Monday, March 30

The Math Didn’t Work Out for Sean O’Hair


Sean O’Hair couldn’t hold off Tiger Woods. (Steve Newton/Flickr)

YOU WOULD THINK a five-shot lead is a comfortable margin heading into a final round. It wasn’t for Sean O’Hair, whose closest pursuer and playing partner during Sunday’s final trip around Bay Hill was the most feared competitor in golf, Tiger Woods.

While I thought O’Hair had a chance if he could hold himself together, some predicted the outcome. For example, I found an email on Monday morning from a loyal reader that was sent at 10 a.m. on Sunday (before the leaders teed off).

“Just for the record,” he wrote, “I think Tiger will win today even though he's starting with a five-stroke deficit.”

There is a kind of Tiger math that Sean O’Hair and a long list of other players can’t seem to overcome. Tiger wins about 30 percent of the events he plays, roughly one in three. This was the third tournament of his comeback. Do the math.

And this was Bay Hill, Arnie’s tournament, where Tiger has now won six times, including the last two years with rip-your-heart-out putts on the final green. As strange as it may sound, perhaps Sean O’Hair didn’t have much of a chance.

Sure, O’Hair knocked his iron shot in the water on 16, but Tiger hit some loose shots, too. Tiger is still rusty. And it shows.

It was that magical Scotty Cameron that delivered Tiger’s sixth title at Bay Hill. It’s always the putter. You can talk swing and long game all you want, but it comes down to the putter. I would not have said this two years ago, but I’m convinced that Tiger is the greatest clutch putter the game has ever seen.

If you think O’Hair didn’t give it his all, listen to his comments from the press tent. He was asked about his thoughts on Tiger, especially on the 72nd green.

“It’s not like it’s The Tiger Show and I’m just out there to watch him,” Sean said.

“And I think that’s the one thing the media thinks about the guys out here, and it’s not about that. We’re trying to win golf tournaments, and he just happens to be that good.”

That good, where even a five-shot lead isn’t enough of a cushion. The math just didn’t work out for Sean O’Hair.

O’Hair File
Turned pro: 1999
Birthplace: Lubbock, Texas
Residence: West Chester, Pennsylvania
World ranking: 70
PGA Tour wins: 2
Major wins: 0
Equipment: TaylorMade

−The Armchair Golfer

Brought to you by The World of Golf and ARMCHAIR GOLF STORE.

5 comments :

Heather said...

Mr. Wood's "clutch" putts continue to amaze and delight me. Over and over again.

Paul McCormack said...

Nice story behind the story.

I watched O'Hair and Woods battle it out and thanked my lucky stars that I am able to watch such tremendous golf. O'Hair has had a tough path to the Tour, but it was just not to be. Woods is clearly back to almost his legendary self. Regardless, a wonderful match. Thanks for the post.

Phil said...

Woods is a phenomenal putter, but the analysts who are now saying that he's a better putter than Nicklaus are forgetting one thing - Woods putts on perfect pool table like greens which are suited to his short robot stroke. If he had to rap the ball on shaggy greens that run 6-8 on the stimpmeter like Nicklaus was confronted with, a lot of those clutch putts would have missed. Conversely, Nicklaus loved fast greens, but unfortunately was not able to show his skill on them very often.

The Armchair Golfer said...

I'm sympathetic to Nicklaus apologists because I'm a longtime Jack fan, but after what I've seen the last few years in the clutch I have to give Tiger the nod.

For example, I don't think last year's U.S. Open greens at Torrey were perfect. They were fast, but I doubt that they were very smooth late on Sunday.

Sexy LPGA said...

The putting of tiger is often over looked because of his length on the course , but time and time again his putting is what wins him tourny's.