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July 8, 2008
DOUG MILNE: We'd like to welcome 2005 John Deere Classic champion Sean O'Hair to the media center. Middle of a good year, obviously PODS, got your second PGA TOUR win, and then I think you backed that up with a week later with a Top 5 finish at Bay Hill. As we come into the week here, assess your game, where you are and how you're feeling.
SEAN O'HAIR: Well, unfortunately I had to withdraw from the U.S. Open this year due to a chest injury. And I guess last week was my first week back from about a month off, and I hit the ball fairly well, all considering. I just didn't putt very well at all. I think I was dead last in putting, and somehow I made the cut.
But as far as my game is concerned, I feel like everything is pretty close to being right there. I just need to do some hard work and kind of get some momentum going. I think that's what this time of the year is all about is building that momentum into the fall season -- or into the playoffs.
You know, hopefully if I can get on a roll here, Ryder Cup is obviously right around the corner, and we have a couple majors coming up. It would be nice to kind of get the ball rolling here.
DOUG MILNE: Obviously you have fond memories when you come back here, this being the site of your first PGA TOUR win. What does that do as far as how you approach your game?
SEAN O'HAIR: Well, I think when you come back to a place that you've won, you are a little bit more comfortable. The golf course I feel just looks good to me, and when you have that, you know, you just have that much less to worry about. You don't have to worry about, well, I've kind of got to get around the golf course and hopefully I'll be right there. I do feel comfortable about coming out and going low in this place.
It's always nice coming back to a place like this, too, because it's very family oriented. It's a family-oriented tournament and it's more of a fun tournament, and I don't think we have enough of these types of events out here. So it's nice to kind of come out and just enjoy being out here.
Q. Zach was just here talking about coming back from an injury that happened after the U.S. Open. How severe would you say your injury was, and what's your game plan for coming back?
SEAN O'HAIR: Well, I was actually in a car accident the week before the U.S. Open, and because the seatbelt hurt me pretty good, I wasn't able to swing at all for about two weeks after the accident. You know, it was -- I don't know if it was severe. It wasn't like I broke any bones or fractured anything. It just was some ribs out of place a little bit, putting a strain on some ligaments.
I did some rehab, came back pretty quickly, and I'm 100 percent. Now I'm just focused on kind of getting some momentum. Like I said, I normally play well this time of year, and so I'm just excited about trying to get my game going, and my game is right there. I just need to put that work in and get some birdies under my belt, have a good nine holes -- I think all it would take is Thursday coming out and having a good nine holes, good front nine or good back nine and getting some confidence and just rolling with it.
Q. If you look at those two weeks in a row, the Bay Hill and the week before when you won, if you were to distill down the essence of what was so good and bottle it and bring it forth, what would it be? What was it that was clicking for you?
SEAN O'HAIR: I just think it is that momentum. You know, I don't really know any other way to do it. You see it in baseball all the time. You play the same type of golf, you're making the same golf swings, just maybe your brain is in a different spot, maybe you're a little bit more positive, maybe things are a little bit more simple, maybe the stars are lined up perfectly. You just never know.
It just works out for me, no matter how hard I work, it just happens. I can't force it, I can't sit there and say, well, I'm going to peak at this certain time. You see a lot of the great players like Tiger and Phil, they're able to do that. I'm not really like that. I think to me it's just a matter of playing, and if I have a good week, I have a good week, and then if I do, just kind of roll with it.
I think you see that with Kenny Perry this year. He's worked his tail off all year, and all of a sudden he had a few good events and then he won and he won again. That's what I'm looking for is kind of to get on that positive roll.
Q. A layoff like you had, does that disrupt the season, or did you come back last week almost maybe refreshed?
SEAN O'HAIR: I was really fresh last week. I'm going on a six-week trip, so this is my second week of six in a row, which I've never done before. And then I've got a week off after the PGA Championship, and then hopefully I've got four events after that. I've got a lot of golf ahead of me, and so I think it was good to have that break. I think it got my mind where it needs to be.
I kind of thought about what I need to do work-wise and kind of just cleared my mind a little bit. I don't think it -- you know, short game might have struggled a little last week due to it, but this week it shouldn't be a problem. I should be pretty good this week.
