tampabay.com

O'Hair to Wie: Just have fun

By BOB HARIG
Published July 12, 2005


ST. ANDREWS, Scotland - While Sean O'Hair works on getting a passport so he can play in his first British Open, there is time to contemplate the irony of his accomplishment.

O'Hair, a 23-year-old rookie, won his first PGA Tour event at the John Deere Classic on Sunday. That's the same tournament where Michelle Wie , 15, was all the rage before missing the cut on Friday. And O'Hair knows a bit about that.

He was a different kind of prodigy ... at least in the mind of his father, Marc, who insisted his son turn pro at age 17 instead of competing against junior players. So Sean and his dad traveled the country, playing in mini-tour events, attempting and failing five times at the PGA Tour Qualifying School.

An unhealthy situation developed, as the father would force the son to run a mile for every stroke over par in tournaments. So strained did their relationship become that O'Hair broke away from his dad more than two years ago and rarely speaks to him.

Perhaps the tough-love approach toughened O'Hair on Sunday, with his victory earning him $720,000 and a spot this week at the Old Course. It appears more likely, however, that the peace that came when he met his wife, Jackie - who used to play golf at Florida Atlantic - and the acceptance from her family has more to do with it.

The situations are entirely different, but O'Hair has to know a bit where Wie is coming from - a talented teenager reaching for the stars at a young age.

"I just hope she keeps on doing what she's doing and doesn't put too much pressure on herself and just enjoys it," O'Hair said at the John Deere in Silvis, Ill. "Because she's becoming something special and she should have fun with that."

Sounds like good advice from a man who knows a little something about it.

GORE'S DECISION: Jason Gore became a fan favorite at the U.S. Open last month, earning a final-day, final-group pairing with defending champion Retief Goosen . That didn't go too well as Gore, not even fully exempt on the Nationwide Tour, shot 84 to drop into a tie for 49th. In the process, Gore lost many potential perks.

But his good-natured attitude earned him attention and could have brought a bunch of sponsor exemptions on the PGA Tour.

Gore turned them down, he said, to concentrate on playing where he belonged. Instead of accepting a sponsor's invite to the John Deere, Gore elected to play the Nationwide Tour's National Mining Association Pete Dye Classic. And he won.

Sunday's victory goes far beyond the $108,000 he earned. Gore moved from 57th to seventh on the Nationwide money list. The top 20 money winners at the end of the season earn their PGA Tour card for 2005.

"This is where I needed to be," Gore said. "My goal is to get my card through the Nationwide Tour, and to do that I've got to be out here every week. It certainly paid off for me this week. This takes a big chunk out of the work that I have in front of me."

GOING LOW?: The weather has been unseasonably warm in Scotland, and if it continues, there is concern the Old Course will be all but defenseless. Someone asked Nick Faldo , who won the Open here in 1990, if he thought a score of 59 was possible.

"No, no," Faldo said. "The golfing gods will strangle them on 17, just in case."

No player has shot lower than 63 in a major championship.

AROUND ST. ANDREWS: Germany's Bernhard Langer , Sweden's Fredrick Jacobson and England's Brian Davis got into the Open field Monday, replacing Shingo Katayama , Jay Haas and David Howell , who withdrew with injuries. ... Tiger Woods played a practice round at the Old Course on Monday that began at 6:30 a.m. and concluded by 10. He played with Jim Furyk and Mark O'Meara . ... Tee times begin at 6:30 a.m. local time (1:30 a.m. EDT) on Thursday and run through 4:21 p.m. ... Jack Nicklaus , playing in his final Open and perhaps his last major championship, is paired with Tom Watson , the man who beat him by a shot in 1977 at Turnberry in the Duel in the Sun, and Luke Donald for the first two rounds.