O'Hair rallies to win Quail Hollow

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/s/seanohair.jpg' class='caption'> Sean O'Hair survived a bogey-bogey finish to win the Quail Hollow Championship, carding a three-under 69 for a one-stroke victory in the $6.4m tournament.

Updated: May 04, 2009 07:02 IST
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Five weeks after he blew a five-shot lead against Tiger Woods at Bay Hill, Sean 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 was cool that he came up and did that," O'Hair said.

O'Hair has a history of not folding. He was driven by a relentless father and forced to turn pro when he was 16, still a junior in high school. He managed to break away, got married, and he and wife Jackie traveled the mini-tours in a 40-foot bus, sometimes unable to play because they didn't have money for the entry fee, often playing for their next meal.

"Losing (stunk) at Bay Hill," O'Hair said. "Even though it's tough to lose like that, to lose a five-shot lead against Tiger, you still learn from it. I talked to my coach. I talked to my caddie, Paul (Tesori). And we just all said all I have to do is keep putting myself in those situations, and at some point I'm going to learn how to win. It's just nice to win as quickly as I did after Bay Hill."

Even with a shaky swing, Woods' presence loomed at Quail Hollow. He spun back a delicate pitch shot to tap-in range for birdie on the eighth hole to get within one shot of the lead at the time, and appeared to be hitting his stride.

Instead, he hit it into the trees on the par-5 10th, eliminating a good chance at birdie. And he kept coming up well short of the pin, unable to produce the right trajectory for the wind.

But nothing stung worse than the 14th, with fans waving white towels at the sight of his ball tumbling down the fairway and stopping just inside 25 feet from the cup for a chance at eagle, with a par 5 awaiting on the next hole.

Woods ultimately had to make a 5-footer just to save par.

"I had my opportunity there at 14. I made a mistake there," Woods said. "I knew the green was baked out. It was downwind, and I didn't heed my own warning, and ended up putting too hard."

Birdies are rare on the final three holes, known as the "Green Mile," and both the runner-ups dropped a shot along that stretch _ Watson at the 16th, Glover at the 17th.

If there was a key shot for O'Hair, it came at the 16th. He blistered a tee shot, then hit 8-iron into a stiff breeze just over the bunker to about 8 feet away and a birdie that gave him a two-shot lead.

"I just hit it as hard as I could and tried to flight it," O'Hair said, "and hit really a perfect golf shot."

And it was the perfect ending.

O'Hair finished at 11-under 277 and earned $1.17 million, giving him just under $3 million for the year, more than he has ever earned over any full season. He moves up to No. 12 in the world, and to fourth place in the Presidents Cup standings, giving him a good chance to make his first U.S. team for any cup.

He also moved into some elite company.

With his third PGA Tour victory, O'Hair joined Sergio Garcia and Adam Scott as the only players in their 20s with three or more wins.

Plus, he had another conversation with Woods after a tournament, this one a happier occasion.

"He's got all the talent. We know that," Woods said. "We've seen how well he's played. He's been through a lot off the golf course, and it's just a matter of time before all that settles in."

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