Q. Was it painful, no pun intended on that, to not be able to play in a major, the U.S. Open?
SEAN O'HAIR: Oh, yeah. I was on a plane the next day after my accident going to San Diego, and I had full intentions of playing. If I could have hit my driver 220 yards, I would have played. But I couldn't even hit it 150. I don't think that would have been very good for that layout.
But pulling out of a major championship is like pulling a tooth. I mean, it's just not something you want to do. It kind of stunk sitting on the couch watching that.
Q. What was it like then watching the way that tournament unfolded? Have you ever seen anything like that?
SEAN O'HAIR: Well, Tiger's performance was incredible. You know, coming from me it doesn't really matter. Everybody knows that. You know, I think it was probably one of the greatest things that we've ever seen in sports, period, basically a guy winning a major like that on a bum leg.
And I think we all had our doubts on how bad it was until we actually heard what the story was afterwards, and it's just even that more incredible, and it goes to show you what kind of person it is. The guy has got a lot of guts. Seeing something like that is pretty inspirational. It makes you want to go out and work your tail off, and I think it's pretty cool to watch.
Q. Did it make you feel like a wuss sitting on the couch watching him with sore ribs? Joking, of course.
SEAN O'HAIR: You know, I wasn't able -- to me, I've played injured before. I've never had something where I couldn't take the club back. I didn't really feel bad sitting on the couch because I knew I couldn't play. But watching him doing what he did was pretty neat.
Q. You said that you need nine holes to get momentum back, to get the feel. Do you feel that nine holes could really establish where you could be in this tournament? Do you feel that obviously playing today and kind of getting an outlook of what might happen this weekend -- what do you feel about the course that maybe Thursday could start that nine-hole progression for you?
SEAN O'HAIR: You know, I think this is definitely a course you can make some birdies on. It's all about just hitting some fairways, hitting greens, giving yourself as many opportunities at birdie as possible and just getting the putter rolling. This is kind of one of those courses. Like I said, it's a little bit more fun tournament. It's not like a major-style type of golf tournament. It seems like every golf course we've played this year has felt like a major, which kind of gets old after a while.
This place is one of those places where you can kind of take advantage of the par-5s. There's some really, really good par-3s where you've got to hit some nice long irons, so it's demanding. You have a couple short par-4s where if you hit it long and straight you can maybe take advantage of some short irons. And then like every week, it's a putting contest.
If I can get that putter rolling, get that confidence in the putter and like I said, get that nine holes where I shoot 4- or 5-under par, you know, I think I can maybe get that snowball effect in the right way.
Q. We've heard from a couple different sources now that this is one of the strongest fields at the John Deere Classic for the last few years. Have you seen a difference just in the names?
SEAN O'HAIR: I haven't looked at who's here, but when I was on the putting green, I obviously saw Tim Clark, I saw -- who else did I see? I saw some of the better young players like Nick Watney, but like I said, I don't know exactly who's here. You've got a lot of guys who haven't won who are looking for their first win who are great players who come to an event like this who want to get in the British next week who aren't already, and it's just a good, fun golf tournament.
You know, I'm in the British next week, and I'm here because it's a fun event, a good event. You're going to -- it kind of draws, I think, a good field. And like I said, I think a lot of things are kind of in play here. You've got Ryder Cup, you've got the playoffs coming up, so a lot of things are on the line right now.
Q. Do you think the jet will help draw the field?
SEAN O'HAIR: Oh, absolutely. I think it makes it easier to -- especially for a guy who's already in the British to sit there and say, okay, well, -- instead of leaving Saturday -- you know, Friday or Saturday of this week, instead of having to take this week off, it allows you to play a tournament that you want to play, and then it's very easy just to jump on a charter with no hassle whatsoever and then you're there.
I actually wish more tournaments would do stuff like this. I think it would draw more players, better players, and it's a lot more convenient. It's obviously very nice.
Q. Are you going to be taking advantage of that, of the jet?
SEAN O'HAIR: Yes, I will be.
