PHILADELPHIA -- The year is only half over, but it's already been quite an eventful one for Sean O'Hair.
And not all of it's been for the better.
In late January, he and his wife Jackie welcomed their fourth child, Trevor Ryan, into the family. Since then, he's switched caddies, again, gone back to an old swing coach and fallen to 90th in the world rankings.
Did we mention that he became involved in a very public "situation" with noted hothead Rory Sabbatini, even though O'Hair apparently had nothing to do with instigating it?
Other than that ...
"You know, I think my perspective's a little different than it was even a few weeks ago," said O'Hair, who's missed the cut in eight of his 14 2011 PGA Tour starts, with a best finish of 16th at the Colonial in late May. "I was going through stuff I've never gone through. I was panicking. And to be honest, I'd worked harder than I'd ever worked in my life, really, coming into this year. I made the extra effort. I was ready to kick some butt. That was kind of my attitude. And it's been quite the opposite. A lot of things have happened.
"Then another player told me a good analogy that kind of explained how I felt. He said, 'How does an adult handle it? First of all, you have to understand that in a career this isn't going to be the only time you're going to struggle.' I'm like, I can appreciate that. Everybody who's anybody has gone through that. He said, 'No. 1, you're OK. So don't worry about it. And No. 2, remember, how does an adult drown in three feet of water? By panicking.' He's exactly right. You can't overreact, even though that's your natural instinct.
"I know how to get things back to where they need to be. It's a little bit of a process. Last year, I started hitting it a little off late in the year. I didn't make much of it. And in the offseason, I ended up, I think, working on the wrong things. But I'm starting to get my confidence back. That's what it really comes down to -- stepping up to the ball knowing you're going to hit good golf shots."
In 2009, when the West Chester, Pa., resident rose as high as No. 15 on the food chain, he earned an automatic berth on his first United States Presidents Cup team. Last year, he was being mentioned as a potential Ryder Cup captain's pick before he played poorly in the Fed Ex Cup playoffs. Now that seems like a long time ago.
O'Hair, who has three PGA Tour victories but none in 27 months, has finished in the top 12 at each of the four majors. His best showing was a tie for seventh at last July's British Open. But a year after tying for 12th at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, he failed to qualify for this year's national championship that was just held at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md.
It broke a string of playing in 11 consecutive majors. He'd missed the cut at the Masters in April.
Sunday, he closed with a 75 to tie for 63rd at the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Conn., after going 66-67-68 the first three rounds. So the process continues.
"You know, I didn't watch hardly any of (the Open)," he admitted. "I just simply can't stand watching majors if I'm not there. But it does nothing but fire me up. It definitely lit a fire under my butt, that's safe to say. It was kind of sad, to be honest. And there's a little bit of regret. At the end of the day, I'm determined not to let that happen again for a long time. It didn't feel right, that's for damned sure. But at times like these, it just really makes you appreciate when times are good."
This week, O'Hair will be the gallery favorite when the PGA Tour returns to Newtown Square's Aronimink Golf Club for the AT&T National. It's one of the places where he's a member. Last July, he tied for 11th there, despite playing with a sore back.
Maybe a familiar setting is just what he needs to get going again.
"I love Aronimink," O'Hair said. "It just doesn't get much better. It just fits my eye. It fits a lot of people's eye. It has a great flow to it. It's not like you ever get to a certain hole and are like, 'What?' I actually just played there with my wife, and we had a great time. It was in fantastic shape. The rough was super high. They'll probably end up cutting it for us. So it probably played harder than it will during the tournament.
"It should be a great atmosphere. To me, there are very few courses on the Tour that feel like a major. I think this is one of them. And not because it's a home game for me. Every time I pull into the driveway, I say, 'This is really nice.' It's just that kind of place ...
"I don't feel any added pressure. It actually excites me. For some guys, it can be a stressful situation. You have to juggle so many things that you don't normally have to worry about. But I'm clearly comfortable on this golf course. So there's not any reason not to have a good finish there. I have every ability to win there. I wouldn't say I'd rather win this than a major. But in some ways, it actually might be a little cooler, as far as stuff to remember, being in front of your buddies and everything. It's the stuff stories are made of. It would probably be one of the highlights of my career."
O'Hair just recently hired Brian Smith, who used to caddie for Justin Leonard, to carry his bag. After splitting with Paul Tsori over the winter, he went to Brendan Little, who'd been with Mike Weir for awhile. But that didn't last long. So Steve Lucas, his father-in-law, filled in as he'd done earlier in O'Hair's career.
He also split with swing coach Sean Foley, who now works with Tiger Woods, and gone back to Steve Dahlby, whom he's used off and on since he was a youngster.
"Sometimes it just doesn't work out," O'Hair explained. "You've got to find someone you're comfortable with. At times, you spend more time with your caddie than you do with your wife. You're not always going to see eye-to-eye, but you've got to be able to get through that."
And so it goes. He'll celebrate his 29th birthday in a few weeks. Maybe he's at a fork in the road. Or perhaps this is nothing more than a cyclical speed bump. The only certainty seems to be that where he goes from here is pretty much up to him.
"I've had some guys ask me what's going on, or this or that," O'Hair acknowledged. "Nothing's going on. My game just kind of got away from me. I've got to get it back. It's a fickle thing. If it was just as easy as work hard and play hard, heck, a lot of guys would be right up there. One thing I've learned is to be more humble. Sometimes, you take this game for granted. You know, it's supposed to happen because I'm a good player. My aunt told me the other day, 'God never gives you too much to handle. He always tends to give you just enough.' There's something to be said for that.
"It's been a struggle; I'm not going to say it hasn't. I've been depressed about it, frustrated. But it's golf, for Pete's sake. It's not the end of the world. It's always been a big part of my life. But my kids are healthy, they're at a great age right now. So I have a lot to be thankful for. Geez, this is my seventh year of what I hope is a 25-year career. I've got a lot to look forward to. If this is the worst thing that happens, that's pretty good.
"But I'll tell you what, you just want to make it as short as possible."