The Loop

Verdi: Driving Remains O'Hair's Bugaboo

August 07, 2008

BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- Sean O'Hair, who would look very good on Capt. Paul Azinger's U.S. Ryder Cup team, was at or near the lead for much of his first round in Thursday's PGA Championship at Oakland Hills CC. He finished off a one-under-par 69 with a 25-foot putt for par on the lengthy and snug 18th hole, where he hopes to introduce himself to the fairway perhaps Friday.

"Could you tell me where your drive went there? We didn't see it," said Zach Johnson, posing as a reporter, pen and pad in hand, during a post-round scrum.

O'Hair looked up, then cracked up.

"Could you tell me how you won the Masters?" said O'Hair, whose tee ball in question veered well right. He exited the woods, then pitched on, later to remark, "one thing about this course for sure. When you get the ball on the greens, it's not over."

Indeed, O'Hair lofted a nice 4-iron on the previous hole, a 238-yard par 3, landing the ball on the upper shelf, about the only place on the entire surface that is receptive. But that left him a long, sliding, accelerating putt over a serious slope, and he wound up three-putting. It didn't seem fair. Then again, on No. 11, he drilled a putt up an incline from 35 feet and it disappeared for birdie.

"I'm not really thinking about it until you ask," said O'Hair, referring to the Ryder Cup race. Since hiring Sean Foley, Stephen Ames' swing coach, O'Hair has progressed and feels confident. Foley has O'Hair pointing his left foot out slightly to facilitate smoother legwork and allow a stronger move through the ball. O'Hair is 14th in the Ryder Cup standings.

It's working and so is the rest of O'Hair's body after a car wreck just before the U.S. Open, from which he withdrew before starting. He wound up playing one round of golf in June while tending to sore ribs. Driving on slick roads near his home outside Philadelphia, O'Hair skidded into a power pole, totaling a shiny new Mustang he had owned for all of three days. "I wasn't going that fast," said O'Hair. "The pole just kind of jumped out there in front of me. Plus, it was a stick shift, and I'd never driven one before."

O'Hair sold the vehicle, or what was left of it.

--Bob Verdi