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May 7, 2008

Sean O'Hair


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Sean O'Hair, thanks for joining us here at THE PLAYERS Championship media center. You put on a great performance here last year and won the PODS Championship earlier this year, so your season in 2008 is off to a great start. Maybe some opening comments about first coming back to TPC Sawgrass and then about your season so far.
SEAN O'HAIR: It's always nice to be back here. You know, this is one of those type of golf courses and towns that you look forward to coming back to. The game feels really good, and I think it's kind of feeling good at the right time.
The course is looking phenomenal. The greens are the best I've ever seen, period, health-wise and speed-wise and firmness. I mean, they're absolutely perfect. I'm really looking forward to a good week.
And as far as the year is concerned, some nice highlights. I've played well at some nice times with the Wyndham and a third the week after, and I had a pretty good Masters. A little inconsistent. I'm not too happy with missing four cuts this year, but just trying to make those bad weeks better and the good weeks better.
I'm working harder than I've ever worked in my life, and hopefully I can close it off with a good finish. I think we're about halfway done with the year, and I'm looking forward to obviously this tournament and the majors and kind of see what we can do.

Q. After the tournament last year, you were very confident that you would be the guy who would win this tournament at some point down the road. Do you have a sense that this is a year you could make another run like that, and do you look forward to your first chance at a competitive round on 17 again?
SEAN O'HAIR: You know, I think each week you try and win. You know, you're looking for wins, so I can't sit there and say that there's any particular week where I'm going to win or have a better chance of winning. But I do see myself playing well on this golf course.
You know, I like the layout; it fits my eye. I don't feel like it's uncomfortable for me. I feel like it's a type of golf course where you've kind of got to control your trajectory. You know, you can hit the low ball off the tee to get some extra distance. You've got to hit it high into the greens to get it to spin, and you've got to have a great short game.
You know, and I feel like right now my game is in good shape to play well here, and whether I do it or not, I just think that I'm focused on this year and I'm ready to go, and I'm looking forward to it. I definitely feel like if this isn't the year, I definitely have a good chance of winning here.
You know, like I said, it's just one of those golf courses that I see myself winning at.

Q. Even though the end result last year wasn't as positive as you probably would have liked it, how much did that help you and how much do you think it'll help you in this event going into future years?
SEAN O'HAIR: You know, last year I played really well the whole tournament. Obviously I didn't finish the way I wanted to, but you know, I was trying to win a golf tournament, and unfortunately it didn't work out the way I planned. But it's definitely one of those experiences that you learn from. It's not an experience that you want to have to learn, but you know, I think it's going to benefit me as a player, and I think it already has.
I think that a lot of people thought that that was going to dictate my career or affect me as a player, and I think, if anything, it's made me a better player and it's kind of made me realize what it takes to be a champion out here.
I talked to some players after the tournament was over, some players that I respect, that I respect what they've done and how they play the game, and asked their opinion on the whole deal. I learned from it, and I think it's going to benefit me, you know, throughout my whole career.

Q. Who were the players that you spoke with?
SEAN O'HAIR: I called Steve Elkington and Tiger about it, you know, and they gave me their opinions. Like I said, it was an experience that I think the intentions were good, but if I think of it, if I was a little bit more experienced, I might have maybe made a different play and tried to make a putt instead of trying to knock it to two feet. And like I said, I hit a great shot and it went right over the pin and just was the wrong club. It's one of those quirky holes that you can hit a great golf shot and end up making quad.
Just, like I said, it's one of those things that's almost a steppingstone instead of something that drags you down.

Q. What was the consensus of the opinion if you could just generalize?
SEAN O'HAIR: Well, I think it's more of a strategical (sic) type of way. I think Tiger is a very intelligent player. He's almost like a chess player. He doesn't really pay too much attention -- I don't know how he plays, but I wouldn't imagine he pays too much attention until it comes down to just him and one player coming down the stretch, which I felt like was kind of the situation that I had with Phil last year.
You know, it just was kind of one of those things where, hey, there was one more hole left. It wasn't just 17 and that was it. I mean, there was another hole left. 17 is one of those crazy holes where you just don't want to get too nutty with your target or with your line, especially on that Sunday pin where something silly can happen. You want to leave yourself at least a putt for birdie, and if you don't make a putt for birdie, you take him into 18 and there's no telling what happens.
And that was basically the consensus of it, just more of a patient type of, I guess, strategy than it is I'm-going-to-win-this-golf-tournament-and-I'm-going-to-win-it-now type of deal.

Q. If you had it to do over again, you would --
SEAN O'HAIR: Well, I think I maybe would have taken a different approach. There was two things to do. You know, I was two shots back, and it was either, okay, well, I'm two shots clear of third, so let's just play it in and take second place, or hey, let's give it a go. I wasn't interested in second place. I wanted to win.
And at the time I felt like, hey, I felt comfortable with the shot, felt comfortable with the club, and I've pulled shots off like that all the time. Like I said, I hit a good shot, but I think there was good intention there, but maybe the inexperience kind of played a factor there, instead of maybe doing it in a different way.

