On The Hot Seat: Arron Oberholser
KAPALUA, Hawaii -- The Hot Seat needed a warm body. With 34 PGA Tour winners from 2006 gathered for this week's Mercedes-Benz Championship, there were plenty of options. How to choose? Well, when in doubt, find the guy with a journalism degree.
Arron Oberholser might have a fine future in TV broadcasting ahead of him when his playing days are over, but that's a long time away for the 31-year-old.
For now, the reigning AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am champ opines simply for hobby. He was greeted with this Hot Seat interview in the players' lounge, following Wednesday's pro-am at the Plantation Course.
|The Oberholser file|
Birthdate: Feb. 2, 1975
Height: 6-foot Weight: 180 lbs.
Turned professional: 1998
Joined PGA Tour: 2003
Special interests: Fishing, hunting, music, fitness
Q: You're on record as saying you were "skeptical" of the FedEx Cup at first, but have since changed your tune. How come?
A: I decided to step back and rethink. You know, I think everybody's afraid of change at first, and then once you sit back and think about some of the things that can happen, there are possibilities that it could be better. But there are pluses and minuses to everything and the FedEx Cup will have its minuses, but you're hoping that it has more pluses than minuses.
I think the biggest plus is that I think there is going to be a level of excitement that has never been around a PGA Tour season. We have four special events, the majors, that everybody gets excited about. And now, we've got those four events along with the FedEx Cup and the race for the points title, so I think it's going to be really cool.
Q: Playing devil's advocate, what's the biggest minus?
A: Not having Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. If they don't play well during the Cup points, who's going to want to watch? If they're out the first couple of events, or don't play well in one event and then they're out of it, then who's going to watch? There's a cut in every tournament, you know, so the top points after every tournament -- 120, 70, then 30 -- so now you can win a couple of golf tournaments, get yourself set up in the points race and not make Atlanta. Whereas before, if you won a couple of golf tournaments, you were going to be in Atlanta because you were high enough on the money list to get in. Now, that's not the case, because you've got to perform in those four events.
It's also a good thing, because you can have a guy who's 120th on the points list coming in win the whole damn thing. So it works both ways. But it all comes down to TV, and who are you going to watch? Are you going to want to watch me or are you going to want to watch Tiger? You're going to want to watch Tiger.
Q: Now what does that say about this tournament, the Mercedes-Benz Championship, that Tiger and Phil aren't here?
A: I think it always hurts TV when those guys aren't playing. They really help drive this tour in a big way and it always hurts an event when they're not there.
Q: Where does the FedEx Cup rank in what you'd like to win? After the majors, I'm sure, but then what?
A: It's right after the majors, in my opinion. You not only have to play decent over a whole season to get in there and get yourself a good seeding, just you have a chance to win it, but even though mathematically you still have a chance at No. 144, it's not a very good chance. So you have to play the whole season really well in order to get to the four championships and then play well in the championships to win the whole thing, so it's a culmination of some really good play over a short period of time. Actually, it's a long period of time, but you have to play really well within four weeks. We never had anything like this.
You know, we always went by the money list over the course of the year and it's been decided so early, just because Tiger Woods is a one-man show. Kudos to him for being the type of player that he is, to be able to do what he's doing, but we're going to find out if this levels the playing field. It's definitely going to make it more interesting.
Q: Can you allow your mind to wander and envision what it might mean to win $10 million?
A: No. I'm worried about this week and then next week and then my week off. I'll worry about that when the situation arises.
Q: While we're at, what are your top three goals for the 2007 season?
A: I just really have one goal this year. Every year, I've improved in certain areas, whether it be my game or my mental side of the game. This year, I just want to improve my patience. I just want to be as patient as I possibly can on the golf course. If I can vacation on the golf course more so than I have in the past, and just really, really work on that, then I'll be very happy with my outcome at the end of the year.
Q: How do you work on your patience?
A: Well, that's a good question. There are a couple of ways to work on your patience. One way is just through experience. And the other is just to realize where you are, what you're doing, and just go out there and get out there. You're playing golf, for God's sake. When you start gaining perspective, you start to understand that one shot here or one shot there isn't the end of your life or the end of the tournament, by any regard. It's just not that big a deal. You've got other things that are more important to you.
Q: You differ a lot from a guy like Rory Sabbatini, who said his goal is to win every event he plays this year. You don't want to go that far?
A: No. Not even close. My goal is to stay as patient at every event as I can this year and let the chips fall where they may. And if that's a win, great. I'm always trying to improve from the week before, so whatever I didn't do the week before, I'm going to do my best to improve on the next week. But I'm not trying to win every event, every week. I'm just trying to do the process as best I can.
