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August 10, 2005

Sean O'Hair


JULIUS MASON: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, Sean O'Hair joining us at the 87th PGA Championship. Sean is playing in his very first PGA Championship.

Welcome to Baltusrol Golf Club. How about some opening thoughts about the golf course and we'll go to Q & A, please.

SEAN O'HAIR: Okay, obviously it's very long. It's in great shape. It's playing even longer right now because it's so wet. But the drivers and the putters are going to be the key this week. I think everybody is saying that. There's no tricks on the greens, so basically the driver gets you out in play, and take advantage of your length and go from there.

Q. A lot of good things this year: Your first victory, a finish at the British Open. I wonder, was one or the other kind of Welcome to the NFL moments? Can you relate what it was like to play with Tiger on a Sunday in a situation where he was in the hunt? What was that like?

SEAN O'HAIR: That was a lot of fun. You know, I've told people that there's golf, and then there's Tiger golf. You know, playing with Tiger is just a great experience for I think everybody for a lot of different reasons. Number one, he's the best player in the world, so you're going to learn a ton from just watching him and everything.

I learned a lot just as far as how he conducts himself. I think he conducts himself very well. He handles himself very well with the crowds. I think he interacts with them.

You know, I always say I wasn't around during the Arnold Palmer days, but he really was interacting with them, looking at people in the eye and interacting with them. And I never heard that Tiger does that, and I definitely did that when I played with him, and he just is a good guy. You're playing pretty much, I guess, in an arena of 20,000 people it seemed like on every hole.

I think it was kind of a college football type of atmosphere, and it just was a lot of fun. It just kind of made you focus a little bit more, and it's kind of like this type atmosphere here; there's a ton more people and just a lot more excitement, so it was a great experience.

Q. Just what kind of expectations did you have coming into this year as far as what you're capable of doing out here?

SEAN O'HAIR: You know, I think my goals were obviously to first just get comfortable out here and start being able to have a few good finishes. And obviously as a rookie I think your first goal is to try to keep your card; that's the first goal.

But my goals have kind of changed through the year. You know, I kept my card after the Byron Nelson, and I got a taste of what it was like to be in contention. So after the Byron, it was to try to put myself in contention more often so I could possibly win, and I obviously won. That's my goal for the remainder of the year. There's a lot of big tournaments coming up, and I just want to improve on each week on whatever I need to improve on and try to learn as much as I can.

I think if I do that, I'll contend more and hopefully win more.

Q. What came together for you this year that allowed you to really take this big step?

SEAN O'HAIR: I think for a rookie, the first thing is feeling comfortable out here. You know, especially for a young guy like me, a lot of the guys out here were guys that I looked up to during my early teens, so I think there's definitely an all factor involved. I don't know, you just work hard and you just believe in yourself, and obviously for me, I'm a big believer in success breeds success, and I've just got a great support system.

I've got a great guy on the bag, I've got great support family wise, and I'm working hard and things are just coming together. So it just kind of was a snowball effect, really.

Q. Having won, now having the exemption, it's a little different for everybody, but how has it freed you up, so to speak; so you can be more in control and make your schedule, that sort of stuff?

SEAN O'HAIR: Well, obviously it frees up your schedule because you don't have to play so much, because at the end of the year, I guess if you are feeling the pressure, you've probably played too many events. If I was in a different situation, I'd probably be playing every single week I could.

But it definitely frees you up because the pressure of worrying about keeping your card is taken off and you can just go out and play. I think with that pressure taken off, you're able to focus on what you're supposed to be thinking, and that's just working hard and letting the chips fall where they may. That's kind of been my thing is I don't go into each tournament with a specific goal in mind. Obviously I want to play well and obviously I want to win, but right now I don't think I'm quite seasoned enough to come into a tournament like this or any kind of tournament and say, you know, well, I'm going to win this event. Obviously that's the goal. But I try to focus more on the process rather than results.

I don't know, it's just by keeping my card, I guess after 12 events, it just helped me to have more fun, and I think that's the key.

Q. Now that you're playing in more that you have the ability to be in majors, your name has been mentioned as somebody because the PGA has had the unique distinction the past couple of years of allowing talented players, not necessarily named players, to stay with the biggest players in the game, do you feel like you can do that this week?

SEAN O'HAIR: Yeah. I mean, I think I definitely have the ability to play well this week. You know, obviously I can't control what other players do, but this golf course definitely fits my game.

Whenever I'm playing well, I hit the ball fairly long and straight. That's normally the strength of my game is the driver, and the driver is the key on this golf course.

My thing is just I've got to stay out of my own way, and that's just, like I said, focusing on the process instead of the results and staying away from "I've got to do this" or "I've got to do that."

But I definitely feel obviously I'm very confident with my game right now; I'm playing well. I think if I just go out there and have a good time this week, it's going to be a good week.

Q. I'll throw a couple at you. What were you doing a year ago roughly at this time, and can you sort of comment on how far you've come since then? And B, when is your civilian caddie going to go back to his real job, so is he bringing more than just carrying a bag to the equation for you to give you a sort of solid figure there to lean on?

