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March 19, 2008

Sean O'Hair


JOHN BUSH: We'd like to welcome Sean O'Hair into the interview room here they WGC CA Championship. Thanks for coming and spending a few minutes with us. Obviously a tremendous season for you so far including a win at the PODS Championship and then a third place last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. If we can get some comments on your year so far.
SEAN O'HAIR: Obviously I'm very happy with the last couple weeks. Before that it really wasn't much of a season. I think my first five tournaments I made my first three cuts but didn't finish higher than 49th. But I had my coach come out and we kind of got a game plan and something that I felt like we were heading somewhere. Just by chance the same event that he came out to I won, and last week was a pretty successful week.
You know, one week changes basically the course of the year. So I'm looking forward to the rest of the year.
JOHN BUSH: Speaking of that week at the PODS Championship, that moved you high enough in the rankings to get you into the field this week. So talk a little bit about being here and your preparations.
SEAN O'HAIR: This is a huge bonus. Obviously not being in this event at the beginning of the year, and then now being in it, it's pretty cool. Especially obviously it gets you into Augusta, too. I've got a pretty exciting month coming up, and after this week I've got two weeks off. I'm going to try and get ready and take some time off, kind of clear my head a little bit and get ready for The Masters.
But I think this is going to be a cool week, and I'm looking forward to it.

Q. I hope you don't mind a Tiger question, but having played with him on Sunday and that dramatic final putt, what were you thinking when he was over that putt? Were you paying attention, and what were you thinking?
SEAN O'HAIR: Well, I didn't watch him all day, and that was the first shot I actually -- or putt that I actually watched him, and it was more watching him line it up and kind of his mannerisms, and you could tell it was going to be something sporty, whether it was barely going to go in the hole or go in the hole or barely miss, whatever it might be. You knew something special was going to happen.
As he hit it, it was ten feet from the hole, I didn't think it was going to get there, and it kept trickling, trickling, trickling and just went right in the middle of the hole, perfect speed. I think the first thought that entered my mind was how in the hell am I going to make my putt now?
I think as a competitor on this type of level, that's what you want to be. You want to be playing with him in the final group in a big tournament like that.

Q. Why didn't you watch him play?
SEAN O'HAIR: You know, I think the thing is if you watch him play, you just -- it's sometimes easy to kind of get a little bit off your game. I think you can kind of get taken almost a little bit, and as much as I admire him, his game and what he does for our sport, I've also got to compete against the guy. I've got to kind of -- I respect the guy, but also I want to beat his brains in when I'm on the golf course. When I'm on the golf course, I can't think the way I do of him off the golf course. Does that make sense?
So that's why I don't watch him.

Q. Did you watch Billy play at Innisbrook?
SEAN O'HAIR: No, I did not. I try not to watch anybody.

Q. Last year Phil in the final round of THE PLAYERS, you held your own for 16 holes, and then the other day you kind of had a couple of early stumbles and then you fought back pretty well. You may have already known this even before those rounds, but is there a lesson there that to compete with guys like that in tournaments like that it's going to take 18 holes?
SEAN O'HAIR: Yeah, I think that's the thing that I was a little bit disappointed with I think on Sunday is I wasn't quite mentally prepared for Sunday. I don't know how to put it, but obviously playing in the final group is a certain level. You know, it's going to kind of get your nerves up a little bit, so you've got to prepare mentally for that.
It being Arnold's tournament bumps it up another notch, and then playing with Tiger in Arnold's tournament bumps it up even higher. I don't think I was quite ready mentally, and I don't know if I could have been ready mentally for that because that was actually the first time I've played with him in the final group in that situation.
I learned a lot. I kind of know now how to prepare myself a little bit better mentally going into a final round like that. But obviously after the first four holes or so, I kind of got comfortable and I started playing my game.
The thing with Phil at THE PLAYERS, I wasn't playing great at the beginning of the round but I was hanging with him, and then unfortunately I just made a mental error. That was a completely different situation at THE PLAYERS last year. That was just more a matter of trying to force something to happen, and obviously I played for it.

Q. Obviously a lot of people talk about Tiger's winning streak, but you had won one in a row and then last week were in the final group. I was wondering if you could just sort of talk about does winning and contending and almost being there suck more out of you physically and mentally than just going through the motions?
SEAN O'HAIR: Yeah, sure. Obviously if you're teeing off at 8:00 o'clock or 9:00 o'clock in the morning Sunday, no one is out there. I mean, you're just out there basically playing golf like you would with your buddies. And then obviously if you're in the final group, it doesn't really matter who you're playing with, you're going to be a little bit more juiced, I guess you could say. So it is going to take a little bit more out of you. You're going to try and focus a little bit more because there's a lot more distractions out there.
You know, it's easy to go out there when there's nobody out there and there's no expectations on you and you just go out and play, and it really doesn't matter because you're at the bottom of the field. But when you're tied for the lead or chasing somebody down or whatever, there's a little bit more pressure.
So I think when you're contending every week, it takes a tremendous amount out of you mentally, and I think when that happens, it takes it out of you physically. That's the thing that obviously Tiger, he plays less events because every event he plays in he's contending. That's what I would do, so I don't blame him.

