-- Sean O'Hair's drive at Muirfield Village's 567-yard 11th hole carried 320 yards in the air before bouncing high off a cart path, traveling another 50 yards and going out of bounds Thursday morning. Four under through his first 10 holes, he trudged back to the tee, hit another shot into the rough and eventually walked off the green with a deflating double bogey, ruining his early momentum in the first round of the Memorial tournament, but hardly altering his state of mind.
His caddie made sure of that. Steve Lucas told O'Hair to calm down, focus on his next tee shot and forget about the hole. Lucas can say things to his player no other caddie on the PGA Tour would even dream of telling his employer. Lucas is Sean O'Hair's father-in-law, the grandfather of Sean and Jaclyn's 4-month-old daughter Molly and a man O'Hair has no problem calling dad, because he hasn't spoken with his estranged father since 2002.
O'Hair willingly heeded his caddie's advice, settling down to play the final seven holes in 1 under, including a holed bunker shot for birdie at the 18th hole in the first round of a tournament hosted by Jack Nicklaus, who shot a 75 on the course he designed 30 years ago. That final birdie sent O'Hair to the clubhouse with a 3-under 69, the same score posted later in the day by Tiger Woods, among others, four shots off the first round lead of 7 under held by Jeff Sluman.
None of O'Hair's playing peers was especially surprised by his showing on a course he saw for the first time this week. At age 22, he now is among the leading candidates for rookie of the year honors, having already earned $957,000 after gaining his tour card last fall by finishing fourth in the final stage of Qualifying School. Three weeks ago at the Byron Nelson Classic, he was runner-up by a shot to Ted Purdy.
Born in Lubbock, Tex., O'Hair had a fine junior career guided mostly by his father Marc, who cashed out of his family's shutter business to move to Florida and enroll his then-15-year-old son in the David Ledbetter Academy in Bradenton. Sean dropped out of high school at 17 after his junior year to turn professional, and for the next three years, he and his father drove close to 300,000 miles to tournaments around the country.
Marc O'Hair laid out an extensive regimen for his son and even forced him to do more exercise and running as punishment for scores that didn't measure up. Three years ago, the father told CBS's 60 Minutes II that "I was in business 20-plus years and I know how to make a profit. [In golf] you've got the same old thing -- it's material, labor and overhead. It's pretty good labor."
In an interview last January in Golf World Magazine, he described himself as "an iron-ass . . . bastard who made all his money the hard way, through my own sweat."
In the same magazine article, Sean O'Hair said, "we have never had a father-son relationship. It has always been the investor and the investment . . . I basically felt I was thrown to the wolves."
After his round Thursday, Sean said he didn't really want to talk about all of that anymore because "I don't think about it." But he told the Columbus Dispatch earlier in the week that "golf was fun for me when I was a junior. It wasn't fun for me from 17 all the way up to 20. But it's fun to me again now. It wasn't me; it was my wife [Jaclyn] that brought the fun back into it for me."
Jaclyn played college golf at Florida Atlantic, and the two met while both were practicing at a South Florida course several years ago. They soon fell in love, marrying in December 2002 much to the chagrin of Marc O'Hair, who has publicly threatened to sue his son for breaching contracts he says the boy signed with him as a teenager.
Sean's father-in-law, a former Class AAA first baseman in the Chicago Cubs organization who once carried a 3-handicap, has a thriving insurance business in Philadelphia and first got on Sean's bag at the 2005 Qualifying School. He's been his caddie ever since.
"He and I are pretty close," Sean O'Hair said after his round Thursday. "We work very well together. The only problem is if we have a problem, I can't fire him. He's been probably close to firing me, but I haven't been close to firing him."
Lucas clearly is enamored with Sean and says he treats him just the way he's treated his other children.
"He's a great kid who's adjusting well to the fact that he has the talent to be here," Lucas said. "He proves he belongs out here every time he plays. My job is to keep his head in every shot. He is well-adjusted and way mature beyond his years.
"He can say things to me no one else would ever say to their father-in-law. I can say things to him that would get other caddies fired. I don't treat him like a baby, because he's not a baby. I don't let him act like a baby, and he never does. He's a gentleman, well-spoken, everything you could want in a son."
Lucas said he has never delved too deeply in conversations with Sean about his relationship with his natural father. He also said Sean does not employ a sports psychologist, so prevalent among the current generation of players.
"I never got into that with him," Lucas said. "I don't know all the details, and I don't get involved in the psychology of it. I just know he thinks he can play golf and he deals with his issues in his life. I have a son. I treat Sean like my own son, and he's doing just fine."