Golf, as the renowned head doc called it, is a game of confidence, a concept that surely would have been a tough sell on this Sunday.
The Wells Fargo Championship was won by a former shoe salesman who had missed eight straight cuts and might have been considering reacquainting himself with a Florsheim catalog.
Instead, James Hahn magically found the elixir that banished the negative thoughts and the months of frustration and defeated Roberto Castro in a playoff at the Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C.
“You just keep believing,” Hahn said. “Eight straight missed cuts is tough. Not a lot of people can understand that. To come out here…”
He was unable to hold back tears, then apologized for it, unnecessarily, given the circumstances.
“Honestly, it’s the most difficult part of what we do for a living,” he said. “You start questioning yourself. Are you good enough? Will it ever happen again? Then you start thinking into the future as far as selling shoes again for a living.”
A game of confidence? Hahn entered the tournament ranked 124th in driving accuracy, 126th in greens in regulation, 194th in strokes gained putting, 164th in scoring average.
A ninth straight missed cut would have been a substantially better bet on a difficult course that will host the PGA Championship in 2017 and demonstrated its major championship bona fides by holding the winning score to single digits, nine-under par 279.
There, too, was the competition. Rickie Fowler, ranked fifth in the world, was the 54-hole leader. Fowler, Rory McIlroy (ranked third) and Phil Mickelson tied for fourth. Justin Rose (ranked 10th) finished third. Hahn came in ranked 134th.
Yet Hahn was the last man standing, though he made it more dramatic than was necessary. When Castro, playing behind him, bogeyed the 17th hole, Hahn stood on the 18th tee with a one-stroke lead, hit the green in two, then three-putted from 34 feet for bogey, including a miss from nine feet for par that would have allowed him to win in regulation.
A few minutes later, Castro two-putted from 51 feet, including his holing a six-footer for par at 18 to send it to extra holes.
On the first playoff hole, the par-4 18th, Castro hit his tee shot left and into a creek, incurring a one-stroke penalty that led to a bogey. Hahn, meanwhile, made a routine par, as though there is such a thing given his difficulties this year and needing to make a four-footer to win the playoff.
You just keep believing, as he said, even when the the odds are against you and the shoe department is on hold.