Q. Would you have been here had it not been for the jet?
SEAN O'HAIR: I don't know. I mean, I skipped out last year, which was hard. I didn't like that. I played '05, '06, skipped out last year. So I don't know if I would have played this year or not. I mean, I don't like missing this tournament because I've won here, so that's a hard question to answer.
Q. You kind of touched on it a little bit, but having got your first win here in '05, does that make this week a little bit different, a little bit more special, or is it just another week on the TOUR for you?
SEAN O'HAIR: I think I'm looking at trying to win again this year. I'm pretty focused on trying to win again, and I'm committed to doing the work.
You know, when I come here, to me I feel like it's all business, and then I'm looking forward to the "Big Dig" tonight. So those two things.
Q. When and where and how did the car accident happen? Were you driving?
SEAN O'HAIR: Actually I was driving. I was the only person in the car. It was Thursday morning -- I had a 7:00 a.m. training session with my trainer, which was about 15 minutes away from my house, and it literally happened a 9-iron from my house. I was pulling out of the development, made a left on a little country road. It rained the night before, the roads were wet, and I was shifting from first to second and lost control because of the roads, and actually the butt end of the car went one way and then I let off on the gas and whipped around and hit a pole -- or I should say the pole jumped out right in front of me.
Q. Given the emotional win you had here in '05, the breakthrough, coming back to this course and this community, does it have special feeling or do you have to put that aside so you can focus on your golf?
SEAN O'HAIR: Ask that again.
Q. Is there a special feeling about coming back here to this community and this event considering it was your big breakthrough in '05?
SEAN O'HAIR: Oh, yeah. Well, I think you always remember your first, your first win, and it is always special. It depends on what tournament you do it at, though. I think it's always special to come back to a place like this because -- like for instance, I had a couple that drove two hours -- actually two and a half hours to come pick me up at Chicago Midway today just to bring me to this event, volunteers. You won't see that at too many other tournaments.
I mean, the volunteers here are awesome. Clair Peterson, who's sitting in the back of the room right now, is one of the greatest guys you'll ever want to meet, and he does a great job with this tournament. You've got a great golf course. You have a great turnout, and it's just a very player-family-friendly type place.
Obviously being a young guy with a family, it's a great feeling coming back because it's almost like -- it's during the 4th of July or just after the 4th of July and it's kind of that small-type-town place where everybody is nice and it's just a golf tournament and you're going to have a good time.
Q. Is this tournament more thoroughly integrated with the community than most tournaments you go to, more a part of it?
SEAN O'HAIR: You know, I think everybody does a good job with like charitable things with the communities each week. I think you have more of a friendlier environment here. I don't know if that answers your question.
You know, I do feel like it's -- it almost feels like everybody knows each other here, so it's just kind of a local event and kind of a small town where everybody shows up. It's almost like one of those high school football game where the whole town shuts down to come out and watch the football game. That's kind of like what it feels like.
You don't see a lot of this anymore on the TOUR. It's just kind of -- you know, I think it's a little bit more fun, and like I said, a little bit more family oriented.
Q. You said you didn't play here last year, but obviously winning here for the first time and now coming back to it again, obviously you're not the defending champion, but do you feel like you're coming in kind of like to defend what you have? Obviously Jonathan Byrd will be the defending champion here, but do you think you'll have some of the same feelings he'll have in defending?
SEAN O'HAIR: I think you definitely feel comfortable and you feel confident, even if you're not playing well coming into an event that you've won just a few years ago. Yeah, I think, like I said, coming back, you feel comfortable, you feel confident, and you feel like, hey, if I just have a few good holes, get on a roll and contend and maybe win this thing.
All I can ask is be there Sunday afternoon with the back nine to play. That's all I want is that opportunity.
Q. And do you feel -- I mean, obviously in winning it, what do you think Byrd is going to be feeling obviously defending the title?
SEAN O'HAIR: You know what, he's won, like three or four events? So he knows how to win and he knows how to defend, so it's not like he's a rookie at defending or anything like that, and he's a great player. I think he's going to be a great defending champ and I think he's had a pretty decent year this year, and I expect him to probably be right up there.
