O’Hair triumphs at Quail Hollow
CHARLOTTE: A narrow victory at Quail Hollow came with a large dose of redemption for Sean O'Hair.
Five weeks after he blew a five-shot lead against Tiger Woods at Bay Hill, O'Hair showed his mettle in hard, blustery conditions Sunday with a 3-under 69 and rallied to win the Quail Hollow Championship when no one could catch him.
Despite a bogey-bogey finish on the two hardest holes on the course, O'Hair was the only player in the final nine groups to break 70.
He took the lead on the 15th with a two-putt birdie from 70 feet, then holed an 7-foot birdie on the 16th to give him room for error on the frightening finishing holes.
O'Hair was on the putting green when Lucas Glover failed to make birdie from behind the 18th green that would have forced a playoff. Glover, who bogeyed the par-3 17th from right of the green, closed with a 71 and tied for second with Bubba Watson, who had a 70.
Woods struggled with his game throughout the final round, but he still had a chance to tie for the lead when he drove the par-4 14th green and had an eagle putt from just inside 25 feet. He three-putted for par, failed to birdie the par-5 15th and closing with 10 consecutive pars left him two shots behind with a 72.
Woods hung around long enough to congratulate O'Hair, who was holding 4-year-old daughter Molly.
"It feels so good, especially finishing the way I did," O'Hair said. "I played so good on the back."
He has been playing as well as anyone, but it was hard to forget his final round at Bay Hill. He had a five-shot lead over Woods, losing by one shot when Woods birdied the 18th hole.
Watson, who has never won on the PGA Tour or Nationwide Tour, was atop the leaderboard for most of the back nine until he couldn't make the short putts required of champions. He missed from 6 feet for birdie on the 15th, and the same distance on the 16th.
Glover also missed a 5-foot birdie putt on the 15th that ultimately cost him.
Birdies are rare on the closing stretch known as the "Green Mile," with only two birdies all day on peninsula-green 17th. O'Hair and Glover missed to the right, both chipped across the green and had to work hard for bogeys.
O'Hair allowed for a few nervous moments when he three-putted for bogey from 25 feet on the 18th. Playing in the final group, Glover's approach bounded over the green, and his birdie chip came up short.
O'Hair won for the third time in his career and will move up to No. 12 in the world ranking, his highest position ever. He finished at 11-under 277 and earned $1.17 million, pushing him just short of $3 million for the year, more than he has ever made in any one season.
Woods was in trouble from the opening tee shot, deep into the trees that left him no choice to play out to the fairway and struggle to make bogey. Still, he managed to stay in the picture with a creative pitch that spun back to tap-in birdie range on the eighth.
That would be his last birdie of a frustrating week.
Zach Johnson, who had a two-shot lead to start the final round, imploded on the par-3 second hole. He shoved his tee shot so far right that it struck a cart path and went deep into the pines. His pitch struck a tree and went behind a bush, and when he finally reached the green, he three-putted for triple bogey. The former Masters champion never recovered, closing with a 76.
Some of the best golf came from the middle of the pack.
Jonathan Byrd had a 66 to post early at 8-under 280, and Phil Mickelson made late charge until he had to settle for pars on his last four holes for a 67 that also put him at 280.
"I didn't think about winning until the last four or five holes," Mickelson said.
The leaders were all over the place. Johnson made an early departure, as did George McNeill, who shot a 41 on the front nine. The tournament was up for grabs for a half-dozen players, and O'Hair seized his moment.
For three rounds, he did not make a single bogey over the final three holes. On Sunday, he played well enough that he could afford two of them and still capture his biggest PGA Tour victory.