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T & A

"You Gotta Be Kidding!"
by Mickey Charles, CEO Sports Network


Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - I would suggest getting your mind out of the gutter. Label it wishful thinking on your part. It was the type that Sean O'Hair displayed at Bay Hill this past weekend. Call it Talent of another and Awe on the part of the youngster. Do not tell me that intimidation does not work, that it is not a factor when Tiger Woods is on the prowl, like that for which he is nicknamed stalking its prey. In this case, O'Hair was the latter, and it could not have been more evident if he just sold his clubs to a spectator after the first six holes.

Sean O'Hair became a Tiger Woods' final-round victim with a 3-over, 73 on Sunday.
The pressure was growing and, although he did not toss in the towel, he certainly was struggling mightily with the flat stick, as evident with a three-putt on seven. What's that old Yogi Berra saying?..."90-percent of putts that are short, don't go in." The cardinal rule in golf is never to come up short on a putt. Follow through, go for the hole, and get close on either side or just past it. Do not decelerate, do not soften, and do not show hesitancy or trepidation. Do not keep wondering how the other guy is doing. Concentrate on your own game.

O'Hair seemed to rebound with a rock-solid par out of the rough on eight and a great birdie on nine to take a two-shot lead into the final nine. However, the advantage was short-lived, as O'Hair's club choice off the 10th tee was a mistake, one which led to a bogey, and the heat was on again.

Woods plays to win. You cannot counter that by playing not to lose. He knows when he has you. He can sense it. He stalks and seizes the moment of your mistakes.

The crowd is with him. The announcers on TV cover him with plaudits and adulation. They all do everything but leave the broadcast booth to kiss his...easy now...driver. Not from the car, from the golf bag. There is an expectation that he will win, you will lose. Get caught up in all that surrounds you when playing with him in the final group and you can kiss the winner's cup and check goodbye. O'Hair makes more than enough money annually to be comfortable, very much so by normal standards. Woods eclipses that, as he does with just about everyone else. The Tiger plays with only one thing in mind now. To win. Nice. It is like Angelina Jolie walking down the street and not having to worry about whether she will be noticed or not. She will be.

Tiger Woods will win. Not hindsight and he will not win them all. The choice is to either beat him or advantage his errors and miscues. He does make and suffer from them.

Winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational again was not written in the stars, or on the wind. It was not inevitable. It never should have happened the way O'Hair started out the first three days. He had every opportunity to widen his lead, to play smarter and not take chances, to display an air of confidence during the final round, not one of hesitancy. He was five strokes ahead on Sunday. Like a horse race, if the leader does not see any posterior in front of him, just keep running. If there was no name above yours on the leader board, do not look back. Just push the game forward. The youngster could not do that.

I do not accept his commentaries and denials. The $1.08 million dollar check was O'Hair's to present to Jackie, now pregnant with their third child, although second place did not have "poverty-stricken" written on the bottom of that check. A win with The Masters just ahead, skipping the Shell Houston Open, would have been a nice springboard into Augusta. Can O'Hair be in contention there, to take his game to the next level? That would be a major step forward.

So would considering replacing his caddy. Club selection at critical times by Paul Tesori bordered on the incredulous. Maybe it is time to ask Steve Lucas, his father-in-law, to reconsider turning the bag over in recent months. And speaking of Lucas, the comments by Johnny Miller about O'Hair and his father displayed a level of broadcast banality and absence of facts not normally heard from network golf analysts. O'Hair's father was insensitive, uncaring, apathetic and dispassionate. Jackie, Steve and Kathy (Steve's wife) are the best thing that ever happened to O'Hair.

Yes, he is now ranked 28th in the world and one cannot look upon that and deride it, nor deny that it is a heck of an accomplishment. But, like someone earning $250,000 annually, that is not so impressive if it has been determined that he ought to be earning twice as much. Sean O'Hair should be ranked higher, should win more tournaments, should be able to look in the mirror and know how good he is, how much better he can be. The endorsements, the money from them, the ranking, and the checks for all the non-first place finishes are not enough. It is time to play aggressively, to change his caddy once again and to prepare with a different attitude and approach.

You do not make a rookie mistake on 10, you do not repeat that (coming up short again) on the 16th at Bay Hill - wrong club and not hindsight. You do not come in with a three over par 73. You do not come up short on your putt on the 18th green. This was the fourth time that he was unable to hold a 54- hole lead on the PGA Tour.

Woods knows he can win, will win. Others think that they can and therein lies the difference.

Sean O'Hair is a hell of a golfer. There is no denying that. However, it is not enough. You cannot be the great actor that never won an Oscar; no less ever got a nomination. Tiger's following resembles Arnie's Army of years past, with fans standing five deep. You deal with it. You ignore it. You play within yourself and not to keep Woods from taking the lead you have guarded for three days. When Tiger's eyes say, "I'm coming for you" and he sees "Oh s--t!" in yours, it won't be long before he is the one pumping his fist in the air, not you.

Sean, you can do it. The talent is there, some of it yet to be unveiled. The mental attitude and approach to the competition needs working. A new caddy might be part of the answer. Separating the daring from the conservative and evaluating both is a major factor. Believing that Tiger can be had...albeit not that often...is a fact of life. Going to Augusta with "win" as the goal would be a nice start.

Keep this in mind and think how sweet it can be. Will Tiger step aside and make it any easier? You gotta be kidding!