Q: How focused were you on making the Ryder Cup team last year?
A: Too focused. I was consumed by it. I was overwhelmed by it. And it was a major mistake on my part to put that much emphasis on it and lose perspective on everything else in my life just for that one goal. The Ryder Cup team is great, but it's not the end-all, be-all. It's not the end of the world if you don't make the team. That's the way I'm looking at it, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.
This year, with the Presidents Cup and me having a chance to make that team, I told my caddie today, "Those events in my mind, from now on, do not exist." You just play golf, you know? If anyone talks to me about making the team, I'm going to say, "I didn't know we had a team." That's going to be my answer. "Oh, is that an event this year? Oh, I didn't know. I'm sorry."
Q: That's funny, my next question was going to be about the Presidents Cup.
A: Do we have an event this year? I didn't know that was this year! You heard my answer before. Whatever happens, happens.
Q: Let's hit the hot-button issues. Are you in favor of drug testing on the PGA Tour?
A: Whatever is going to make the playing field as level as possible. If they want to drug test, they can drug test. You're going to find that everybody out here is as clean as a whistle. It's not going to help you out here. It's just going to make you hit it 15 yards farther into the trees and mad as hell when you miss a 4-footer.
Q: Are you in favor of having a uniform, scaled-back golf ball on tour?
A: No, not necessarily. I've heard talks of that floating around, of Augusta National going to a conforming ball, but no.
Q: And the obligatory Michelle Wie question. Should she continue receiving sponsor's exemptions to compete in tour events?
A: I'm going to plead the fifth on that one. In my opinion, she needs to dominate the women's game first before she starts coming out here. I really do believe that and I'm not alone in that. I really think she needs to learn how to play and dominate on the women's tour. She's never won an event on the women's tour. And she wants to come out here and compete with us? Kudos to her for trying, and I think with as many chances as they're going to give her, she's going to get it done sooner or later, because she's that good of a player, but she needs to dominate the women's game, just like Annika [Sorenstam] did. I mean, Annika doesn't come out here and try to play with us. She tried it once, she did well, and that was it.
So the answer to the question is that I think she should stay on the ladies' tour and learn to dominate there.
Q: You're engaged to LPGA player Angie Rizzo. Instead of sweet nothings, do you whisper good swing thoughts into each other's ears?
A: That's the dumbest question I've ever heard!
Q: Does she ever give you any swing tips?
A: You know, when I ask for it. She's got a good eye. She can see things, which is great, so when I ask her, she knows what she's talking about. When I'm doing something wrong and I'm frustrated, she'll say, "You're doing this, this is what you're doing." And 99 percent of the time, she's right on.
Q: Do you give her any?
A: Only when she asks. [Rizzo, sitting next to Oberholser, says, "Oh, you can't say that. That's a lie!"] No, because I hate to see her struggle, so when she's struggling, I've got to pipe up. And then she gets mad at me. She gets defensive. So, I've got to learn how to curb that. [Dean Wilson, sitting next to Rizzo, begins singing, "Why do birds suddenly appear, every time that you are near ..."]
Q: Any New Year's resolutions?
A: Just to be more patient. That's the overall theme for me this entire year, just to really develop a better sense of patience.
Q: How about outside of golf?
Q: One last question. For the fantasy geeks: If you were in a golf pool ...
A: Dean Wilson. All the way. He's my "A" pick on my fantasy team this year.
Q: You didn't let me finish. If you were in a golf pool and could only pick yourself at one tournament, which would it be?
A: AT&T [Pebble Beach National Pro-Am].
Q: That's too easy. You won there already.
A: Oh, well, you asked the question!
Q: Other than AT&T?
A: Uh, my gosh ...
Q: Are you saying you wouldn't pick yourself anywhere else?
A: I'll tell you one: the U.S. Open. I think I've got a good game for the U.S. Open. If the cards fall my way, and I keep playing the way I'm playing, I think I'm going to give myself a real legitimate chance to win one on the back nine on Sunday.
Q: Is that the one major you feel like you have the best shot at?
A: I think I have a good shot at all of them, if I can learn how to play the golf courses. I really do think I can win a Masters, too, because I really enjoy the golf course, I've got a natural right-to-left ball flight and I feel like I'm a good putter. Those are all the things you need to do well out there. When it's wet, it's going to be really difficult for me, because the golf course plays so long, but I really think that between the U.S. Open and the Masters, I have a chance to win those more than any of the other ones.
Q: That's it. You're off the Hot Seat.
A: Thanks, man.
Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com