Sean O'Hair contending again after lengthy and frustrating battle with injury
Sean O'Hair plays his second shot on the eighth hole during the first round of the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship.
It’s been nearly a decade since Sean O’Hair last won on the PGA Tour, but after a second straight five-under 67 on Friday at the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship, the 38-year-old enters the weekend in the Dominican Republic with a chance for a fifth career victory and first since 2011.
It’s a position that just 18 months ago seemed unimaginable, if not impossible.
In February 2019, O’Hair withdrew from the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am with what doctors thought after an MRI were broken ribs. It turned out that it was much worse than that—after a month off, another doctor discovered that O’Hair had completely torn his left oblique muscle.
The injury was so bad that it required surgery and a recovery process that included dry needling, a procedure in which a long, thin needle is used to treat the underlying muscular trigger points for pain and movement impairments.
“I had quite a bit of scar tissue built up for whatever reason,” O’Hair said. “I had a car accident in ’08 that it could have been that, I have no idea, but I hurt it playing golf at Pebble a couple years ago and that was it.”
It was also just the beginning.
Following months of arduous rehab, O’Hair slowly made his way back. After a couple of months of being able to hit balls, he finally teed it up last December in the QBE Shootout, a three-day hit-and-giggle event at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Fla.
He got through the event pain-free and continued his slow climb back, first on the Korn Ferry Tour and then the PGA Tour, where he’s playing on a major medical extension.
The PGA Tour, meanwhile, has proved a tougher haul. With 16 more starts to keep his card, O’Hair came into this week with two missed cuts and a T-50 in three starts. Friday, though, he made five birdies, no bogeys and was near the top of the leaderboard though two rounds in the Dominican Republic.
Health-wise, O’Hair says he feels “great.” His game is starting to come around, too, and he’s cautiously optimistic.
“I've got 16 starts to try to keep my job, and after I keep my job, I've got to keep my job as far as make enough points to get in the playoffs,” he said. “I don't want to get ahead of myself. I think my potential is a lot better than that, but I think mentally I just want to kind of take one step at a time and just baby steps.”
O’Hair also learned plenty along the way as well, about his game and himself.
“I think I got a little bit lazy and took too much for granted right before I got injured,” he said. "I think I was more counting the days to retirement and I think you get that taken away from you, the ability to play golf, and you figure out that you love the game still and you still want to compete.”