Q. Do you like that hole?
SEAN O'HAIR: Do I like the hole? I think it's a beautiful hole. I think it's a -- I don't know, I wouldn't say I like it where it is, if that makes any sense.

Q. You'd like it on another golf course?
SEAN O'HAIR: I think with the importance of this championship and -- it sets a great stage for the spectators. I wouldn't say it's a great hole from a professional standpoint. I think it's a little too quirky. I think it's something -- if you hit a good shot, I think you should be rewarded, and you see a lot of shots there that would spin off the greens if the greens were a little bit softer. I think you've seen that in the past, where you hit it in the middle of the green and it just sucks off into the water.
You know, you'll see a lot of shots that land beside the pin and release. But it's one of those holes that it is what it is, and it's not that I like it or dislike it. I think it's a beautiful hole, and I think it is what it is. You prepare for it mentally, and I think if you have a game plan for that hole, it's, like I said, just another hole.

Q. When was the first time you played it this week?
SEAN O'HAIR: Yesterday. Yeah, yesterday. I've hit three good shots in there. Really, it's just a 9-iron or a wedge.

Q. What did you do yesterday?
SEAN O'HAIR: What did I hit yesterday? I've hit three 9-irons. I haven't hit a wedge into it. It's been like 146, 147, and I've been trying to fly it about 142.

Q. What did you do yesterday?
SEAN O'HAIR: What did I make on it?

Q. Yeah.

Q. Did you hit the green?

Q. Why are you looking at me like that?
SEAN O'HAIR: It looks like you've got some smart comment to make (smiling).

Q. How long did it take for you to completely move on and take that moment out of your memory and put it in a vault and move forward?
SEAN O'HAIR: I think it was tough the first couple days, but it wasn't because of that hole. It was because I lost. You know, the thing that bothered me more was 10 and 11. That's where I lost my momentum. I bogeyed 10, Phil parred, and I parred 10 with an easy up-and-down out of the bunker for birdie, and he birdied it. That's where I think I lost the golf tournament, because you take -- if I was tied for the lead or one shot back going into 17, I don't go for the pin.
And so I think, if anything, that's what bothered me more was that. But it maybe took a couple days, and I played pretty quickly. I think I played Memorial was my next tournament back, and I ended up getting fifth.
And that was the thing; I found it so funny that I had friends come up to me and I had media come up to me, "How do you feel about 17?" You lose golf tournaments every single week. I mean, very rarely do you win a golf tournament, and you're trying to win every single week, and it's no different. You try your heart out, and it didn't work out. Oh, well. There's going to be 1,000 more tournaments for me to win or to try and win. That's what I look forward to.

Q. Earlier you mentioned missing four cuts this year and not enjoying that. Is there anything specific that you can point to in your game that you've had to overcome with regard to those missed cuts?
SEAN O'HAIR: I think just as far as I'm hitting the ball well. I feel like I'm putting the ball well. But sometimes I'm struggling in some weeks to put it together. I feel that it was a mistake. I played really well at Masters, and I felt like it was a mistake that I played Verizon. It's a great golf tournament, it's a great golf course, but I was mentally fried.
I think when you're competing in a major as grueling -- the Masters now is almost worse than the U.S. Open when it comes to strategy and charting out the golf course, and it's just -- it takes so much out of you mentally. And if you really give it a good effort and try to win the golf tournament, I don't see how you can play Verizon.
I played, and I just didn't have it mentally. I think my attitude was good, but I just didn't have that determination, and I think it kind of crawled into Byron, which is a great setup for me. I've always played well there, and it's a tournament that I look forward to each and every year. I think that was more of a scheduling problem on my part.
And then early in the year, I just kind of struggled with my swing a little bit, which I fixed quite a while ago.
I think it's just a little bit of inexperience, not taking that week off. I'm young, I want to play every single tournament out here, but unfortunately you just can't if you try to want and compete each week.

Q. Just to go back to 17 for a second, you said earlier you had two choices, the first being protect second place. How much of that thinking goes on out here? I mean, are there guys who won't go for the win?
SEAN O'HAIR: Sure, sure. I mean, I think there are guys who are out here just to make a good living, and I respect that. I mean, that's -- hey, to each his own, you know? For me, one day I want to sit back and see my name in the Hall of Fame. That takes extraordinary golf. Playing for money isn't going to get you that.
I just figure if I focus on getting better each year and focus on trying to become one of the best players in the world, that'll happen. All the things I want to achieve will happen.
But yeah, I don't know how much, but yeah, that is out here.

