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May 6, 2009

Sean O'Hair


DOUG MILNE: We'd like to welcome Sean O'Hair to the media center here at THE PLAYERS Championship. Thanks for joining us for a few minutes.
SEAN O'HAIR: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Life is certainly taking it to the next level after your convincing win last week at the Quail Hollow Championship. Kind of your mindset based on that win, and how you're feeling heading into the week here at THE PLAYERS Championship.
SEAN O'HAIR: Obviously it was an exciting week last week. I hit the ball fantastic and was just one of those weeks that I think everything kind of went my way a little bit. On the weekend I played really solid, so it was nice to close it out, especially so soon after Bay Hill, so it was nice.
I've gotten a lot of texts and a lot of voicemails. It's been hard to return everybody's phone calls, but it's been a lot of fun. Not feeling so great right now. I think I got some allergies from Sunday, but my game feels fantastic. I hit some balls yesterday and I'm still hitting the ball really nicely and the game feels great. Right now I'm just mainly focused on trying to stay energized and healthy for the week.
DOUG MILNE: You mentioned focus, is there a distraction factor at all? You mentioned all the phone calls and texts.
SEAN O'HAIR: Sure. I think just obviously when you come to the golf course after winning there's a lot of people coming up to you saying congratulations, which is fantastic, but also it takes time away from your practice and you can kind of get a little bit off your game plan as far as staying focused and whatnot.
I think my goal right now is obviously my health right now and obviously just staying into this week. Obviously last week was fantastic, but we're at THE PLAYERS Championship now, and starting tomorrow it's a whole new week. It's definitely a matter of trying to focus on what I'm trying to do this week.

Q. Sean, hearing from a lot of different players, including Tiger Woods yesterday, that you've got the game to do a lot of great things in this sport. What are your expectations for yourself? How much do tournaments like this one and the majors weigh on your mind, and in the long haul, how important are they to you in terms of wanting to be up there with the Ernie Elses of the world, people like that?
SEAN O'HAIR: Sure. I think for me, I don't want to be just a guy on the PGA TOUR making a good living. That's not my goal. My goal is to win as many golf tournaments as possible. I want to win major chips. I want to win this tournament. There's a lot of goals I have. At the end of my career I'd love to be in the Hall of Fame. But to do that I think it's more a matter of instead of focusing on all that stuff, you have to focus on the process of how do I get there.
So to answer your question, obviously I've got a lot of high expectations or goals, I should say. And this is definitely one of the events that I have on my list to win, for sure.

Q. How do you explain this turnaround in your putting stats this year? That's always been -- you were always as good as anybody with 13 out of 14 clubs and your putting stats have been below average, even?
SEAN O'HAIR: I think a few things actually have an effect on that. I think, number one, Rotella and I always talk about with putting, if you're not a good wedge player, if you don't have the opportunities from inside ten feet, your putting statistics aren't going to be that great. If your birdie opportunities are from 20, 25 feet instead of ten, eight feet, you're obviously not going to putt as well as somebody who does have those opportunities. So that's number one.
I think number two, I've changed my stroke a little bit. I've always been kind of an armsy putter, and I haven't really ever released the putter face. And I think I'm more -- I've changed my stroke to more of a shoulder rotation. So that's definitely helped. I think my putting stroke has improved quite a bit in the last couple of months.
And then obviously when you start seeing that ball go in the hole, your mind changes awfully quickly. I've always struggled a little bit since I've been on TOUR with the flat stick and I think that's one thing that's held me back. But the ball-striking has given me so many more opportunities from realistic distances of making putts. So when I do miss a putt I'm not really that concerned because I know I'm going to have more opportunities.
And so my main focus on the golf course now is instead of making putts is just making good putts, hitting good, solid putts. If they go in, they go in. If they don't, I'll have more opportunities. So I think those three things definitely have helped.

