Sean O’Hair has been completely off the golf radar for almost all of 2019.
O’Hair, 37, struggled in 2017-18, finishing 108th on the money list. In the 2019 portion of the 2018-19 season he tied for ninth in the Desert Classic at La Quinta, so things were looking good.
Then everything went sideways. More accurately, directly to the muscles in O’Hair’s side.
“I actually didn’t think I was going to come back,” O’Hair said matter-of-factly Tuesday at Tiburón Golf Club, where he will play in the QBE Shootout this week for his first event in 10 months. “It was bad.”
QBE SHOOTOUT: Tee times, TV info
O’Hair missed the cut in Phoenix in February, then withdrew from the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. And he hasn’t played in a tournament since then.
First, after an MRI, it was thought the pain in O’Hair’s left side was from broken ribs.
Then a doctor finally got to the bottom of it. O’Hair, a four-time PGA Tour winner, had completely torn his left oblique muscle, to the point he had to have surgery. The recovery included “dry needling” where needles over 2 inches are inserted to help break up scar tissue, of which O’Hair had a lot.
“It’s been a long, long road back,” O’Hair said.
After the broken ribs diagnosis, O’Hair took a month off and tried to return at the Valspar Championship near Tampa. That lasted nine holes. He saw another doctor, who made the correct diagnosis. After surgery, the doctor shared what he found.
“Your oblique tore off, came back around, shredded,” O’Hair was told. “I couldn’t tell the difference between your inner and outer oblique. It was an absolute mess. You had so much scar tissue.”
The doctor thought O’Hair had built up scar tissue over the years, and then the muscle finally gave out. O’Hair said he had been working extra hard in the gym and hitting balls, and maybe that had finally aggravated it to the point he felt something.
“I didn’t know about it,” he said. “I didn’t feel any tightness, I didn’t feel any pain, I didn’t feel any soreness. It just gave out.”
The simple recovery from that type of surgery — “He had to make the planes of muscles wide,” O’Hair said. “There was a lot of stitching and a lot of cutting.” — coupled with the dry needling and physical therapy itself took quite a toll.
“Just a lot of pain,” he said.
O’Hair did make a workout decision after coming back. He’s focused on stretching, yoga and Pilates.
“I think I’ve seen my last day of the gym for sure,” he said.
O’Hair has been hitting balls for two months, so he’s already apologizing to his teammate this week, LPGA Tour star Lexi Thompson, whom he’s known since she was a little girl pounding golf balls at TPC Eagle Trace in Coral Springs. O’Hair grew up playing against her older brother, Nicholas.
“I’ve got a great partner,” he said. “She’s going to be doing some heavy lifting this week.
“It’ s a fun event and I’ve had some good partners. With Lexi, it’s going to be really cool. It’s going to be fun to watch her play. I hope she doesn’t beat me too bad. but I’m telling you, she’s going to have to do some heavy lifting. but I think she’s going to be up for it.”
Tournament host Greg Norman showed up at Tiburón Golf Club looking quite different Tuesday afternoon.
Norman had a beard.
“What?” Norman said chuckling when asked about his appearance. “I was in the mountains at my ranch. It was cold. It was snowing. I said ‘I’m just going to leave it.’”
Norman, 64, said he had a beard before when he visited Africa, but shaved it off on the way back.
“This is two weeks (without shaving),” he said.
Norman offered no predictions on how long it would last, or if he would maybe go with a goatee.
Rucker, Kelley back
Country music stars Darius Rucker and Charles Kelley, of Lady Antebellum, are playing in the pro-am again Wednesday and Thursday. But they’ll be sticking around for Live Fest on Saturday, the inaugural concert featuring the two acts, along with Jordan Davis and local outfit the Ben Allen Band.
Rucker and Kelley will be playing with pro Kevin Kisner on Wednesday and Kevin Chappell on Thursday.
ESPN’s Chris Berman also is returning again, and will play with Sean O’Hair on Wednesday and Viktor Hovland on Thursday.
Fox News Channel’s Bret Baier had to stay back in Washington, D.C., because of the impeachment coverage.