SEAN O'HAIR: I think I was playing I know I was playing the Cleveland Tour last year this time. I'm not exactly sure where I was, but I was on the mini Tours obviously, traveling with my wife in our motor home from tournament to tournament, which is kind of funny when you think about it. So I've come a long way in a year.

My father in law, you know, he's not just a caddie, he's a mentor, he's family support. I mean, he's anything you can think of, and he just does a lot more me. He does more for me off the golf course than on the golf course, and he does a ton for me on the golf course. You know, hopefully if he can keep on putting up with me, he'll stay out here and we'll keep on making this work out.

Q. What do you consider to be the strengths of your game, and now that you've seen Tiger up close and you've had some success, what do you consider your weaknesses? What do you have to work on?

SEAN O'HAIR: My strengths are obviously the driver, and whenever I'm normally driving it well, I putt well.

My weaknesses this year have been putting. If you look at my stats, putting is definitely a weakness. I think it's more of not so much the ten feet and in, I'm normally pretty good in that range; I think it's more the lag putting. I've had a few too many three putts this year.

You know, I guess I can always get better with the wedge play. I think that was something with Tiger that I noticed at the Buick. It's definitely, I guess you could call it almost like a chip and putt type of golf course. There's obviously holes where you don't have wedges in there. It was just a good, solid golf course, but there was a lot of holes where you had pitch shots in as your approach shot. And Tiger did a great job of obviously taking advantage of his length, and whenever he hits it around the greens, I mean, I'd say 80 percent of the time, he's making up and down, whether it's for par, whether it's for birdie, whatever. And I'm probably about 50 percent or just under.

That's definitely something that I'm going to work on, but obviously I'm improving because, you know, like we were just talking about, I was playing on the Cleveland Tour last year. I'm just going to hopefully, gradually, just improve on everything in my game, and hopefully one day if I'm fortunate enough, be up there around Tiger.

Q. You were talking about pressure earlier, and everybody knows you've dealt with a lot of pressure situations at an early age, unlike a lot of players. How much has that toughened you for this, and how much fun have you had this year on this Tour?

SEAN O'HAIR: I think turning pro at 17 and struggling the way I did for, I guess, six years, five or six years, it definitely toughens you up. When I was 17, 18, 19 years old, I was playing against guys almost twice my age with a ton more experience. I think the mini Tours are very much cut throat type of environments, and so it definitely helped me to, I guess, learn how the world really works, and I learned a lot of lessons, and I think I definitely benefitted from that, and it's definitely helping me now.

This year, it's been great. I mean, just the whole so many experiences that I can talk about from the beginning of the year, from my first PGA TOUR event ever and at Sony making the cut and seeing Ernie Els in the locker room about twice my size and him saying hello to me; that was pretty cool (laughter).

You know, there's just so many great experiences this year, and I just don't think I'll ever forget this year. It's just been a dream come true, and I've learned a lot, and it's just been a blessing.

Q. I'm curious, now that you have the years of perspective to look back on it, do you feel like your heart was fully in turning pro when you did? I mean, mentally, physically, do you feel like you were totally into it at that point, or can you look back now and say, well, maybe I wasn't?

SEAN O'HAIR: I think whenever I turned pro, I definitely wanted to turn pro. You know, I think, though, it was a decision that a 17 year old kid makes. I wasn't good enough; I didn't have obviously the experience, and I didn't have any logical reasons to turn pro. Should I have turned pro? I have no idea. Because number one, I met my wife because I turned pro, which is the number one reason. Number two, would I be here if I went to college? Who knows.

You know, I think about that sometimes, and every single time I realize that, you know what, I'm on the PGA TOUR, I was on the PGA TOUR at 22. Now I'm 23, I've had a great rookie year, and I've got a great family and a beautiful wife and a beautiful baby girl and just life couldn't be better. There's no regrets on my end.

Q. You actually kind of answered my question right there, but I guess it's more not to dwell on the past, but what has been most rewarding about the season or the year?

SEAN O'HAIR: To start from basically my wife and I putting our last pennies into a mini Tour two years ago and doing it ourselves. That's the most satisfying thing is that basically my wife and I started from zero, and we've turned this into something, and that's pretty cool if you think about it.

Q. A few years ago you were on the Cleveland Tour?

SEAN O'HAIR: I'm trying to remember exactly what the year. It was the summer of 2003, I believe.

Q. That was the Cleveland Tour?

SEAN O'HAIR: That was the Cleveland Tour, and last year was the Cleveland Tour, as well.

Q. Given the governing body and what this represents in this major, has there ever been a club pro in your past, like maybe in Lubbock sitting down with you, that helped you out, and what was his name? And when you were a kid what players on the PGA TOUR did you look up to the most, idolize the most?

SEAN O'HAIR: When I grew up obviously in Lubbock, the head pro over at Lubbock Country Club, Mark Vincent, kind of started me as far as instruction in the game, and that started at a really young age.

And the assistant pro over at Lubbock Country Club at the time, Brian hand was obviously a big influence in my life. There's been a lot of members of the PGA of America that have been involved in my life and in my game and have had a huge impact, and a lot of good memories.

