SAN MARTIN, Calif. — The greeting from Frys.com Open President Duke Butler is meant as a joke, even though it has some truth to it.
“Happy New Year,” he tells players when they arrive at CordeValle Golf Club. That’s still 85 days away — except on the PGA Tour calendar. For the first time, it goes to a wraparound 2013-14 season that begins Thursday.
Sean O’Hair is most likely to take him at his word. Not only is it a new year, it feels like a new start.
Just over a week ago, O’Hair completed one of the most gratifying months of his career with his best result of the season. It was only a tie for eighth. And it was on the Web.com Tour. But it meant he could keep his job.
“Got it done,” he said. “Got my card back.”
The first step forward was to take what felt like 100 steps back. Just four years removed from beating Ernie Els in singles at the Presidents Cup, O’Hair went through such a miserable year that he wasn’t sure he wanted to keep playing golf.
He lost confidence in his swing. He suffered what he called an identity crisis on the golf course.
“I forgot myself as a player, how I swung and how I played,” O’Hair said. “And then taking that on the golf course, I almost forgot how to act and how to think. I really just got to a point where I just kind of was blank out there and lost my fight. Anything you could possibly do wrong, I did wrong this year. I just had to take a step back and had to first ask myself, ‘Do I really want to do this anymore?”’
Burnout at age 32 would be understandable.
O’Hair was a product of an overzealous father who was caught up in the arrival of Tiger Woods a generation ago. He groomed the boy to be a golfer and made him run a mile for every bogey. O’Hair eventually sought his own way.