After a wretched start to his season, Sean O'Hair is suddenly on a roll, cruising to four straight top-15 finishes.
Best of all for O'Hair, this week marks a return to the EDS Byron Nelson Championship, where the 24-year-old from West Chester essentially kick-started what turned out to be his rookie-of-the-year performance in 2005.
Back then, O'Hair was still a gangly, little-known tenderfoot on the PGA Tour when he seemingly came out of nowhere to shoot four rounds in the 60s - 66, 65, 67 and 68 - to finish alone in second and set then-CBS color man Lanny Wadkins to swooning over his future.
"I'm originally from Texas, and it's kind of comforting to come back," O'Hair, a native of Lubbock, said Tuesday morning before heading over to practice at Los Colinas, the TPC Four Seasons Resort hosting the tournament outside Dallas. "The feeling, the food, the atmosphere, seeing some of the people, it gives me a lot of good memories to come to Texas."
He has few good memories from the start of the 2007 season. Fighting his swing and his putter, and in the midst of the meltdown of self-confidence, O'Hair missed the cut in five of the first six tournaments he entered. This from a kid whom Tiger Woods pushed to be one of Tom Lehman's captain's picks for the 2006 Ryder Cup.
O'Hair fell to 83d in the World Golf Rankings and failed to qualify for either the Accenture Match Play Championship or the Masters.
The first real glimmer of hope came a month ago at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where O'Hair opened with a 66 - his best round of the year - and went on to finish tied for 14th.
His comeback picked up steam the following week at the Shell Houston Open, where he shot a pair of 69s during the weekend and finished tied for 14th for the second straight week.
That was also the week O'Hair officially left swing coach Gary Gilchrist (a David Leadbetter disciple) to return to Steve Dahlby, the swing coach who taught him from the age of 13 up through his mini-tour career in mid-2005. Dahlby is director of golf at Troon North Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz.
The following week, at the Verizon Heritage in Hilton Head Island, S.C., O'Hair finished seventh in his first top-10 performance of the year. And last week at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, where he had seven three-putts, he finished tied for 15th. Suddenly, he has won $485,946 and ranks 63d on the money list.
"My ball-striking has improved tremendously in the past three or four weeks," O'Hair said. "I just feel more confident when I stand on the tee or in the fairway. And I'm giving myself more realistic chances at birdies."
Ironically, Dahlby has not tinkered with his swing.
"He hasn't changed anything," O'Hair said. "I'm still working on the same stuff, my downswing. Steve just makes it clear the way he explains it. He knows how to communicate it to me."
Dahlby concurs. "Sean was overanalyzing his swing," he said Tuesday from Troon. "We're are simplifying his swing thoughts."
Their work together is paying off. O'Hair has climbed to seventh on the PGA Tour in "ball striking," a telling statistic arrived at by combining driving distance and accuracy (in which he ranks fourth) with greens hit in regulation (33d).
Next up: They're going to tackle O'Hair's putting, in which he is ranked 165th.
"I have some high aspirations for Sean," said Dahlby, who is delighted to be reunited.
O'Hair, of course, is delighted that those aspirations are beginning to feel realistic again.
"The beginning of the year was stressful because, when you work so hard, you expect results," he said. "Now I'm starting to play well and starting to contend. That makes it more fun to get out of bed and go to work."
O'Hair stopped short of vowing to win this week, or next week at the Wachovia Championship, or the week after that at the Players Championship.
"But I think I'm really close," he said. "I am putting myself in position to win. And I truly feel like I am going to win, and sooner rather than later."