What was the second?

Q. When you were a kid what players did you idolize?

SEAN O'HAIR: That's easy: Davis Love. I loved the swing and I loved how he conducted himself, and I loved that he wore Polo. That was the deal.

JULIUS MASON: Sean also won the 1998 PGA Junior Championship.

Q. When you met your wife, by your accounts, you were sort of shy and lonely and had never had a date, and at the time seemed to be on the fast track to nowhere. Have you ever asked her what it was she saw in you (laughter) that made her take you in?

SEAN O'HAIR: I think it's my amazing good looks (laughter).

No, I don't know. I think whenever you see, I guess, a puppy dog on the side of the street and you kind of feel sorry for it, you kind of take it in. I don't know. You know, I think she was very shy, and obviously you explained it very well. I had never been on a date before, I was 19 years old, and I think she was kind of trying to meet new people, because she was from Philly and she was down in Florida kind of by herself and playing golf for Florida Atlantic. And she wanted to try to meet some people, and so she came up to me on I didn't have the guts to come up to her, so she had to come up to me, and we just started talking and started playing some golf.

The thing about it was that was so great is she hated talking on the phone and I hated talking on the phone, but whenever we would talk to one another, we would spend four hours on the phone. It just was meant to be because I could never talk to somebody so openly and feel so comfortable around her. I think she kind of felt the same way. It just was kind of meant to be.

It's crazy when I think about it because her father, my father in law, actually watched me when I was 15 years old play at Aronimink, and when I was practicing over at Heron Bay, I was 19, her father saw my bag, and said, "Hey, I watched that kid over at Aronimink and you should go introduce yourself." It's a small world, and she just kind of was my guardian angel and she came at the right time.

Q. This is probably a little bit out of left field, but given your incredibly torrid play of late, has Jack Nicklaus maybe contacted you about being a Presidents Cup pick?

SEAN O'HAIR: No, no. I think as far as captain's picks, I definitely shouldn't be a pick. Number one, I don't have the experience.

Obviously I would love to play on The Presidents Cup team. I would rather earn my way from my play to get on there, because I think there's a few more guys on that list that are a lot higher on the list than I am that definitely deserve it a lot more than I do. I haven't really even thought about it, to be honest with you.

Q. Over those five or six years that you did struggle on the mini Tours, what prevented you, A, from burning out, and B, from seeing that somewhere out there, there was still a light at the end of the tunnel?

SEAN O'HAIR: You know, I think I definitely thought about giving up the game, and I thought about it a lot. You know, it's just kind of every time I would think about it, number one, I would say, well, what else would I do (laughter), and there really wasn't anything. Nothing would come to mind. And the main thing is, would I be happy if I gave up the game? And the answer was always, no, I wouldn't be happy; I love the game too much.

I put so much hard work into it already, it would just kind of be my whole life would be kind of just wasted, and that was kind of when Jackie came into my life. I'm not just saying it, but she really turned it around for me. I mean, she just made my personal life a lot happier. You know, I had not only a girlfriend, but I had my best friend. I had a friend that I could talk to, and it just kind of got me from a not so great situation to the greatest situation, and so that was really kind of when things turned around.

I don't know if I think I've always believed that I would make it on Tour. I think there was always something inside me that knew I was going to be out here, but I think Jackie really made me realize that when she came into my life.

Q. Let me try and buttress some of the answers that you just gave us here. During your early years struggling as you admitted, and before Jackie came into your life, or when Jackie came into your life, could you tell us, as most people have done, did you change your game apart from the having a woman friend? Did you change your game, and what did you change in your game that made you successful to this point?

SEAN O'HAIR: As far as physically, I really didn't. I guess, you know, she would always get on to me about being so technical with my game, so I stopped being technical and start of kind of I went to my feel. Obviously I still am a technical player, but I go more on feel.

I mean, there really were no changes. I think the change was mentally. I just was in a happy place, and golf wasn't number one anymore, and when golf wasn't number one, Jackie was number one, it just kind of took the pressure off.

I think that was the main thing is Jackie just made it a great situation, and she if I played bad, it was okay. I'm still going to get a hug and kiss when I get off the golf course. And whenever you don't have the weight of the world on your shoulders, it's a lot easier to perform, and I think that was the main reason why it turned around.

Q. How often do you think of while you're going through this great season, how often do you think of your dad and what you went through during those tough times?

SEAN O'HAIR: You know, I definitely think about my dad. I don't try to think about the hard times. You know, he still is my dad and I love him, and I always hope the best for him. But like I said, you know, some of the things that I went through probably helped me get to this point. I don't think too many 22 year olds have won a PGA TOUR event and have had a successful season like this on their rookie year. He definitely helped me. He sacrificed a lot for me, and I'm very appreciative of that.

You know, things are going so well, and I have such a great situation right now, just as far as the hard times, it's like another life. I don't even really think about it.

JULIUS MASON: Sean O'Hair, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much.

SEAN O'HAIR: Thank you.

End of FastScripts.

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