Jan
18
2013
Meanwhile, at the Humana Challenge…
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour
James Hahn, aka "The Asian Brad Pitt"...

James Hahn, aka “The Asian Brad Pitt”…

Recovering from nearly two weeks of flu-like symptoms — which, from personal experience, in case you were wondering, really stinks — Phil Mickelson shot five-under 67 on Friday at Nicklaus Private in the second round of the Humana Challenge.

However, Mickelson, who carded five-under through 36 holes after his opening 72, is still two strokes outside of the cut line. 77 players posted scores of six-under or better. Good news for Phil and others? The cut is made after 54 holes in this pro-am format, where amateurs are paired with the pros for three rounds, and then Sunday’s final is pros only.

 

“I feel much better,” said Mickelson following the second round. “I was excited to get out and play. I thought that this was a great day to go low. I left a few shots out there, but the last couple holes were very encouraging to me. They were the first time that my rhythm kind of set in.

“I’ve been very quick from the top, coming over the top and hitting some very poor shots. Those last few holes were the first time I settled in and hit some of the best solid shots coming down the stretch. Hopefully I’ll carry that into tomorrow’s round, get some momentum and then try and play well next week in San Diego.”

More important, we’re hoping for a Tiger-Phil pairing at next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, where Tiger makes his 2013 PGA Tour debut.

Meanwhile…yes, that’s my new favorite word.

Two relative unknowns Robert Castro and James Hahn share the 36-hole lead. Following their first-round 63s, both shot five-under 67 in second. Castro played at what’s probably the easiest of the three courses, Palmer Private, that the tournament is contested, while Hahn spent the day at what’s likely the hardest, La Quinta Country Club.

Castro was atop the leaderboard alone for a moment, but he posted two bogeys in his final three holes to drop back to 14-under.

Hahn, who is otherwise known as “The Asian Brad Pitt,” was four-under in a three-hole stretch on his second nine, birdieing No. 4 and then chipping in for eagle on No. 5, followed by another birdie on No. 6.

The 31-year-old rookie is making only his third start on the PGA Tour after graduating from the Web.com Tour last year via his fifth-place finish on the season-long money list (the top 25 earn cards).

Hahn’s candor and humor are endearing him with the press corps very quickly. He also has an interesting story.

Hahn was born in Seoul, South Korea, but moved to California when he was two years old. While he was growing up, his dad owned a driving range, so James picked up the game at age 4. He called himself a “Tin Cup kind of guy — just a driving range rat.”  Hahn went on to play college golf at UC Berkeley.

He said he sat out on the bench most of his sophomore year because “extracurricular activities got in the way — college life.”

Hey, it happens.

Then he quit his senior year, a decision he says he still regrets.

“I had some hard feelings about that, I could have done a little differently looking back, but for how young I was and how stubborn I was back then, it’s hard to blame kids for being kids,” said Hahn in his press conference after shooting five-under on Friday.

He said he spent the next four years after college with a chip on his shoulder.

“(The Cal team) ended up winning the NCAAs the year after I graduated,” he said. “And the running joke was they finally had to kick James off the team to win a championship.  So it actually hurt a lot, because I’m really good friends with all the Cal alums that played on the golf team, and it was just a bitter taste in my mouth because I was so happy to see them win, and still keep in touch with (Peter) Tomasulo, he was on the team, and very happy for all those guys and how much work they put into it to be rewarded for that.

“And then me being on the short end of the stick and being the butt end of a joke.  So just walking around with a chip on my shoulder and that kind of lit a fire under me and wanted to prove everyone wrong that hey, look, it was a mistake to not have me on the team.  But I was not also going to let that, my senior year, define my golfing career.”

After graduating college, Hahn turned pro and struggled on the mini tours. He went broke three months later, so he was forced to get a “real job.” His journey to the PGA Tour was longer than he might have liked, but he certainly gained perspective in the multitude of experiences he had along the way.

Hahn worked in advertising, earned his realtor’s license and even sold shoes at Nordstrom at one point, but he eventually returned to pursue his dream. He also spent several stints on the Korean Tour and Canadian Tour before settling in on the Web.com Tour in 2010.

What’s more, he learned how to play from watching YouTube videos — he’s never had a real swing instructor besides his dad.

“I remember my dad would bring me in whenever these stars would be on the TV and he would say, ‘Hey, I want you to swing like this guy,'” Hahn recalled  “And back then I guess that was the old school YouTube.”

He met Davis Love III for the first time on Thursday because he was in the group behind him. Growing up, Hahn said he watched DL3 swing and modeled his own a bit after the ’12 U.S. Ryder Cup captain.

To this day, he still goes on YouTube for swing tips.

Added James: “I just want to make my swing look pretty and I think it’s been working so far.”

(AP Photo/Ben Margot)