No-name James Hahn comes out of nowhere to win Northern Trust Open

No-name James Hahn comes out of nowhere to win Northern Trust Open
James Hahn gives the winner's trophy a kiss as he poses for photos after earning a playoff victory in the Northern Trust Open on Sunday at Riviera Country Club. (JD Cuban / Getty Images)

It seemed appropriate on Oscar night that Northern Trust Open coverage would spill into overtime with a montage to "Swinging in the Rain."

After three days of calm and sunshine, players on Sunday were forced to tiptoe through intermittent showers at Riviera Country Club.


There was only enough rain to end one California drought — however, the dry spell of James Hahn, a 33-year-old PGA Tour veteran from the Bay Area who outlasted the field and the conditions to earn his first tour win.

Hahn sank a 23-foot birdie putt on the third playoff hole, the par-three 14th, to hold off Dustin Johnson for the win.

Hahn, after sinking his shot, couldn't stand to look and only knew by the fan reaction that Johnson's birdie attempt had slid left of the hole.

"There are a lot of legends that have come through here," Hahn said of the course that Ben Hogan helped make famous. "Being in the locker room and seeing all the murals and pictures of past legends — to think that one day I'd be up on the same well, I'm speechless."

Hahn, Johnson and Paul Casey finished in a three-way tie after 72 holes at six-under 278.

All three players made par on the first playoff hole, the par-four 18th, and then proceeded to the par-four 10th.

Hahn and Johnson sank birdie putts to eliminate Casey.

"Disappointed," Casey would say. "But it is what it is."

Hahn and Johnson had played side-by-side all day, so it was no surprise to Johnson when Hahn made two huge playoff putts.

"He made a lot of putts today," Johnson said.

Seven players owned, or shared, the final-round lead. At one point five golfers who had combined for 10 major championships were vying for the title.

It seemed unlikely Hahn would emerge from this list. He said that before the playoff, he'd overheard a kid saying it was between Johnson, Casey and "some other guy."

Hahn said he was often confused on tour for John Huh.

"It's amazing how many people don't know me," Hahn said. "It's kind of cool. They don't know who I am."


Well, they might now.

Hahn is a tournament testament to patience and perseverance, and he needed every bit of those qualities on a Riviera course that played over par this weekend (average score: 72.5).

Hahn, an American citizen born in Seoul, South Korea, played at the University of California more than a decade ago but had a tough time getting his pro career started.

He kicked around on more backwater tours than Spinal Tap.

Hahn sold shoes in Walnut Creek and Pleasanton to make ends meet. At one point, playing an event on the Canadian Tour in Edmonton, he said he was down to $200 in the bank. He went on his computer to look for jobs in case the weekend didn't go well.

He ended up finishing eighth and earning $3,000 in Canadian dollars. He thought he was Rockefeller.

Sunday, he earned a check for $1.2 million and an invitation to the Masters.

He and his wife are also expecting a baby girl. He said he's going to lobby his wife for "Riviera."

"I think that's a good name," he joked. "We'll see what she says when I get home."

Hahn has come a long way from dead broke.

His biggest golf accomplishment before this week was finishing tied for third two years ago at Pebble Beach. He also went viral for the "Gangnam-style" dance he did at the Phoenix Open.

Hahn, unlike many in the Northern Trust field, said he was thrilled when it started to rain. He said he saw it, in a spiritual way, as "God's way of washing the streets."

Hahn (and everyone else) thought this was Sergio Garcia's tournament to lose.

And, lo and behold, Garcia lost it.

He took the outright lead to the 17th tee needing two pars to clinch a win in his first tournament this season in the United States.

Garcia, though, finished with bogeys on 17 and 18 to finish one shot out of the playoff.

"I'm not going to lie, I am a little bit disappointed," Garcia said.

He was undone, surprisingly, by his driver, hitting only 25 of 56 fairways on the week.

"Everybody knows how I rely on my long game," he said, "and my long game wasn't good this week."

It was also a bad day for old age, as the veterans in the field faded on a dank, drippy afternoon.

Retief Goosen, the 46-year-old 54-hole leader, shot a creaky four-over 75 Sunday. He finished at four-under 280 and was undone by a four-hole stretch on the back nine in which he shot five over on holes 13 through 16.

Goosen didn't adjust well to the wet weather, losing his grip on a tee shot that led to a double bogey.

"I'm kicking myself, for sure," Goosen said of missing a chance for his first tournament win since 2009. "It won't be a nice pill to swallow but that's just the way this game is."

Vijay Singh, who turned 52 Sunday, started the day four shots back of Goosen and was trying to become the second-oldest player to win a PGA event. Instead, he faded with a bogey-double bogey-bogey stretch on 15, 16 and 17. He ended one over for the day and missed the playoff by three shots.

Former major champions Jim Furyk, 44, and Angel Cabrera, 45, also flirted with victory before slipping into the recesses. Furyk went three over on his last four holes to finish at two under, while Cabrera opened with three straight birdies before careening to a final-round 76 and one-over 285 finish.

In the end, it wasn't a big name that won. It was a "what's-his-name."

Hahn, or Huh?

"I mean, I don't expect anybody to know my name," Hahn said. "I just play golf for a living."