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March 17, 2015

Sean O'Hair


MICHAEL BALIKER:  We welcome Sean O'Hair to the interview room here at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard.
This is Sean's 10th appearance at Bay Hill, tied for 3rd in 2008, runner-up in 2009 and tied for 10th here last year; on a sponsor invite the this week and as we all know part of that thrilling 3-man playoff at the Valspar down in Tampa last week.
Before we open it up to questions, Sean, if you want to comment on last week and that entire experience being part of that playoff and what you're feeling about coming into Bay Hill this week.
SEAN O'HAIR:  Last week was a lot of fun.  Got an exemption into last week kind of last minute, kind of like this place and, you know, I've been feeling pretty good about my game, to be quite honest with you.
The only cut I've missed this season was at Sony but that was after a two month layoff.  I didn't touch a club for two months and so it was kind of to be expected, but just been simplifying my game and I feel like, you know, it's just kind of been gradually getting better and better and better.
So, you know, I'm not surprised that I'm starting to play well and, you know, the thing I think I have the most fun with though was just put myself in contention and playing the way that I did.  I was very pleased.
I was actually going over the round when I woke up Monday morning, I had to play in the Pro-Am here which I was a little half asleep during the Pro-Am the whole entire time, I was going over the round when I was getting ready.
I think it was probably the best round of golf I ever played.  I got to be honest with you.  With the situation on that golf course and kind of the last two years kind of on my shoulders a little bit, with how I played on that front-9, I shot even par but I just played fantastic, had a lot of putts that were burning edges and hit a fantastic shot on 11, almost made eagle there, I don't know how that putt missed, and then finally started dropping later on in the round and then all of a sudden I'm in a playoff and the playoff was probably the most energy I've ever felt on a golf course, and that includes '08 and '09 with Tiger here.

Q.  In the last group.
SEAN O'HAIR:  Yeah.  It was exciting.  I don't know if that was because I was soaking it up a little bit better or what, but it was awesome and then to be here, this has always been a special place to me.
It would be my 11th year if I got in in my rookie season but this has always been a special place for me.  I played a lot of junior golf here.  Ty Tryon used to live here.  We were buddies and played money games when we were kids here.
This is always something I'm looking forward to every year and I'm very humbled to have gotten an exemption to play this week.
MICHAEL BALIKER:  Some questions here.

Q.  So, what did you say to your caddy and what did you say to Patrick when that guy said on 16, "Come on Sean, you can beat these young kids"?
SEAN O'HAIR:  I looked over at Shea, my caddy, and that really just made me feel old (laughter).  And Patrick -- I think Patrick said, "You are old" (laughter), something like that.  I can't really remember.
But, yeah, you are old.  I kind of looked back and just said, "You young whippersnappers don't respect your elders anymore."
It was good.  I don't know Patrick very well.  I haven't really talked that much with Jordan.  But I had a quick chat with Patrick walking down 16 and just, you know, he was asking where I'm from and stuff like that.
But yeah, you know, it's really kind of amazing how quick it happened, you know.  I think it's safe to say I'm a veteran now, I guess, and to be able to say -- that is very strange because I used to be the youngest guy out here, my rookie year I was and now playing against guys that -- it's -- that are over ten years younger than I am is just ridiculous, and then to be playing as well as they are is amazing.
My rookie season I was scared to death being out here and those guys are just fearless.  They expect to win every week.

Q.  Were you a little bit nervous on the first shot of the playoff when you kind of hit that drive, it went high and right and if you were nervous how did you collect yourself so quickly in order to have that short of a birdie putt?
SEAN O'HAIR:  Honestly, I was nervous from Hole 1 on Friday on, I was pretty nervous.  You know, I haven't -- I'm not known for starting off a tournament well at the start, you know, I've always kind of gradually worked my way into and some of my wins have been from quite a few shots from behind.
So, to be kind of in the mix of the tournament, most the of the tournament was fun but that playoff, of course, I was nervous.  The putt on -- the putt on 18 felt like my hands was going like that (indicating) to get in the playoff, that little three and a half, 4-footer.
But I felt like I handled myself well.  I just kind of taking my time.  I was just trying to breathe as best I could and, you know, I think at the end of the day I actually felt like I had a chance.  I mean, you know, I felt like I was playing every bit as good as those guys were and so when I had a putt, that putt on 18 in the first playoff hole, you know, Jordan had a pretty good look at birdie and I felt like I had to make that putt because I had a feeling he was going to make it and I was a little surprised he didn't.
So, I just was happy to have a chance on 16 and thought I made that putt, to be quite honest with  you.  I don't know how that did not go in the hole and -- but, you know, it wasn't meant to be.

