time you need me to caddie, I will be there."
I talk to him every day; I live five minutes from him; I have dinner with him every day I'm home. We're as close as it gets. There was nothing there, it just was time to move on.
Q. (Inaudible).
SEAN O'HAIR: Bobby Verwey. He's South African, so it's like a French-Dutch thing.
Q. How long did he work for Player?
SEAN O'HAIR: I think eight and a half years. It's actually Player's nephew, believe it or not.
Q. (Inaudible).
SEAN O'HAIR: Not yet. Hopefully he will as time goes on. Hopefully he'll learn about me. Steve was a very good motivator, still is a very good motivator. I talk to him every night, and he still motivates me. Just sometimes he can say something that can kind of clarify things for you or he can say something that kind of just pumps you up a little bit.
No, that's what Steve was good with. He was good with kind of making it light out there, he was good with if I needed a kick in the pants, he was there. If I was getting down on myself, he was there. You know, he was more of an inspirational type of figure out there for me.
You know, Bobby kind of brings that professionalism, I guess, to the bag, the fact that with his experience, being a caddie for I don't know how many years, he's played professional golf and things like that.
Steve did an awesome job, and he could have been my caddie for my career, but I don't think him or I wanted that. I think it was a good move for us to do it when we did it, and I think we made the right move as far as Bobby is concerned. I think things will start coming around.
Q. (Inaudible).
SEAN O'HAIR: Actually through my golf instructor. He's South African, as well. I kind of feel South African myself right now, around all these South Africans. Yeah, it was just through my coach.
Q. Who's your coach?
SEAN O'HAIR: Gary Gilchrist.

End of FastScripts...

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