Q. I think Faldo said he learned more from his defeats than his victories, because it made him think more. It seems the same thing with you, with Bay Hill. Would you agree with that, and what have you learned over the last couple of years?
SEAN O'HAIR: I definitely think you learn more from the struggles than you do -- I mean obviously in life if you're given everything, you don't really learn a whole lot from that, do you? So I think by struggling on the mini-Tours early in my career and then obviously having some disappointments like Bay Hill and TPC of '07, you definitely learn lessons from that golf-wise and life-wise, and I think it makes you stronger as a person and as a player.
I think there's not just one lesson you learn from it; I think there's a lot of different lessons you learn from it. If you listen to guys like Tiger and some of the other better players out here, they always talk about trying to learn from their mistakes and learn from even their successes, what did I do right, how can I improve, and so each week is a learning opportunity to take something from that, to make you a better player, and that's kind of the goal.

Q. A couple of weeks ago when you were leading at Arnold Palmer, we talked about you functioning in a more workmanlike position. Is that one of the key ingredients that's changed with Sean O'Hair?
SEAN O'HAIR: Yeah, I think the thing is that I'm starting to learn that obviously I have goals that I want to achieve out here, but I can't focus on, okay, this week I want to win a golf tournament, I want to win THE PLAYERS. But I can't focus on holding up the trophy on Sunday. I've got to focus on putting four good rounds of golf together to give me the best opportunity to hold that trophy up.
And so I think approaching it from that standpoint of being more business-like and being less emotional about it definitely helps. For me I'm going to have a game plan come tomorrow morning to prepare myself for tomorrow. I think if you look at it like that as preparation and the process of playing good golf, the things that I want to achieve will happen. So yeah, that approach has definitely had a difference.

Q. Just a little bit more, is it a case of getting more used to handling highs and lows?
SEAN O'HAIR: Sure. I think experience is the greatest thing ever, in anything, life or golf or whatever. The more I put myself in situations like Bay Hill, last week, like '07 here, where I'm playing against the best players in the world at world-class tournaments, the more comfortable I'm going to be in those situations, and the more comfortable I'm going to be, the better I'm going to play.
To answer your question, it's just I need to start playing, as I'm playing this year, consistently solid to where I put myself in a situation to win a golf tournament on a weekly basis. Once I start doing that, giving myself opportunities, I'm going to win more golf tournaments, because I'll get more comfortable and I will have more opportunities. So, yeah, that's the goal to me right now.

Q. Outside of the putter, what's the most important club on this course?
SEAN O'HAIR: You know, that's a good question. I think you definitely have to be driving it well. If you look at the guys who have won here, like Ames when he won here, he drove it like a fiend. I don't know if it's playing as firm as it has in years past, but obviously the conditions might change, but I think the driver is important.
If I was to say something this week, I'd say your wedge, probably. The putter and the wedge. There's a lot of -- the par-5s you have wedge shots into, there are some short par-4s, that if you're getting inside ten feet and you're giving yourself some good opportunities, you have a good chance to win this golf tournament.

Q. Other than the orange pants, what drove you to Sean Foley? Why did you pick him in Canada last year?
SEAN O'HAIR: You know, I sat down and talked with him a little bit beforehand, and I just liked what he had to say. I liked Ames' swing and I talked to Ames a little bit about him. And he had a lot of good things to say. I didn't know it was definitely going to work out. I don't think you ever really know for a fact if it's going to work or not, but you try it out. I was kind of in a situation where, you know what, try anything out and see where it goes.
The thing that proved to me I think when I worked with him for the first ten minutes on the range at Canada, I knew that this guy was the right guy. He made sense. We communicated together really well. He explained things for the first time where it was like, okay, work on this, but this is why we're going to work on this, and this is why what you're doing is not working. And you lay it out like that, it's kind of like you're sold and you're committed to making the changes. I think that's why these changes have made -- have been so quick for improvement is that he just does a fantastic job explaining himself and why he wants to me to head in a certain direction and how we're going to get there. It's really made some vast improvements in a very short amount of time.