Q.  Sean, it's obvious you didn't win a tournament.  Would it be a bigger deal if you had won or just put yourself there or maybe is that more important than maybe even winning, just being there?
SEAN O'HAIR:  You know, I think at this point, you know, I mean we're not sitting here talking to a Top-10 player in the world, you know, I got to be realistic with where I've been last two years.  I'm trying to salvage a career.
You know, I feel like I've got -- I've never lost my talent.  You know, I just think my mind got clouded with things that I didn't need to be thinking about.  I almost forgot how to play the game and I forgot who I was as a player.
And, too, I think there's been some stuff off the golf course just with trying to figure out how to be the father I want to be and the husband I want to be and being able to practice and dedicate myself to the game the way I want to but yet I'm not able to because I live where I live has been a challenge for me.
So, you know, last week just being in contention was a positive but the thing I prided myself on is I haven't put myself in position to win very much in my career but I have four wins.
So, I feel that when I do put myself in a position to win a golf tournament I can close the deal or I will come close to closing the deal.
So, that is one thing I know that if I do put myself in a position to win, you know, I'm fairly confident that I'm going to be there until the end and I was very pleased with that, with that result at the end of the day on Sunday.

Q.  Sean, if Tiger plays the Masters it's going to be coming off a ten week break.  Can you imagine playing Augusta coming off a ten week break?  What kind of a challenge would that be for anybody?
SEAN O'HAIR:  Yeah.  I wouldn't recommend it for anybody.  I think -- what's the political way of answering this question (laughter)?
You know, obviously Tiger is going through some issues right now.  I don't think that it's anything abnormal.  When you look at -- when you look at all the greatest players in the game, you know, Jack, Arnold Palmer, all the greats, they've all had their ups and downs and I think the thing that with Tiger is that he's got to figure out what he wants to do and where he wants to be mentally, and I think that once he figures that out, he's going to be able to do whatever he wants to do again.
I just think that he's lost and the only reason why I say that is because I see it in his eyes and I see it in how he's walking and I see it in how he's playing because that's where I've been.  I've been living it.
So, I just think that his mind is just a little clouded and I don't think it has anything to do with his golf swing, I don't think it has anything to do with the fact he's not committed to the game.
I just think there's something there that's just bothering him and I think once he addresses that he'll be right back where he was.
And, you know, I mean he's still I think the greatest talent the game has ever seen, arguably the best player ever and obviously I think he's very dedicated.
Personally I'd like to see him, you know, not hit the weight room as hard and just focus more on just recovery but -- and just so he could stay healthier.  I think for me as a fan of the game, I would love to see him play up to his 50s.  I'm sure he doesn't want to do that.
But he's nothing but good for this game and it's only good for me and everybody else if he plays the way he knows how to play.

Q.  Would you do anything differently from the point from where your game kind of started to drop-off, maybe just coincidental there's a caddy change with Paul and some others, maybe, I can't remember, you're no longer with Sean anymore, are you?

Q.  I don't know if that contributed in anyway, if that was happenstance, timing, you had a lot of family quickly in succession there, lots of kids.
Sounds like you sort of caught an avalanche of change.
SEAN O'HAIR:  It's a good observation.  It's fair to say that.  You know, I think do I wish things were different or did I -- from a career standpoint, yeah.  I think from a family standpoint, no.  I'm very happy with my situation off the golf course.
You know, I've got some great kids and my wife has done a fantastic job raising them because she's basically raised them on her own I'm on the road so much, you know.
So, from some of the decisions that I've made with golf, I should have -- when we got married we should have moved down here.  I think that's the biggest thing.
You know, the decision of firing Paul and Sean, it took me awhile to recover from but I have closure with that and I feel that that happens for a reason, you know.  There was a reason why Paul and I split-up.  I think he's a better fit for Webb and Shea is a better fit for me.
As far as coaches go, I've used them all, I've seen it all and heard it all.  And I have a coach.  But I don't use a coach as often, nearly as often as I used to and I think at this point in the stage of my career, I'm owning my game.
There's no way I'd be in that position if I didn't go through what I went through and so, you know, I'm 32 and I look at guys like Henrik Stenson, guys like Stricker and guys that have come back, come back stronger and I hope and I have confidence that that will be the case for me.
MICHAEL BALIKER:  Anybody else.

Q.  Can you just go through your kids and what ages they are?
SEAN O'HAIR:  My daughter Molly, she's 10.  My oldest boy is Luke and Grady -- or Luke's 8 and then Grady is 5 and then Trevor is 4.  We've had some birthdays so I got to think about it.  Yeah.