Q. Talking about mental stuff, do you have a mental coach?

Q. What do you do on the course if you hit a really bad shot? Do you have any kind of mental tools you use?
SEAN O'HAIR: I use Rotella. I work with Dr. Rotella. Basically the biggest thing I've been working on is just trying to focus on the preparation of each shot, focus on the process. I think sometimes when you get nervous or when you can't pull the trigger on certain things, you're focused too much on results of am I going to hit a good shot, am I not going to hit a good shot or whatever. So what I've been trying to focus on is just really focus on committing to a target, committing to a club that I pull, and just go through my routine and really focus in on that, and I think it takes my mind off of all the distractions.
Obviously when you miss a shot, like you were saying, you can't really let it affect you because -- and I think if you understand that -- I mean, what is throwing a club or what is beating your club in the ground going to do? It's just going to frustrate you and get you out of your, I guess, cocoon or bubble or whatever.
I just try and focus my attention on did I prepare well for that shot, did I focus on that shot, and if that's the case and I hit a bad shot, then oh, well, I'm going to make bad swings. That's kind of what I do.

Q. I'm curious, I'm assuming you occasionally look at scoreboards when you're playing. When you see Tiger's name go up there, does it at all get into your head? And beyond that, is he now with this streak in the heads of other guys? Are guys talking about it? Do they think -- do they see him going 5-under and think, we're playing for second?
SEAN O'HAIR: How can I answer that?

Q. Truthfully (laughter).
SEAN O'HAIR: I think the thing as far as looking at leaderboards, you can't -- I try not to focus on other players. I can only control what I can control. You know, staring at leaderboards and seeing other people and how they're doing is only going to get me out of my zone. So I try not to do that.
The only time I did do that is when you're on the back nine and you're in contention or whatever.
As far as guys out here, you know, we're all aware of how good he is. But it's not like we're laying down. I mean, if you've noticed the level of -- basically our level of skill -- I shouldn't say "our" because I wasn't out here, but when Tiger came out, '97, '96, look at the level of how guys were playing then and look at it now. I mean, it's night and day. He has made us step up a notch.
The players out here are better because of him. I honestly believe that. He's going to obviously keep doing what he's doing. He's going to keep dominating. But we're not going to sit there and lay down and say, well, that's just the way it is. We're going to try and get better and try and compete with him. I mean, that's our jobs.

Q. I guess during the broadcast Miller was making a point here and there along the way about pace of play, and you were talking about Rotella and the process of getting caught up in the moment and how long that takes. I'm wondering, are you aware of that?
SEAN O'HAIR: You know, I am aware of that. One thing I don't understand is at Tampa, I deserved every single bit of the criticism that I got about my pace of play because I was holding the group up. But one thing that people need to understand is I wasn't in that situation for two years. I was a little bit nervous. There was a lot of things going on in my mind that -- I'm not going to step over a shot until I'm committed to the shot.
As far as last week, I actually heard that I was criticized a little bit more than Tampa. The thing I don't understand is that we played the front nine in an hour and 42 minutes. We waited on every single shot on the back nine. So when you're watching the telecast, is he sitting there saying that? No.
I mean, to me what does it matter if I take two practice swings or eight practice swings? I do what I have to do to play well. Obviously what I'm doing right now is right. But I think it's a little unfair to criticize somebody about their routine and talk about how slow they are when basically you're waiting on every single shot. We waited for almost ten minutes on 16 tee, and I took eight practice swings because obviously we were just standing there not doing anything.
If I walked up to the 16th tee and the fairway was clear, I might have taken two or three practice swings. You know, he can say what he wants to say. I can't control that. But I have a little bit of a problem with criticizing somebody when you're on time.

Q. Have you altered your own expectations for your game now that you've had success and you're playing well? You start the year with certain expectations; do you revise them now going forward?
SEAN O'HAIR: I think the thing that you have to do -- I was actually asked this question last night, and a buddy of mine asked me, "What do you do?" Exactly what you said, "Are you going to set new goals?" In a way goals can almost put pressure on yourself. I think the thing that I need to start doing is seeing myself achieving certain things. You know, see myself competing in the Masters in a couple weeks, see myself winning more and more. And I think if I do that, obviously it's sort of setting goals, but it's in a different way.
So I guess, yeah, instead of thinking of trying to win a tournament, which I've already done, I'm going to continue to focus on what I'm working on physically and mentally and start accepting the fact that I'm going to start competing a little bit more, I think. I do expect myself to play well for the rest of the year. I'm not going to look at these two weeks and say, okay, this is my year. I look forward to the rest of the year and winning more and more and competing more and more.