Q. To follow-up on the whole learning thing you talked about before, you were in the mix, not just in the mix in big tournaments, but you were in the mix with Tiger and Phil. What do you learn from competing against those guys and what's your relationship with those guys?
SEAN O'HAIR: I think competing against those guys, I mean, obviously they're the best at what we do. I've played some practice rounds with Vijay, and those three guys, obviously they're very different in how they play golf and their personalities, but they're similar in the way that they know what works best for them and that's what makes them great.
I think some of the best advice I ever got in this game was I played a practice round with Tiger in '06 at the Match Play in LaCosta, and he said, one thing that you just need to do is whatever works for me probably is not going to work for you. But you need to find what works best for you in this game and stick with it, and that's it. And there's a lot being said about that.
I think a lot of people tend to look at people's swings and try to copy and try to act like them and play like them. My personality is different than those guys. But one thing I learned from them is that they know what's best for them, when it comes to the mental approach, when it comes to the technique of the game, how they play. I think that's one thing I've learned from them. And obviously playing with those guys in the final groups, you get a lot more crowds. You get a lot more energy when you're playing on Sunday with those guys. It's a great experience.
That's one of those things that you try and put yourself in the final group. I think the thing is the more you put yourself in final groups on Sunday, the more you're going to play with those guys because they just end up being in those groups. I think the more I do that, the more I'll get comfortable and play well.
As far as my relationship with those guys, I respect them, and I think guys like Tiger and Vijay and those guys, they do a lot for the game.

Q. As you consider your goals and aspirations and you've moved up to the next tier of elite players, I guess, do you envision yourself becoming more of an International "global" player, and specifically are you considering entering the HSBC, since you're qualified and now that it's a WGC event?
SEAN O'HAIR: Yes, I definitely see myself playing more world events. I don't think I'm going to play worldwide like Ernie Els or Retief Goosen, but obviously the PGA TOUR will be my main focus, but I will play more world events in the later months of the year. And yes, I do plan on playing the HSBC.

Q. Even though it's not official money? Is that kind of irrelevant, particularly when you talk about the other goals that you might have?
SEAN O'HAIR: Sure. I think the fact that it's not official really doesn't matter. I think the fact that the best players are going to be there, it's a World Golf Championship. It's not like it's the Screen Door Open. So I'm looking forward to it, because the best players in the world are going to be there and it's good competition. I definitely want to go there and kick everybody's butt.

Q. Would you probably play Singapore before that, as well?
SEAN O'HAIR: You know, I haven't really looked at my schedule too tightly there. There are some events that I'd like to play in before that and after. I haven't quite made a decision on those yet, but I'm still kind of looking, yeah.

Q. We've seen a lot of players over the last ten years, 20-something guys that flash, whether it's a guy like Sergio early or an Anthony Kim, yourself, and most of the time the expectations that we have of them after they do flash don't always measure up because for whatever reason, they hit a wall, the TOUR becomes a grind and they don't quite get there. What do you think you're going to have to do to match -- the expectations for you now are higher. What do you think you're going to have to do to not hit that wall?
SEAN O'HAIR: You know, to be honest with you, you're asking about expectations that you guys have, and with all due respect, I really don't care what you guys think. My thing is I care about where I want to go, and I think the thing is there's a lot of things that have been written in a negative way, especially after Bay Hill and the thing is I can't control what you guys write. I can't control the expectations people have on me. The only thing I can control is how I think of myself and the expectations that I put on myself.
I believe in myself. I believe that I can become one of the better players out here. I think I feel like I'm on the right track to do that.

Q. As a follow-up to that, do you think too much has been written about your past and not enough about your golf game?
SEAN O'HAIR: To be honest with you, I guess as far as media is concerned, I guess my story in the past is compelling, so people want to know about that stuff. To me, like I said, the past is the past. I'm focused on the things that I want to achieve in this game, and I think the more I start having weeks like last week, I do think the less you guys are going to write about the past.
On the other hand, to be honest with you, there hasn't been a whole heck of a lot to write about. It's not like I've won ten golf tournaments in my four years or five years on Tour. This is only my third win. There hasn't been a whole heck of a lot to write about. I don't know if that answers your question.