Q.  That's where the family is from?
SEAN O'HAIR:  My wife is from up there.

Q.  The statement, "I never lost my talent, I just forgot how to play", is that a real mental thing or is it a distraction thing?
SEAN O'HAIR:  It's listening to too many people that think they now what they're talking about and they don't.  It's trusting in people that are trying to help you.
I'm not saying they're trying to sabotage you but I think that, you know, if I'm talking to a young kid that comes out here who is a rookie, obviously you have something special to even be out here and I had a very good rookie year.
The first five years of my career were fairly solid and I just think that by trying to get better I was willing to learn.  I wanted to listen to other players, I wanted to do what other players were doing, I wanted to listen to other coaches or strength trainers or sports psychologists.
I was trying to improve myself as a player.  What I did was I got in my own way and I screwed up what I had.  Really that's the only way I can put it, is instead of doing the things that were good and just do them more often and learn how to control things on my own, I was relying on too many people for answers and I just think the last couple years have been a learning curve for me and have definitely been something that I've learned what not to do and by that I've kind of found a little niche where like hey, I need to get back to just some simplifying the game and, you know, that was when I was a kid.
What did I do when I was a kid?  How do I like to play the game of golf, you know, and golf got very stressful like to the point where it's like oh, I'm worried about the club and where it's at and how to control it through the ball and I'm like God, that felt like a great golf swing and the ball is doing this and that and it's like, "You know what, just hit a cut.  Just aim down the left side and just hit a cut."
And I basically what it started with is just taking a bag of balls and going in the trees and start hitting shots around trees and hitting through windows and seeing your shot and then starting to feel how it feels and then just you do it so much where you just start trusting it.
I think that's kind of where I'm seeing my game headed is I'm starting to get some confidence with that.

Q.  I don't know if it's just me, but it's hot in here.
Let's get back, what was the seminal moment where you kind of hit yourself on the head, let's take a bag of balls and go in the trees?
SEAN O'HAIR:  I would say probably a year and a half ago or so.  I don't really remember there being specifically a time.  You know, last year I tried to go back to Foley.  What tournament was it?  Honda of last year.
He was still working with Tiger and I just couldn't quite get the time from Sean that I wanted and the time that I did get I was getting bits and pieces and it just felt like it just made things harder for me.  Not saying what Sean was saying was wrong but just -- I wasn't getting that feedback that I needed.
And so finally it just kind of came to where there's this guy back home that I worked with and I just talked to him about it and he's like, "Look, you got the golf swing, your golf swing, there's nothing wrong with it.  Do we need to clean a few things up?  Yes.  But we got to get back to just hitting shots" and that's what we did is we'd go in the trees, go in the range and he would paint a picture for me and be like, "Here is a pin, it's on the right side of the green, the water is on the right, the wind is here, what are you going to do?"
Paint the picture and then hit the shot.
It's taken a long time to trust that.  You know, I used to always think I need a swing thought or feel or I need this or that.
You know, I started working with Rotella again and we've talked a little bit about that and that's what Bob always talks about is just seeing a shot, feeling it and trusting it and then going from there.
So, I guess to answer your question, probably after the Web Finals this past season, through the fall.

Q.  Who is it you work with at home?
SEAN O'HAIR:  John Donegan.

Q.  You were talking about Tiger and you see in his eyes what you saw in your own eyes.  Was there a point where you actually maybe thought about maybe just not continuing playing professional golf?
SEAN O'HAIR:  Of course.  Of course.
I think -- I couldn't see this happening, you know, even in the fall, I couldn't see this happening at all, and when you start questioning like, "Hey, what's in the future for me, do I really want to be on the road 30-plus weeks a year struggle to go keep my card every single year and be this journeyman golfer and be away from your kinds and family", just didn't seem like it was worth it and, you know, I've had a lot of serious talks with my wife and I've had to do a lot of soul-searching in that regard and I think that's where it came down I told my wife "Look, I've" -- "golf has got to be No. 1, you know, I'm not going to feel" -- "I can't feel bad about that.  When I'm on the golf course I can't feel like I should be home with you guys.  When I'm home I can't feel like I should be out on the golf course practicing" and so it was just kind of like after doing that, we sat there and said, "All right, that's what we're going to do, make golf No. 1.  What's the first decision on that?"
That's to move.  We got to move.  We got to make it to where on my off weeks I can put the practice in, I can put the time in but I can also be with my family and that's just -- I got the best of both worlds in that regard.
So, I never thought my wife would do it, to be quite honest with you.  This is something I mentioned to her -- we fought over and over about this and she was open to it for the first time, you know, at the beginning of the year.
So, you know, the kids -- I think the thing that kind of just opened her eyes were the kids are getting to an age they're starting to do things and I'm not around for them at all and she doesn't want that for me.  She doesn't want that for the kids.
MICHAEL BALIKER:  All right, Sean, best of luck this week.

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