Sean O'Hair's swing shows a mental toughness. Column: Sean O'Hair needs to take on the dad shadow to keep his PGA Championship run going

BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. - He could still pass for 18, probably still gets carded everywhere. Heck, you could see him getting asked for ID to get into an R-rated movie. Everyone knows that Sean O'Hair is all grown up, though.

He has been for far too long, though his baby face at age 26 doesn't show it. And people look too. Everyone's always looking for scars on Sean O'Hair.

They are not going to find them, though, and truthfully, O'Hair wishes they would stop trying. Having a domineering bully of a dad - one of the all-time overbearing nut jobs of a sports parent (and this is a mighty competitive category) - does not appear on the skin. No matter how hard you look. Or gently prod with coded questions that only tap dance around what everyone really wants to know.

This is what it's like for Sean O'Hair. He shoots a 1-under 69 in the first round of the PGA Championship, puts himself only one shot off the lead heading into today's second round, and while the reporters ask him about golf, they're all trying to figure out how to get him to give an update on dad. The guy who used to slap him and make him run a mile for every stroke over par.

In a twisted way, this probably delights Marc O'Hair. Even though the son he treated like a business commodity reportedly hasn't talked to him for six years, Sean still cannot escape the shadow. As much as booze, gambling and wasted talent will always define John Daly, being the golfer with that dad will always be Sean O'Hair's tag.

Which is exactly why Sean O'Hair needs to stop fighting it. Why the well-intentioned people around him need to stop trying to steer reporters away from dad talk. Sean O'Hair is 26 now. If he wants to ever be a major winner he needs to act like a major man. He must take on the shadow, stop making his father's figurative presence so large, by pretending he's just another young gun on the PGA Tour.

It's not happening yet at the PGA Championship, which makes me think that it's going to be hard for O'Hair to hold up at Oakland Hills. Is it really possible to reach full-force for your first major, while being ever wary of what you're going to be asked every post round?

"I never think about it unless you guys bring it up," O'Hair says about his chances of making the U.S. Ryder Cup team, his new favorite safe topic of choice. "If you didn't ask me about it, I'd probably never think about it."

Think that also applies to Pops? You probably believe that's Donald Trump's real hair too.

Sean O'Hair is one of the nicest guys on tour by nearly everyone's estimation. The other players clearly love him. Zach Johnson - who's not exactly Bill Murray - comes over and playfully interrupts an O'Hair interview, hits Sean with a "Can you tell me about your shot on 18 and what you did there? What happened?"

O'Hair grins, shoots back, "You tell me how you won the Masters and I'll answer that."

O'Hair is certainly kind to the golf media too, almost always sticking around to give extra time to whoever needs it. This is in sharp contrast to a Phil Mickelson or a Sergio Garcia - to most pro athletes, really. Rushing through your press responsibilities is part of the game.

Garcia chomps on bananas so impatiently waiting for TNT to get him on the air after his first round that you half expect him to lose a tooth in haste.

Because of this, O'Hair's history and, yes, that baby face, regular PGA Tour writers take it easy on him. They're not doing him any favors, though. Trying to pretend there's still not a gorilla in the shadows only makes it much more noticeable.

People still want to know about O'Hair and his father. You can hear it in the galleries as he makes his way around a course.

Is that the guy whose dad ... ?

It is. You can look. And he cannot hide.

No major without a major Marc O'Hair brushback?

Winning the PODS Championship in March, five weeks before the Masters, is one thing. Taking a PGA Championship, breaking into the realm of major winners, is something else entirely. Sure, O'Hair faced a few questions on his father and some stories were written around it after the PODS win. But that's nothing compared to the attention and resurrected interest in the Marc O'Hair tale that will surface if his son is holding the Wanamaker Trophy Sunday evening.

It's already hard not to read daddy things into almost everything Sean O'Hair says.

"It is difficult to not sometimes think that you should have done more, that you could have hit a few shots just a little bit better," O'Hair says. "I tend to be a perfectionist. Probably too much of a perfectionist."

Think that comes from a father who had O'Hair on the road full time as a teenager? One who refused to let Sean own a pair of jeans, yet expected him to be the money maker?

Oakland Hills will beat you up enough without you doing it to yourself. O'Hair's first round screams out guts, the way he came back from a three-putt bogey on the par-3 17th and a bad drive on 18 to par 18 with a 26-foot putt to stay within one shot of the lead. He clearly has the mettle to handle a lot.

That includes taking on the shadow of his father and everything that goes with it. There's no need to give a loser like Marc O'Hair even more power than he already once had.

August 8, 2008

Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

Comments Leave a comment
  • Sean O'Hair

    Marc O'Hair wrote on: Jul 7, 2011

    Golf World:
    Do you want to know why Sean will never come out from beneath my shadow and face the true facts and go on to More »


      • RE: Sean O'Hair

        patsy tamborski wrote on: Oct 12, 2012

        I just read your Dad's message. There is Karma. Big time, and you are looking at it. Your Dad deserves more from you.


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