Haas Comes Full Circle

By Associated PressSeptember 14, 2004, 4:00 pm
04 Ryder CupBLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- The Ryder Cup is a renaissance for 50-year-old Jay Haas, although redemption also comes to mind.
This isn't just about his age, which makes Haas the second-oldest player in Ryder Cup history.
Nine years ago was one of the lowest moments in his career, when Haas trudged off the 18th green at Oak Hill with a conceded bogey on his card and a European celebration ringing in his ears. It was his match Sunday in the '95 Ryder Cup - his loss - that allowed Europe to go home with the trophy.
'It didn't look like my match was going to mean anything,' Haas said. 'I was the 11th match. We had a two-point lead, and it looked like we'd have won it by then. Then all of a sudden it came down to my match. I wasn't playing very well. I wasn't ready to hit the last shot, to win the last hole.'
The 18th hole is still a vivid memory.
Haas had to win the final hole to earn the half-point the United States so desperately needed. He popped up his tee shot left and into the trees, had to carve a wedge around the trees and into the fairway, then came up short of the green. He chipped his fourth shot 8 feet by the hole and never had to putt.
Philip Walton rolled his 10-foot par putt to within inches, and Haas graciously conceded the putt, conceded the bogey, conceded the Ryder Cup.
'I choked,' he said.
Haas was 41 and headed to the twilight of his career. He wondered if he would ever return to a Ryder Cup.
'I remember saying in the team meeting how special it was to be on the team at my age,' Haas said. 'You just never know out here when it's your last win, when it's the last top 10, the last cut you make. Someday, it's going to end.
'And at that stage,' he said, 'little did I know I'd go south - and come back again.'
Haas went south, all right.
One of the steadiest players in golf, he missed out on the Tour Championship the following year and began to slide into obscurity. He fell out of the top 125 on the money list in 2000 for the first time since turning pro in 1976, and spent the next season begging for sponsor's exemptions to play a full schedule.
'I thought maybe my run was done,' Haas said. 'But I didn't want it to be.'
That's where the renaissance comes in.
Maybe it was that putting tip he got from Stan Utley in his driveway a couple of years ago. Maybe it was rejuvenation with his son, 22-year-old Bill Haas, having a stellar career at Wake Forest and now on the cusp of earning a PGA Tour card without going to Q-school.
Haas turned heads with his runner-up finish at the Bob Hope Classic last year, then at The Players Championship. By the end of the year, he finished 15th on the money list, played in the Presidents Cup as a captain's pick, and when he turned 50 a week later, had no reason to play with guys his own age.
The Ryder Cup was in range.
'My only goal,' Haas said.
Some believe he was a sentimental pick, and there certainly is no more congenial person in the game. Haas wanted to make the team on his own, but being 12th in the final standings - Chris DiMarco and Chris Riley knocked him out of the top 10 at the PGA Championship - showed he was a worthy selection.
'I'm pretty sure Jay wasn't sure he could do what he's done the last two years,' U.S. captain Hal Sutton said. 'It's been an exciting ride for him. I feel sure that the Ryder Cup, making it as a 50-year-old, is something he'll look back on his career as one of the highlights.'
It was only fitting that the one tournament that made the Ryder Cup a realistic goal for Haas was his tie for fifth last year in the PGA Championship - at Oak Hill, of all places.
The situation wasn't quite the same when he got to the 18th hole in the final round, although Haas couldn't help but think about the Ryder Cup.
'The last time I stood on that tee I tried to squeeze it into the fairway,' he said. 'This time I said, 'Screw it. Just hit this as hard as you can.' I think I can learn from that.'
He split the middle of the fairway and made par, and chalked that up as a lesson learned.
'The last couple of years, I've played more aggressively in my mind - not hitting driver on a tight hole, but being committed to what I was doing,' he said. 'If I'm in that same position, I might not hit a great shot, but I'll be committed to it. If I go down, I'll go down in flames, instead of going down tiptoeing.'
Whether Haas gets another shot to help win the cup won't be known until Sunday. But at least he's got another chance, and that's something he never expected the last time he was in a Ryder Cup uniform.
And maybe this is where redemption comes in.
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    Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

    New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

    The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

    "Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

    It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

    Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

    Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

    He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

    Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

    The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

    ''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

    Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

    ''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

    Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

    “An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

    Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

    Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.