O'Hair to pair up with Wie
KAPALUA, Maui » Sean O'Hair is looking forward to being a stand-in for Ernie Els at next week's Sony Open in Hawaii.
For the past couple of years, Els has played a practice round with Michelle Wie prior to the first full-field event on the PGA Tour. Els won't be at Waialae Country Club, clearing the way for the 23-year-old O'Hair to get a few tips from the 16-year-old junior at Punahou School.
"I'm looking forward to that," O'Hair said yesterday. "I've met her once or twice. She seems to be a very nice young lady. I look forward to playing with her. She's obviously a great, great player."
O'Hair isn't too bad himself. He began his PGA Tour career last January at the Sony Open. While making the cut, he didn't fare too well over the weekend, but did learn some things about playing at this level.
The tour's rookie of the year, O'Hair qualified for this week's $5.4 million Mercedes Championships by winning the John Deere Classic, an event Wie entered, but failed to make the cut. She and O'Hair share the same coach, David Leadbetter, clearing the way for a tee time.
"It should be a lot of fun," O'Hair said. "I think Led is going to follow around and watch a little bit. That would be good. Maybe she can show me a few things here and there, and go from there.
"I tell you what, there's just a few people who, no matter how bad or good they're playing, they've got all the people watching. That's Tiger, obviously, John Daly and Michelle Wie. The whole hole is just lined with people. She's pretty popular."
Putting woes for Garcia:
As well as Sergio Garcia
played last year, he managed only one win on tour and blamed an erratic putter for most of his problems.
Garcia was first on tour in greens in regulation, hitting 71.8 percent for the season. But his putting average was a woeful 1.827, good enough for No. 196 overall.
"Just by looking at some tapes and stuff, I found out, more than anything, pressure moments I used to hit a lot of putts a little bit off-line," Garcia said. "Not off the toe, but to the right side of center of the club face.
"So I've been working, just a couple of little tips with a couple of tees, just kind of swing it through it while I'm putting, make sure I strike it in the middle. If I hit one of the tees, I know I'm not doing it properly."
At 25, Garcia is one of the best young players in the world. He's currently ranked No. 6 and has won six times on tour. He also has 10 international victories to his credit and would like nothing better than to open 2006 with a win. He beat David Toms here in a playoff in 2002.
"I'm looking forward to the start of the year," said Garcia, who celebrates his 26th birthday on Monday. "Of course, here in Hawaii, it's always a pleasure coming back. We'll see. A bit rusty as it is. Hopefully, I can get it going as the week goes along."
Toms in the house:
Toms still remembers the Sunday afternoon he lost to Garcia in overtime at the 2002 Mercedes Championships. And while that's not a positive thing, he does take solace in the fact that he was close to a big win.
"The golf course is going to be pretty long for me this week," Toms said. "The fairways are soft. The greens are firm. I've got some longer clubs in, so it's going to be a good test. I'll have to play well to have a chance to win."
After some heart issues late last year, Toms is just glad to be fit for duty. The problem has cleared up, leaving him with only golf to worry about.
"Should be good to go," Toms said. "I had a procedure this offseason back before the Target event. I was fine there. Haven't had any health issues at all. Shouldn't be a problem."
What Toms did discover during his heart palpitations is that overall his ticker is healthy. He doesn't have to go on a diet or have any more treatments. Basically, he was given a clean bill of health.
"I'm past all the radiation stuff that I had," Toms said. "What I'm looking forward to is having a good year. I'm pretty fired up to make the Ryder Cup team. I've played on teams in the past that were a lot of fun. I think it's going to be a pretty special event playing in Ireland. You know, I want to make that pretty bad."
Toms fired a 6-under 67 in yesterday's pro-am event to clear several golfers who came in at 68. The 28 winners start for real today on the par-73 Plantation Course.