Sean O’Hair turned around the worst week of his most trying golf season on an even tougher golf course.
Not even he imagined it was possible just four days ago.
Coming off a frustratingly close missed cut at the British Open, and in the midst of his worst season on the PGA Tour, O’Hair “played horrific” in Wednesday’s Pro-Am on the eve of the RBC Canadian Open.
All of which made him savor the victory four days later that much more.
O’Hair won after tapping in for bogey on the first playoff hole Sunday, and then watching fellow American Kris Blanks lip out his bogey putt from just over 5 feet. It was the fourth PGA Tour victory for O’Hair, but his first since 2009 and first top-15 during a season in which he’s missed 10 of 17 cuts coming in.
“Wednesday night was my worst point of the whole year,” O’Hair said. “I was lost on Wednesday. To be sitting here, I just really appreciate this win.”
The 29-year-old didn’t see any irony in ending his slump at the Canadian Open in a season in which he’s already fired a couple of Canadians — swing coach Sean Foley, who also now works with Tiger Woods, and caddie Brennan Little. He had plenty of praise for both, but did find some irony in how the week played out.
“It is ironic that I’m sitting here after Wednesday and how I felt, and to be holding this trophy is unbelievable,” said O’Hair, adding he the breakthrough started after reading the Bible later that night. “I ve been holding on so tight and trying to do it forcefully. Finally I just said ‘You know what, it’s time for me to just let go and whatever happens, happens.’”
It worked on a course that punished anyone who tried to force things.
O’Hair started three shots off the lead before shooting 68 to get into a playoff with Blanks (70) at 4-under 276. It was the second-highest winning total on the PGA Tour this season, and the first non-major without a bogey-free round since 2008. Only eight players finished under par on the tree-lined Shaugnessy Golf and Country Club, so it was perhaps fitting it was won with a bogey.
After a tough week, O’Hair didn’t mind seeing Blanks miss.
“There is not one second I’m not feeling like I’m going to just puke,” said O’Hair, whose $936,000 winning share was almost triple his season earnings coming into the week, and vaulted him up 104 places in the FedExCup playoff standings to 43rd with five weeks left in the race. “I’m sorry he missed the put but the fact I won knowing he missed it was just overwhelming.”
Playing the 472-yard, par-4 18th again, O’Hair and Blanks both drove it into the thick rough that many players compared unfavorably to the U.S. Open.
O’Hair’s second shot came up short, but in the fairway, while Blanks ended up in a greenside bunker. He’d gotten up and down from the same spot on his final hole with a 10-foot putt to join the playoff, but couldn’t keep it on the green the second time. After O’Hair two-putted from 21 feet, Blanks chipped it past the hole and, putting on the same line as his last hole, lipped out.
“I’m still a little (ticked),” Blanks said despite doubling his winnings this season with $561,600, and jumping from 116 to 54th in the FedExCup standings. “The more I think about it, the more I’ll probably get upset at the shots I gave away.”
So will Argentina’s Andres Romero, who was 4 over through nine holes before making five birdies in his next seven to tie for the lead. But he missed a 22-foot par putt on No. 18 that would have put him in the playoffs after leaving his bunker shot well short, finishing with an even-par 70 in the final round and alone in third place at 277.
John Daly shot 72 to finish in a four-way tie for ninth at 280 — his first top-10 in six years — with current Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, amateur sensation Patrick Cantley, and Spencer Levin, who all closed with 69s. Despite his over-par finish, Daly said he was taking lots of positives away.
“A ton,” Daly said. “In the past, I would have shot an 80 or 82 today.”
Canadian Adam Hadwin, a local playing on a sponsor’s exemption, struggled early before bouncing back late to finish with a 72 and tied with Australian Geoff Ogilvy (70) for fourth at 2 under. Hadwin, in his second year on the third-tier Canadian Tour, was 5 over after a four-putt double bogey on the par-3 8th and another bogey on the tough par-4 11th, but birdied his next three holes. The 23-year-old failed to end a 57-year drought for Canadians at their national open, but did earn another PGA Tour start at next week’s Greenbrier Classic.
“I felt like I was playing for my country out there … brought it back and gave them something to cheer about,” said Hadwin. “I ll catch a flight tomorrow. I ve got celebrating to do tonight.”
NOTES: Ernie Els had the best round of day, a 66 that vaulted him into a tie for 17th in a group that also included world No. 1 Luke Donald (67). Els’ best finish since March moved him to 131 in the FedExCup standings, while Donald moved up one spot to fifth. … Third-round leader Bo Van Pelt was still atop the leaderboard at 5 under at the turn, but played the next five holes at 4 over to finish in a tie for sixth with Scott Piercy (69) and Woody Austin (68).