Q. Are you comfortable talking about how you did overcome all of the issues with your dad?
SEAN O'HAIR: The issues with my dad are in the past. I love my dad; he's my dad. Unfortunately I don't know where that relationship is going to head, but like I said, that's kind of in the past. I'm comfortable talking about it because it doesn't bother me. I think about it from time to time, just the fact that it's kind of a shame that we don't have a relationship and he's my father. On the other hand, I've got a beautiful family that I've got to take care of. I've got two, soon-to-be three, kids that I've got to raise, and that's my focus and my wife is my focus. I'm fine with it, to be honest with you.

Q. You seem to have a good perspective, if your daughters are interested in playing golf one day, how do you think you'd handle that?
SEAN O'HAIR: You know, I think the thing is a lot of people -- I guess one thing that's not said about my dad is that even though he was tough on me, I'm here because of a lot of things that he did. I think he made me tougher. The only thing I regret from it is the fact that we don't have a relationship.
But with my kids, I think the only thing that I learned from my relationship with my dad is that I had the support but obviously he was pretty tough on me. And I think the thing is if my kids want to play golf or they want to play sports or whatever, I'm going to be there to support them. But, too, I'm not going to be there to pressure them, either. If they want to play golf for a living or whatever, great. If they want to play the piano or be an accountant or whatever, whatever they want to do, I'm going to be there for them and support them. And that's it.

Q. This is one of the tournaments, along with the four majors, where a lot is said, written about the setup of the course, the excitement that's created out here. In your opinion what is a great setup for a PGA event, a major event or just a great event? Where does the ability to get birdies and go low play into that equation?
SEAN O'HAIR: Your question is what do the big tournaments have in common?

Q. Yes. What do you consider a great tournament setup?
SEAN O'HAIR: You know, I think the thing is obviously layout, the type of layout you're playing. You see a lot of the major championships and this event are kind of more traditional-style golf courses, doglegs, undulating greens, some small greens.
I think just the conditions are a little bit tougher. Obviously it begins with the greens, as far as the speed, the firmness. Like last week played like a major championship, without the rough, obviously. It seems like the conditions are always a little bit tougher. The fairways are a little bit tighter, faster, the rough always seems to be a little bit thicker and just a lot more demanding on everything in your game. Obviously on the greens you have to have good speed, your strategy has to be good and obviously your ball-striking has to be good. To win a major championship I think you really have to be on top of your game, and that's what you see with this event.
To make birdies I think it's all about patience. You come out to this golf course, and if you have approach of either you're scared, you let the golf course intimidate you, you're not going to play well. If you just simply approach it like, hey, this is golf like anything else. I'm going to go out there, I'm going to hit the fairways, I'm going to hit the greens and give myself as many opportunities as possible and be patient on the greens as far as with your speed and not try and make everything you look at, you should be fine. I think if you do that you'll make plenty of birdies.

Q. I think you talked about this at Bay Hill, when's the baby due? Is it right around the U.S. Open time? Where does that stand, and how are you going to dodge that one?
SEAN O'HAIR: You know, my wife and I have talked about that quite a bit, actually. Hopefully the baby comes before the U.S. Open or obviously after the U.S. Open.

Q. What is the projected due date?
SEAN O'HAIR: June 25th, which I think is the week after the U.S. Open. But thank goodness The Open is in New York, and really I'll deal with that when it comes time to it. It really depends on the whole situation, to be honest with you.

Q. She'll probably stay home?
SEAN O'HAIR: She'll definitely be home.

Q. And induce labor or something like that just to pick the time?
SEAN O'HAIR: No, it's really up to the doctors and how they feel it's healthy for her and healthy for the baby. When we get home we'll talk more about it. But I think right now we're just kind of playing it by ear.
DOUG MILNE: Thanks for joining us.

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