Sean O'Hair said he needed help from the White House to get to his first British Open and will try to shake off the jet lag when he tees off in the first round Thursday on the Old Course.
O'Hair, a 24-year-old PGA Tour rookie, won his first event Sunday at the John Deere Classic in Illinois and earned the last exemption into the field. One problem: He said he lost his passport a few years ago and never bothered to get it replaced.
"Monday was my birthday and basically, I spent my whole birthday on the phone screaming at people and trying to get out here," O'Hair said Wednesday after arriving at 7:40 a.m. in Edinburgh on a flight from Newark. "I had no hotel, no passport, no flight, nothing at all. But the people at John Deere had some really good connections in the White House and somehow they got me a passport. I actually got my passport -- what day is it? -- around noon on Tuesday and left on Tuesday at 8 p.m. A lot of people did a lot of hard work to get me here and I guess they pushed a lot of people, so it's thanks to them I got here."
O'Hair, who seems likely to be the PGA Tour's rookie of the year, has taken a most unusual road to St. Andrews. A Texas native raised by a domineering father who began guiding his career while O'Hair was a talented teenager, the two have been estranged ever since the son got married in 2002. The O'Hairs now live in suburban Philadelphia, and his father-in-law, Steve Lucas, an insurance broker with his own business, has taken the summer off to caddie for him.
O'Hair said he wasn't even aware his victory earned the British Open exemption until someone told him about it, and that he never hesitated in deciding to come.
"It wasn't a hard decision to make, it was just hard to organize getting here," he said. "I'll probably miss the ball when I get up on the first tee. Even though it's 175 yards wide, I just hope I don't miss the fairway. I just want to enjoy the experience instead of thinking I'll play well. I've got a lot of things going against me -- like my time clock and not knowing the course. I'm just going to be easy on myself and really try to enjoy it."
After Back Surgery, Norman Returns
Greg Norman is making his return to tournament golf this week following back surgery in March. He'll play for five straight weeks and six out of seven, but says that so far his back has held up well after a two-hour procedure to decompress nerve roots in his spinal cord.
He said the operation "got rid of my sharp pain down my leg so that I can stand up and walk and I get out of bed now in the morning," he said. "I've had this since 1995. But I've enjoyed everything I've done in my career and wouldn't have changed anything. We estimate I've hit 41/2 million golf balls in my career and I wouldn't change that. Now I feel okay and feel like I can play." . . .
John Daly won the 1995 British Open at St. Andrews and is entered this year but did not attend the British Open champions dinner Tuesday night.