CHARLOTTE -- James Hahn was going through a crisis of confidence.
A string of eight straight missed cuts will do that to you. Hahn hadn't played on the weekend since Super Bowl Sunday back in February. He hadn't broken 70 in his last 18 rounds.
So he and his caddie, Mark Urbanek, sat down at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and had a heart-to-heart. They both knew Hahn was a better player than that. He needed to believe in himself again.
The conversation worked wonders, too. Not only did Hahn hang around to play the weekend at the Wells Fargo Championship, he ended up winning the tournament on the first hole of sudden death with Roberto Castro.
That's how quickly things can change. The victory was Hahn's second on the PGA TOUR and boosted him from 120th to 26th in the FedExCup entering this week's PLAYERS Championship.
"The mind is a powerful thing and it was going bad for a while," Hahn recalled. "Just didn't have the confidence, didn't believe in myself. I felt like I was putting in the work but wasn't getting any reward for it, so it made me not want to put in as much work because it's not gratifying.
"You're playing bad and you're missing cuts and there's nothing funny about that."
James Hahn is victorious in sudden-death playoff at Wells Fargo
Surviving the 36-hole elimination at Quail Hollow was one step. Hahn didn't have to sweat it out, either -- he was tied for 13th at the midway point -- although bogeys on his last two holes sent him to the range to work out the kinks.
"It was a relief to make the cut," Hahn acknowledged. "But to be 100 percent honest with you guys, we dream bigger than that. Making cuts on this TOUR is not something that I get happy about. Competing and having a chance to win on the back nine on Sunday is something that gets me up ... in the morning."
As if that wasn't enough, Hahn had added motivation when his wife Stephanie and 14-month-old daughter Kailee arrived in Charlotte on Saturday night. Stephanie had been at home awaiting the birth of their first child when Hahn won the 2015 Northern Trust Open, so to have them waiting on the sidelines Sunday was huge.
And Hahn kept thinking back to his conversation with Urbanek.
"That was a week ago and now I'm here," he said. "So I constantly remind myself that I'm good enough that I belong out here. Was kind of chanting to myself that I can do this, I will do this and I must do this.
"I mean, this is something that I look in my daughter's eyes and say, ‘Hey, I can't give up on you, I have to do this.’ So having family like that, my wife supporting me, it really gives me that extra fire to keep going."
James Hahn news conference after winning Wells Fargo
SHOT OF THE DAY
Shot of the Day
James Hahn drops in a 51-foot eagle putt for the Shot of the Day
CALL OF THE DAY
2. Roberto Castro preferred to take the glass-half-full view of his playoff loss on Sunday. And why not?
He shot 9 under on a demanding golf course that will host the PGA Championship next year. Not to mention, Castro righted the ship after consecutive bogeys and came up with a clutch 6-foot par-saver to get into the playoff in the first place.
Sure, he'd like a mulligan on his drive that found the creek on the first extra hole. Ditto for the third shot that hit a spectator behind the green -- "I feel terrible," Castro said.
His chip scared the hole, though, and he made the 7-footer for bogey to put a little pressure on Hahn. But it wasn't to be, and Castro had the second runner-up finish of his career.
"I'm really positive," Castro said. "I think my game's in good shape and I saw some really encouraging things and holed a few putts, which I haven't done in what feels like years. So I'm excited for the rest of the summer. This opens a few doors for me. I love this place.
"I feel like I wanted to win this tournament specifically, not just a tournament. But I'll be back to try again."
Castro also took pride in the fact that he was in the mix for the better part of the week. He vaulted into contention with a second-round 66 and trailed by one entering the third and fourth rounds.
"That's three or four times in the last six months where I've been in contention all week, which is great, it's great experience," he said. "I mean, everyone, we all have back-door top 10s and it's great, we love that. Tee off in the middle of the pack and shoot a low Sunday round.
"It's a totally different experience than leading or being around the lead for four days. So I'm proud of that, proud of the way I played the last four days."
3. Justin Rose called his 71 and third-place finish a "real disappointment." The former U.S. Open champion had grabbed sole possession of the lead when he birdied the second hole and shared it as late as the 13th hole.
Tee-to-green, Rose was spot-on, ranking first in the Strokes Gained statistical category. But he was 66th among the 78 players who made the cut in Strokes Gained: Putting.
By the end of the round, Rose had missed four birdie putts inside 8 feet and a par-saver from 4 feet at the 16th hole.
"I couldn't have hit the ball better," Rose said. "I couldn't have asked for more opportunities today. Really felt like that was one of the most quality rounds of golf I played in a long time and just made nothing out of it. Putter was ice-cold today and incredibly disappointing because of that."
Rose had started using the claw grip after he tied for ninth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard. He struggled with the speed of the greens on Sunday, though, and indicated the grip "didn't really pass with flying colors" in what he called its first real test.
"I feel my hands got behind the ball today and as you take it back in your transition you lose the face, where you lose the squareness of the face," Rose said. "I think that's what happened to me but obviously trying to fiddle around with your setup, that's one thing you don't want to be thinking about. Whether that's just more time getting comfortable or re-think it, I don't know.
"Obviously today was an opportunity come and gone, but I know the way I'm playing. At the end of the day, I'm looking forward to the major championships this year. We would love to have won this week and give me some confidence to finish one off."
4. What a difference a day made for Rickie Fowler. The overnight leader couldn't get a 4-footer to drop at the first hole on Sunday, and it was basically downhill from there.
The 27-year-old who had looked so supremely confident when a third-round 68 took him to 9 under started missing fairways (six on the front nine alone) and greens (a total of nine for the day). Fowler finished with a 74 and dropped back into a tie for fourth at 7 under.
"I didn't get out of the gate swinging well off the tee, kind of fought that a little bit through the round," he said. "So yeah, obviously it sucks. It's disappointing knowing where my game was at coming into today. I felt really good about being in the final group and getting the job done."
Fowler won't linger on the disappointment, though. Sunday's miscues weren't mental -- "It was just some tough swings and a couple bad breaks," he said. He also came home in 2 under and at least stayed in touch with the leaders.
"... I didn't feel like I had anywhere near my best stuff except yesterday was the best that I had, and to kind of fight around and figure out how to still score with what I had, I was definitely pleased with that," he said.
There should be plenty of positives next week at TPC Sawgrass, too, as Fowler returns to defend his title at THE PLAYERS Championship.
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