James Hahn watches his tee shot on the ninth hole during the second round… (Omar Ornelas / The Desert…)
James Hahn stood and stared at his scorecard. He was looking at the numerical evidence of his glorious golf round Friday at the Humana Challenge.
Hahn, a 31-year-old who has struggled and played on lesser golf tours ever since he graduated from California in 2003, counted four birdies, an eagle and a lonely bogey in his round of five-under-par 67 at La Quinta Country Club. He has a two-day total of 14-under-par 130 and is tied for the second-round lead with Roberto Castro whose aunt, Jenny Lidback, once won on the LPGA Tour.
A trio of golfers — Darron Stiles, Scott Stallings and Richard Lee — are tied for second, a shot behind the leaders.
Even though he was on top for the second day in a row, Castro's head hung a little. He bogeyed two of his last three holes on the PGA West Palmer course. "A couple slipped away there at the end," Castro said before finding a brighter side. "I made a 50-foot putt on my last hole Thursday. So stuff over 72 holes? It's going to even out."
Two-time tournament champion Phil Mickelson, who is still fighting the effects of a virus that kept him from practicing much in the lead-up to his first tournament of the year, had a 67 Friday at the PGA West Nicklaus course, five shots better than the 72 he had opened with at La Quinta on Thursday.
Though he's still nine shots behind the leaders and two shots off of the projected cut that will be made after Saturday's third round, Mickelson said he felt better, healthwise and golfwise.
"My last two holes were the first time in two days that I actually hit solid shots and my rhythm felt good and I made good swings," Mickelson said. "My rhythm has been off and I've hit a bunch of squirrelly shots. I made a lot of rusty mistakes. It helps give me a little bit of direction heading to Saturday. Those last two holes were very encouraging."
If Hahn was to win this event, his life story might get told in a movie or a book. He was born in South Korea but moved to the United States when he was 2 months old. His father operated a driving range near Oakland, and Hahn, calling himself just a "Tin Cup" kind of guy, hit balls so he could be near his father.
Hahn went to Cal, but by his senior year he had quit the golf team partly because he was benched because of, as he put it, "extracurricular activities." The Bears won an NCAA title his senior year without him and that was a pill so bitter that Hahn quit the game for a while.
"Things didn't go so well when I quit," Hahn said Friday. "So I made a commitment to myself, saying hard work can overcome. And that's what I did. I just worked harder."
Hahn, who used to buy shoes and clubs off Internet sites, didn't find immediate success even when he recommitted to the game.
"I wasn't doing anything right, really," he said, "but eventually I figured it out. Just going through trial and error is pretty much how I learned to play professionally. And to this day I still go on YouTube for swing tips."