Deep Thoughts With Four-Time Tour Winner Sean O'Hair
The four-time Tour winner, 33, sounds off on staying humble, a fast-food Plan B, his Punisher preference and a surprising mentor who guided him through his “peaks and valleys.”
At what point did you realize you could make it as a professional golfer?
I don’t think I’ve ever thought, Hey, I’m good enough to be on Tour. That’s something I’ve always struggled with. I’ve always been pretty good, and I’ve always wanted to be on the PGA Tour. I think I was the second-ranked junior in the country when I was 16. I turned pro at 17. I had a lot of success on the mini-tours and got on the PGA Tour at 22. But I always feel like I was struggling to stay out there, because these guys are so good. I don’t think I’ve ever had that attitude where I step out on the golf course and think, I’ve got this. That’s just my personality.
Do you think that impostor syndrome will ever go away?
That’s what makes me who I am. I don’t feel like I’m an overly confident person. That type of attitude just doesn’t work for me. I like to be humble and go about my business, and if I play well enough I’ll be able to compete, but I don’t feel like I can lollygag out there and think, Oh, I’m the man. That’s just not my style.
You’re in the middle of something of a career renaissance. To what do you attribute your recent run of success?
I’ve listened to a lot of people while I was trying to get better, whether it be coaches or trainers or sports psychologists, but I think at the end of the day, I’ve gotta ask myself the questions, and I’ve gotta answer them. There’s a lot to be said for owning your game, and that’s what I’ve gotten back to recently.
You have four PGA Tour victories. What more do you want to accomplish in the game?
Quite a bit. I’ve always wanted to be a Hall of Famer, but I’ve got a long way to go there. Winning majors is something I’ve always thought I could do, but I’m not much of a goal-setter in that regard. I’m more of a process guy. I look at my stats at the end of the year and see where I need to improve, and if I do that I’ll achieve the things I wanted to achieve when I was a kid. When I try to set my results-oriented goals like winning tournaments or winning majors, I put too much pressure on myself and get stressed out.
If you weren’t a professional golfer, what would you be doing?
No offense to people who do this for a living, but I’d probably be working at a fast-food chain flipping burgers or something. I barely graduated high school and didn’t go to college. To be honest, I can’t really answer that question, because I’ve always seen myself as a PGA Tour pro.
What is your most prized possession?
I have 30 acres back home [West Chester, Pa.] that I live on. Every time I come home, it’s one of those stress relievers; I relax and really enjoy it. Also, I don’t think family’s a possession, but I gotta say that family is the best thing going for me for sure.
Are you a big sports memorabilia collector? Do have have anything cool hanging on the walls?
I was more of a comic book guy when I was young. I liked The Punisher. I always liked what other people didn’t like, so whatever everyone else was into I kind of did the opposite, and The Punisher was never really a popular comic book. He’s kind of badass, so that made it a little easier to like him. I just thought he was awesome.
I hope you haven’t adopted any of his personality traits.
No, I don’t go around shooting people. That’s not my thing.
If you could meet anyone in history -- alive or dead -- who would it be?
I’m a golf geek, so it’d probably be Ben Hogan. I’d love to pick his brain about how he played. I’d also love to sit down with Jack Nicklaus and talk golf with him. I enjoy talking golf with the older guys. They played the game differently back then. Now it’s all about technology and exposure and all this other stuff, and I think the game was just a little bit more pure [in the past]. It’d be cool to sit down with one of those guys and have a bourbon or a scotch and just talk golf for an hour or two.
Is there anybody in golf whom you consider a mentor?
Vijay Singh has helped me a lot over the years. He might get a bad rap for how he’s been with the media, but I think he’s a fantastic guy. He’s been nothing but nice to me. He’s got a heart of gold. Every time I’ve had questions for him, he gives me answers. He pushes you when you need to be pushed, but when you play well, he’s one of the first guys who comes up and congratulates you, so I would say he’s been the biggest influence on me out on Tour. We’ve also played some money games together, and he’s not afraid to play for a lot of money, and he just gets that much better for some reason. Vijay is one of those gritty guys who finds a way to beat you.
If you wrote an autobiography, what would you call it?
Peaks and Valleys. I’ve had a lot of both, and I think that’s just life, whether you’re an athlete or not. I’ve had to fight to get on Tour, and I’ve had to fight to keep myself there. There’s been some good times and some bad times, but that’s what makes it special. It would be a very colorful book, lemme tell ya.