I don't know exactly who's playing this event. I don't really look at stuff like that. But I think you see the same guys playing well year in, year out at certain golf courses. You know, Kenny Perry, Memorial, you see him all the time; Colonial, you see him all the time. Same thing with every tournament; certain guys play well each and every year.
I think guys who have won here are probably going to play well more times than not.
Q. You mentioned Kenny Perry. He's structured his season in a way that hasn't included majors for the most part.
SEAN O'HAIR: Yeah.
Q. Is that unusual to do?
SEAN O'HAIR: I think it's unusual. I think it's a little unusual --
Q. It's worked, but --
SEAN O'HAIR: Yeah, it's worked, but he's a guy who's a veteran, who knows his game. I respect what he does. You know, I wouldn't do it myself, but I respect what he's doing because basically he's doing what's best for him, and he doesn't care what anybody else says.
I think that's something that you see from a true champion is -- you can get 90 guys or 100 guys telling you that that's wrong or whatever, but he believes in his heart that's what's best for him and for the rest of his year, and he's based his year, I guess, around Ryder Cup, and he's achieved his goal. I have respect for him for that, and he's had a hell of a year.
Q. You were talking about having to take the time off because of the injury. What's the longest layoff you have taken on your own?
SEAN O'HAIR: Including off-season?
Q. Well, during the season.
SEAN O'HAIR: During the season, that was that.
Q. Before that, though. Do you normally just take one week off or two weeks at a time?
SEAN O'HAIR: That was the thing I was telling my wife when I came back. I just said, I've never taken three or four weeks off during the middle of the year. Normally I'm trying to play as much as I can. So normally when I take time off, it's at the most two weeks, which normally I'm sitting on the couch after three days and I'm just biting my fingernails off because I'm ready to get back out here.
So it definitely felt different this last time taking four weeks off.
Q. You mentioned earlier we all had our doubts about Tiger when we were watching that tournament, what he was doing. Why would you have those doubts, just because it didn't seem possible that someone could do that?
SEAN O'HAIR: No, you know, we don't know how -- we didn't know how bad his knee was. You tell me who actually knew what the heck was going on with his knee. All we know is he had surgery on it, and we all assumed that he was going to be fine, didn't we? We all assumed that he was going to come out healthy and he might have a little bit of problems. Obviously it bothered him out there.
And then to find out that he's got fractured whatever and a ruptured whatever and torn this and torn that, it's like, geez.
Q. Is that the true nature of golf handicap? Does that make it more fair? That he still wins with a handicap like that?
SEAN O'HAIR: He's going to find a way to win, no matter what. It doesn't matter. It really doesn't matter. We were actually talking about this. If he broke his arm and he couldn't play right-handed, he'd find a way to play left-handed. It's not so much him as a golfer, it's him as a person that's more impressive to me. You know, it's -- no matter what the guy decided to do, whether it was a golfer, a race car driver, you know, basketball player, football player, whatever he decided to do, he was probably going to be the best at that task, just because I think he's that competitive and I think he's that strong mentally.
And when you have a major tournament like the U.S. Open and you have so much pressure -- I mean, imagine going to every event and people expecting you to win, and if you get second place, you screwed up, right? So he goes in the U.S. Open with all this high expectation. He played, from what I know, nine holes or 18 holes, nine one day and nine the other day, and he wasn't able to hit five balls in a row, so he had no practice, comes off of surgery and wins the U.S. Open on a bum leg. The guy has got balls. That's all I have to say.
Q. The reaction from the general public was this is unbelievable, amazing. Among the golfers on TOUR, you guys all knew this about him, that whatever he was going to do, he was going to be great at. Did that kind of take the legend to another level?
SEAN O'HAIR: I think what he did the U.S. Open was one of the greatest things, like I said, ever achieved in sports, at least what we've seen. You know, it's like -- maybe it's not as drastic as Ben Hogan getting in a car accident and winning the U.S. Open, because obviously he wasn't in a car wreck. But to win in that situation obviously in quite a bit of pain was impressive. So what are you going to say? The guy is good.
DOUG MILNE: Sean, thanks so much for taking the time. Good luck this week.
End of FastScripts