If the face, the swing, the smile, and the scores looked familiar last week in Las Vegas, it’s because they should have. They had been a steady presence on the PGA Tour for many seasons, at least until Sean O’Hair wandered astray. Hard to say why he did, but the good thing is, he assumes ownership.
“A lot of stuff was going on,” he said. “But (none of it) was the problem. I was the problem. I just played really bad.”
Having made well in excess of a million dollars in each of his eight seasons – twice he made more than two, another time more than four – O’Hair cashed just one check for $13,250 from mid-May on. For 2013 he totaled just $268,614. When his PGA Tour season came to an end in late August, he was hurting.
“It was almost like I had an identity crisis. I was trying this, trying that. I didn’t know who I was as a player. It was a pretty dark year for me, to be honest.
“I questioned myself. I even questioned whether I wanted to do this again.”
Fortunately his wife, Jackie, and her parents knew the correct answer and provided the necessary kick in the butt. So when O’Hair snapped out of it, he faced the reality of going back to the Web.com Tour Finals in an effort to regain status on the PGA Tour.
He doesn’t deny that it presented a challenge.
“It was a real eye-opener. I’m going into my 10th season on the PGA Tour, so you get used to the lifestyle out here. It was humbling and made me realize things.”
First thing being this: “I was disappointed going into those events, but if I had kept that attitude, I wouldn’t have gotten my card back. I looked at it as a positive, as a way to build some momentum and get my card back.”
At 31, O’Hair handled the task nicely, finishing T-11, T-17, and T-8 in three of the four events to regain his status. That he has continued the solid play – a T-15 in Las Vegas giving him $122,650 for the first two weeks of the 2013-14 season – is cause not so much for celebration as confirmation.
He is proud of fighting through the slide and being where he knows he belongs. And the good news is, “I might be playing some of the best golf of my life.”
O’Hair doesn’t dwell on the decision to walk away from instructor Sean Foley more than two years ago, though he emphasizes that they remain close friends. In fact, O’Hair reached out to Foley last year when he was struggling, even going so far as to ask about reuniting.
“But he just had too many people, so it didn’t work out,” O’Hair said.
Foley, however, spent a day talking to O’Hair, “he sort of gave me a good path,” and they still keep in touch.
It’s a pro in the Philadelphia area, where O’Hair lives, who watches after him now. John Dunigan talks about shaping shots, though he was originally hired to work on the putting. “I really liked what he had to say, so I picked his brain about ball-striking and got some simple tips. I’ve been playing nicely ever since.”
But he felt he needed more. “I’ve never played well at this game when it’s complicated. The last two-and-a-half years it was very complicated and very difficult.”
To “uncomplicate” things, O’Hair has taken two steps. One, his father-in-law, Steve Lucas, is back as his caddie. And two, Julie Elion, a mental coach who has helped Phil Mickelson and Geoff Ogilvy among others, has been brought in.
“I’m getting back to what I know,” he said.