CHARLOTTE, N.C. — James Hahn said the anxiety was creeping in after missing eight straight cuts on the PGA Tour, causing him to wonder if he’d ever get his game straightened out.
But after a long talk with caddie Mark Urbanek last week, Hahn came to Quail Hollow Club with a renewed confidence and determination to end the streak.
He did that and more.
Hahn beat Roberto Castro with a par on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff Sunday in the Wells Fargo Championship to snap the three-month slump and earn his second PGA Tour title.
“It was going bad for a while,” Hahn said. “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. … You’re playing bad and you’re missing cuts and there’s nothing funny about that.”
The anxiety appeared a distant memory Sunday as a smiling Hahn cracked open a can of Bud Light as he sat behind the podium and asked the media, “You want one?”
Hahn, perhaps best known for his “Gangnam Style” birdie celebration three years ago on the Waste Management Phoenix Open’s rowdy 16th hole, said when things got bad he remained motivated by never wanting to lose his PGA Tour card and having to play on the Web.com Tour.
“I just told my wife, I can’t play there — I can’t,” Hahn said. “It’s not an option for me. I feel like I’m good enough and I need to put in more work to stay on this level, and it’s worth every minute of it. … I have a lot of people counting on me.”
He won’t have to worry about that now for quite a while.
In winning, Hahn picked up the $1.3 million prize and an automatic two-year extension on the PGA Tour, not bad for a former Bay Area women’s shoes salesman.
“You have to keep believing in yourself and keep grinding. I constantly remind myself that I am good enough and belong out there,” Hahn said.
Hahn said he never looked at the scoreboard all day and didn’t know that if he’d made par on the 72nd hole that he would have likely sealed the tournament. Instead, he three-putted and made bogey, opening the door for Castro.
Castro, playing in the final group behind Hahn, made par to force a playoff.
But Castro’s tee shot on the playoff hole found the creek on the left side of the fairway and his third shot landed in a spectator’s shoe on the side of the green, leading to a bogey. The ball hit a spectator in the head before landing in the loafer.
“I was worried he was going to be laid out when we got up there,” Castro said. “He’ll ice it down and he’ll be OK, I hope. But I felt bad about that.”
Hahn shot 2-under 70 on Sunday, and Castro had a 71 to finish at 9 under, one shot ahead of Justin Rose (71). Hahn also won the 2015 Northern Trust Open at Riviera.
Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson both shot 66 to tie for fourth at 7 under with third-round leader Rickie Fowler (74) and Andrew Loupe (71).
Both Castro and Hahn had chances to win in regulation.
Castro broke a tie when he rolled in a birdie putt from 6 feet on the 15th hole to get to 11 under. But he quickly gave the lead up with bogeys at 16 and 17 on the “Green Mile,” the toughest closing holes on the PGA Tour.
Despite the playoff loss, Castro refused to the dwell on the negative.
“Sure, it hurts to let this tournament specifically slip away, but there are 154 guys that didn’t have a chance in that playoff and I feel grateful to have had a chance,” Castro said.
Like Castro, the 18th hole ultimately proved to be the undoing for McIlroy and Mickelson, too.
McIlroy played the 493-yard hole in 4 over par for the week, including a bogey Sunday when his approach shot landed behind a rock on the other side of the creek that runs along the left side of the hole. Lefty was left to ponder what could have been if not for a quadruple-bogey 8 on the hole Saturday.
“I hit a lot of good shots over the weekend, but unfortunately one bad hole yesterday kind of cost me,” Mickelson said.
McIlroy had seven birdies in between his bogeys on the first and last holes.
“Anytime you walk off the golf course and shoot 66, you can’t be too disappointed,” McIlroy said. “But I think in the circumstances, having a feeling like I had a chance on the back nine to post a number for the guys to at least think about it and I didn’t.”
Fowler got off to a poor start, shooting 39 on the front nine and never mounting a challenge.