2003: PGA Tour - Oberholser again on stage with Woods
By Dave Seanor
LA Jolla, Calif.
Arron Oberholser has never lacked for confidence. OK, he can be downright cocky.
When he played at San Jose State, occasionally knocking heads with Tiger Woods, Oberholser used to brag that inside 150 yards, he was better than the Stanford star. He fondly recalls getting the best of Woods in the final round of the 1996 U.S. Collegiate at Pasatiempo Golf Club in Santa Cruz, Calif., shooting 64 to Woods’ 71.
Woods, of course, left Stanford and turned professional after his sophomore year. During the ensuing seven seasons, he and Oberholser have competed on the same turf only twice. Oberholser missed the cut at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in 2001 (Woods tied for 13th). But the rivalry took on some of its old luster at last week’s Buick Invitational, where Tour rookie Oberholser tied for fourth place, six shots behind Woods.
“I never really worried about it,” Oberholser said of his winding path to the PGA Tour. “I always knew that someday I was going to be out here. I always had faith in myself.”
In 1997, Oberholser had a disappointing finish to his college career, tying for 42nd at the NCAA Championship and being named a third-team All-American.
The year before, he was second to Woods in victories (five among 10 top 10s) and earned first-team All-America honors after a tie for ninth at the NCAAs.
Oberholser stayed in school after his golf eligibility had expired, earning a degree in broadcast journalism. He played amateur golf the summer of ’98, posting six top 10s in national events, including a victory at the Eastern Amateur. Before turning pro that fall, he was No. 11 in the Golfweek/Titleist Amateur Rankings.
Oberholser spent 1999 on the Canadian Tour, winning twice and earning rookie of the year honors. He fought wrist problems and didn’t win in 2000, yet finished second on the Canadian Order of Merit thanks to eight top 10s in 10 events. A tie for 37th at PGA Tour Q-School in 2000 gained him exempt status on the Buy.com Tour, but his 2001 season was limited to three events because of the wrist injury. Last year, he won twice on the Buy.com Tour and finished second on the money list.
In four PGA Tour starts this season (Sony, Phoenix, AT&T and Buick), he has made four cuts and is 37th on the money list with $219,503. He led the field at Torrey Pines after an opening 65.
At 28, Oberholser hesitates to call himself a late bloomer. Different people’s games mature at different rates, he says. The influx of so-called “young guns” on Tour, he points out, is a recent phenomenon.
“It never used to be that way out here, from what I saw,” Oberholser said. “Guys didn’t hit their stride until they were in their mid-30s, when you were mentally and physically mature.
“Some guys are just blessed with the ability to focus so incredibly well and block out everything at such a young age. They’re able to handle the pressures that go along with playing out here.”
His tact these days is to “keep golf as simple as possible” and envision himself as a 12-year-old who plays golf for the pure fun of it.
“That’s what I try to do . . . just get immersed in the golf course and have a good time,” he said.