Q. Is it because of the money?
SEAN O'HAIR: What do you mean?

Q. The amount of money these guys play for.
SEAN O'HAIR: I have no idea. I mean, I couldn't -- I think if I played like that, I don't know if I could keep my card. I just, when I'm out there, I'm not looking at each shot, well, that cost me 100 grand or that won me 100 grand, or this is for that. It's, all right, who's leading or how many shots do I have left to catch up or whatever. So it's more about winning a golf tournament. And I don't see any -- I've never seen a great player play for money.

Q. After the fact, did you realize how much money 17 cost you last year?

Q. Did that bother you?
SEAN O'HAIR: Well, I don't see how losing $800,000 is going to make you have a smile on your face.

Q. Was it that much?
SEAN O'HAIR: It was about 750, 800.
I would have given the whole first-place check to win that (indicating PLAYERS trophy). Just to have my name on that, I would have given that $1.5 million check to whoever it is.

Q. $1.71 this year.
SEAN O'HAIR: Yeah. I'd do it this year.

Q. Are there courses out there that at the end of the week the best player didn't necessarily win?
SEAN O'HAIR: Yeah, sure, absolutely. I mean, the thing is, each week -- that's the great thing about our sport. Each week anybody can win. I mean, the best player doesn't win all the time. You see it in any sport.
Take our Flyers, for instance, the Philadelphia Flyers. They won, but they were out-skated by the Canadiens for the whole series. That's just the way it is. Just as long as we bring the Stanley Cup home, that's all I care about.

Q. I'm not suggesting the best player doesn't win every week, but the player who played the best --
SEAN O'HAIR: Oh, the player that plays the best? I don't know. I think, yeah, I think you have times where one hole might cost you a tournament or one goofy bounce. I mean, it takes -- I talk to my caddie a lot about this. To win a golf tournament it takes good play, good attitude and luck, those three things. And sometimes you've got the first two and you don't have the right bounces. People say that's silly, but it's true. Sometimes you get the right bounces and sometimes you don't. That's the way it goes.

Q. Where does this course rank in identifying who played the best that week?
SEAN O'HAIR: Well, I think this is a great golf course. You're not going to see somebody not play well and win here. You know, this place expects a lot out of your game, and I think with great courses, you see that. And this definitely does that.

Q. It sounds like you got advice from Tiger and Elkington and they told you what you did. You chalk it up to inexperience, as well. But your mindset was the right thinking. So would you do it differently?
SEAN O'HAIR: Yeah, I mean, I would absolutely still try and win the golf tournament, but like I said, there was -- even if I stiffed it on 17 and made the putt and Phil made par, which he did, I'm still one shot back, and I've got one more hole to play. And the thing is if I take par there, there's no telling what Phil might have done. I know for a fact that he would have felt a lot more pressure on 18 than he did, because then it just was a matter of, all right, just hit it way right and lay up and then take your bogey and take the crystal home. And Phil is a top-notch player, and I don't know if he would have felt more pressure or not, but I would like to think that he probably would have felt a little bit more if I would have parred 17.
You know, I think, like I said, the right intention was there. It's just maybe the inexperience played into it a little bit. You know, I think if I was a little bit more experienced, I might have played it five paces left of the pin with maybe a wedge that is guaranteed not to get me over the green. You know, and if I pull it, I've got a 30-footer that I try and make or whatever, and then 18 I get aggressive with. But I take Phil into 18 instead of doing what I did.
I don't sit back and think about any of this stuff. The only time it comes up is when I'm asked questions about it. And like I said, it's a learning experience that sometimes you have to learn. I think it's definitely going to benefit me and already has. And there's been times I learned from it. I think it helped me win this year's PODS to be honest with you. When Stewart and I were -- I wasn't paying too much attention to what Stewart was doing, but there was a lot of times where I could have gotten too aggressive on some shots coming in. When I was playing the proper shots, I was hitting to the proper targets, and I was just parring the golf course to death and letting everybody else make the mistakes, and sometimes that's what it takes to win a championship.

Q. You mentioned 9-iron or wedge on 17. How much of a factor could adrenaline have been in that shot last year?
SEAN O'HAIR: Oh, it was huge. It was huge. If you watch my reaction, I was in disbelief that it went over the green. You know, and that's another thing that you have to learn as a player. That's something that the best players in the world, when they put themselves in position week in, week out, they learn certain things that happen.
I mean, you're going to feel a lot more adrenaline or you're going to feel differently than if you're in last place going into Sunday. If you're putting yourself into that position on a regular basis, eventually you learn how to deal with it. And that's how guys learn how to win out here, is just putting themselves in the position to win so they learn how to do it.

Q. Is there ever something maybe you and your caddie could correspond on a little bit, too, to say, hey, you're a little amped up right now?
SEAN O'HAIR: Yeah, I think you could, but really, it's mostly up to the player. But yeah, I think caddie experience has a little bit to do with it, too, yeah.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Sean O'Hair, thank you. Good luck this week.

End of FastScripts

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