After a 4-for-4 start in his first season as a PGA Tour member, Alameda’s James Hahn comes to Pebble Beach Golf Links – “holy ground”, as he puts it – for his fifth PGA Tour event, the 2013 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, with no expectations, but realistic goals.
In a press conference after his morning practice round today, Hahn was asked how he feels about his year so far. “I’ve come into the season with no expectations,” he replied, “and my expectations have not changed. I expect myself to shank some shots. I expect myself to miss some 3‑footers. But I also have some goals that I strive for; making cuts is one of them. I know it sounds very small, but you can’t win a golf tournament if you don't make the cut.”
“I came into the season with a lot of confidence. I didn’t really change my golf clubs, which is huge. I still have a Callaway driver and still have my Titleist putter, and I think that’s big.
I’m one of [the few] players on this tour that haven’t changed equipment during the off‑season, and I use it as a chance to – it’s almost a one‑up to people that are getting used to a new driver, 3‑wood, putter.”
The 2003 Berkeley grad is living his dream of playing professional golf at the highest level. He took a hard road to get here, even leaving golf for a couple of years after college, and has sweated it out in golf’s minor leagues – the mini-tours and the Web.com Tour – on the way to his present position as a PGA Tour member. Asked about his association with a couple of Bay Area golf clubs where he has played, Hahn acknowledged the support of TPC Stonebrae, and of the members and staff at Lake Merced Golf Club in Daly City, which is his home course.
After a big year last season on the Web.com Tour, including his first win on that Tour, at the Rex Hospital Open in Raleigh, N.C. , Hahn graduated to the big leagues– the PGA Tour after finishing in the Top 25 in the Web.com Tour rankings.
In four PGA Tour starts, to date, Hahn has made four cuts – and like he said, you can’t win if you don’t make the cut. He has done better than just make the cut, in fact – at the Humana Challenge he was a co-leader for the first two days of the tournament, and though he fell back with a poor third round, he rallied on Sunday to post a 62, moving 15 spots back up the leaderboard to T-4.
Hahn teetered on the cut line at the following week’s Farmers Insurance Open, but pulled a birdie out of his hat on the last hole of his second round to slip over the cut line by one – the last man to make the cut. A closing round 79 dropped him well down the leaderboard, but it’s making cuts that counts, and though he hurt his bottom line with the last round, making the cut gave him the chance.
Back to the desert, in Arizona rather than in Palm Springs, for the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Hahn once again showed his mettle, hanging tough to make another cut, finishing strong with a 9-under 62 to shoot 42 spots up the leaderboard and finish T-16.
In Phoenix Hahn showed that he can take the heat in the cauldron of the famous 16th hole, waving to the crowd after he was booed (as is customary there) when he stubbed a chip and double-bogeyed the hole; he then became somewhat of an Internet sensation after his final round appearance at the 16th hole. After sinking a 20-foot putt for a birdie, he broke into a celebratory “gangnam style” dance à la South Korean recording artist Psy, and a video clip of the TV coverage of his celebration has gone viral online. As he related this afternoon at Pebble Beach, he had thought about what kind of celebration he might stage for a birdie at 16 in the last round, but when it came down to it, “ I made birdie, lifted my putter, stepped off the green and was possessed.”
Asked about the several low-60s rounds he has put up in a couple of his tournaments so far this season, and whether he feels like he is on a path forward to putting together two or three low rounds in a week and bringing home a victory, Hahn said, “I have not played any other golf courses on the PGA TOUR, so I really don't know what to expect. I would love to show up to golf tournaments like Bay Hill or Masters and shoot 62s, but I know there are some golf courses that 72 is a great score. It’s just learning the golf courses and learning what other people are doing and how they are getting around the golf course, and if par is a great score, then that’s what I'm shooting for.”