Q. I know you had a four-footer to clean up on Sunday at 18, but as you watched Tiger go through that whole process and make the putt and react to it, what did you take away? Is there anything from that that you can plug into --
SEAN O'HAIR: He's got a lot of things going on in that brain of his that a lot of other guys don't have going on (laughter). I mean that in a positive way. In a way, it almost looks like he knows it's going in the hole. I mean, he just knows it. And I think that's something that I've learned from watching the better players, whether it be Phil, Tiger, Vijay, whoever. Whoever is playing well, if they have a good week, they step up to a shot and it's not kind of a wishy-washy type feel. They know they're piping it right down the middle. They know they're making the putt.
One thing I found interesting with what Tiger had to say after his round is, "All I want to do is put myself in the position where it's in my hands, where I can either win or lose the golf tournament, and I'm the type of guy that wants the ball in my hands." I thought that was a cool statement. That goes to show you what type of guy he is and why he is where he is. I think that's something that I'm going to strive for for myself because a guy like me can learn a lot from Tiger.
I mean, there are so many things that I learned on Sunday. I can't really even name them all. Every time I put myself in a position, whether I succeed or fail, I'm going to learn something. So it was cool to be in that position.

Q. You raised this interesting point. As a TOUR pro, you guys know more than anybody how difficult it is to do what he's doing, so how -- do TOUR pros struggle with not being in awe because it puts you at a competitive disadvantage? Do pros struggle with that do you think, not being in awe of him?
SEAN O'HAIR: I don't know. I don't think I struggle with it. You know, I think a lot of the things -- what I'm in awe of is that he's 32 years old and he tied Ben Hogan's win record, and I'm going to be 32 in seven years, and to think that could I have 64 victories and 13, 14 majors, that would be pretty cool. That's what I'm in awe of.
But when I'm in his presence, I guess you could say, or playing against him or playing a tournament against him, I'm trying to win the golf tournament.
I don't know if that answers your question, but I don't think guys struggle with it. I mean, maybe a few guys do. I think you get kind of a different feel out here. There's guys out here to win golf tournaments, there's guys out here just to make a good living, and sometimes some of them are uncomfortable being in the situation of winning a golf tournament.
I think for a lot of the up-and-comers, Hunter Mahan, Nick Watney, Lucas Glover, they're out here to be the best, and I would like to put myself in that category. I don't know if that answers your question.

Q. I know you said you don't like to focus on goals because it can be a distraction, but where on your radar screen is making the Ryder Cup team?
SEAN O'HAIR: That would be awesome. That's something I talk a lot about with a lot of the younger Americans. Hunter is a buddy of mine, Watney is a buddy of mine, and we talk about that stuff a lot. Obviously that's one of the many things that I want to achieve in my career. I don't want to just be a part of this year's Ryder Cup team. I want to be every year that it happens, Presidents Cups, Ryder Cups. I want to be a part of those teams, and that is a big goal this year.
But I can't really focus on that. I've just got to focus on doing what I'm doing and play good golf, and I think everything else will take care of itself.

Q. I was just wondering how you felt your putting was coming along. Are you seeing some positive signs there? I know that's been a huge point of emphasis and probably a weak spot if you've had one the last couple years.
SEAN O'HAIR: Yeah, not to sound like I'm trying to throw out a bone, but I switched to the Spider putter, and it really is -- I don't know what it's done, but it's helped -- it's really helped my assignment. I've always had problems with my alignment. I've always struggled with aiming a little too far right, and that tends to kind of mess with your stroke a little bit. I switched to that putter and automatically it's helped my alignment, which I think has helped my putting a tremendous amount.
And I've been working hard on a stroke -- I call it the pop stroke, who actually my caddie taught me that, and we worked really hard on that last fall, and he completely turned my putting around.
I think a lot of it has to do with equipment and technique, and I'm starting to see a lot of positives with the putting.

Q. Talking about the Ryder Cup, do you have any suggestions or thoughts about how the American team should prepare to get back in the winning circle?
SEAN O'HAIR: You know, I don't know. I think the thing is sometimes we put a little too much pressure on ourselves. I know who I would love to play with, and actually we were talking about it, and it was kind of his idea. But Hunter Mahan and I were talking a little bit about if we both made the Ryder Cup team that we would love to go to Zinger and say, "Hey, put us out first, we want to play together."
I think the feel with the younger players is they're gung ho. They really want to get on that team and make a difference. And I think you need more of that out there. You know, and I think we're definitely due. I will say that, I think we're definitely due, and that's all I have to say about that.

Q. Along those lines, Paul Azinger recently said that when it comes time to making his captain's picks, if there's someone on the Nationwide Tour who's won three tournaments in a row, he'd take them in a heartbeat. Do you think it's all about getting a team of as many hot guys as you can?
SEAN O'HAIR: Absolutely. Why wouldn't you want all the guys with the utmost confidence? The question is what's a Nationwide player going to feel playing the Ryder Cup? Is he going to be comfortable with that? I think in most cases, yeah, they probably will, because the quality of play out there is pretty darned good.
You know, I kind of like how he's headed with his ideas. You know, I think he's into getting some younger guys in there and some guys who have the game to overpower a golf course and guys who aren't scared. And not saying that anybody has been scared on previous teams, but I think that's kind of the feel of the Americans is we're getting tired of losing, and I think we're going to see maybe a different result this year.
JOHN BUSH: Sean, thank you, and play well this week.

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