Haas Game Big Heart Belie His Age

By Associated PressNovember 18, 2003, 5:00 pm
GEORGE, South Africa -- Jay Haas never imagined being in this setting, not at this stage in his career.
 
Walking briskly down the 16th fairway Monday, he had the Indian Ocean at his back and the majestic Outeniqua Mountains in the foreground. He was flanked by Tiger Woods and Charles Howell III, both young enough to be his sons.
 
This week, they're his teammates at the Presidents Cup.
 
'To put it mildly, that's very cool,'' said Haas, two weeks away from turning 50 and the oldest player in the short history of these matches.
 
The Presidents Cup was the last item on his wish list going into what figured to be his final year on the PGA Tour.
 
It seemed like a long shot.
 
Haas was outside the top 125 in the world ranking. He had not won in 10 years. He was only two years removed from the low point of his career, when he failed to earn enough money to keep his card and had to rely on sponsor's exemptions.
 
Then Haas, playing with the passion of a rookie, turned in perhaps one of the most remarkable season of any player and his best season in more than 20 years.
 
He finished 14th on the PGA Tour money list, qualified for the World Golf Championships for the first time and made enough of an impression to be a captain's pick for the Presidents Cup.
 
'I never thought, 'I can't wait to turn 50 so I can be competitive again.' I never was just trying to play out the string,'' Haas said. 'I thought if I worked at it, I could still compete.''
 
While he didn't win -- Haas lost on the final hole at the Bob Hope Classic and was runner-up at The Players Championship -- he measures success by the words of two players.
 
One was Jack Nicklaus, the captain of the U.S. team who picked Haas over three other players.
 
'He said, 'I'm jumping you over some people, but I feel like you've played well all year, and you've earned it,''' Haas said. 'To hear Jack say, 'You earned it' ... those words are etched in my memory forever.''
 
The other words came Monday during Haas' practice round on the Links Course at Fancourt Hotel and Country Club Estate.
 
Woods told him to forget about the 50-and-older Champions Tour that Haas will be eligible for next year.
 
'Tiger said, 'You just need to keep playing out here. You're capable of winning -- not just competing, but winning,''' Haas said.
 
He looked over his shoulder at Woods on the practice range and smiled.
 
'Even coming from a snot-nosed little punk, I value what he says,'' Haas said with a laugh.
 
Haas played on the first Presidents Cup team in 1994, when no one knew what to make of the fledgling matches that were patterned after the Ryder Cup as an event to give non-European players a chance at team competition.
 
The United States won handily that year, although this year is different.
 
The International team, led by Ernie Els, Vijay Singh and Masters champion Mike Weir, has a slightly stronger team and will be favored to win in South Africa.
 
The only other time the matches were played outside the United States, the International team won 20 1/2-11 1/2 in Australia in 1998, the worst U.S. loss ever.
 
Haas wasn't on that team. At the time, he was slipping into a slump that appeared to signal the end of his career.
 
He finished 144th on the money list in 2000 to lose full playing privileges, and some PGA Tour events were passing him over for younger players when it came time to hand out sponsor's exemptions.
 
'That hurt a little bit,'' Haas said. 'In the early 1990s I played poorly, but at that stage I was only 38, 39 years old. I didn't think it was over. In 2000, I thought that maybe my run is done, and I didn't want it to be.''
 
He traces the turnaround to 2001, when he met up with Stan Utley during a Nationwide Tour event. Utley was trying to decide whether to work on his game, or pursue a career as a short-game guru. Haas offered to be his first client.
 
The changes in his putting started to take root at the end of last year, and with better results came greater passion.
 
That's when Haas, despite turning 49, decided to dream big.
 
'Once I got into the top 20 on the Presidents Cup list, I kept an eye on this,'' he said.
 
The clincher might have been the PGA Championship, where Haas closed with rounds of 69-69 to tie for fifth at Oak Hill. Nicklaus selected him the next day.
 
Haas is the old man on the team, but he might be the most excited.
 
'This is maybe not the crowning achievement for some of these guys, but for me at age 49 ... if you ask them if at 49 years old they expect to be in this, they'd all say it's pretty special,'' Haas said.
 
And he might not be done yet.
 
Instead of playing the Champions Tour next year, where the courses are shorter, the checks are guaranteed and the competition not nearly as stiff, Haas intends to play a full PGA Tour schedule with hopes of making the Ryder Cup team.
 
'That will be my only goal next year,'' he said. ``I don't feel that because I'm 50 ... that's not a number that doesn't allow me to play well.''
 
Related Links:
  • Meet the Teams
  • Full Coverage - The Presidents Cup
     
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  • Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

    By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

    Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

    ''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

    They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

    ''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

    Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

    ''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

    Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

    Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

    Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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    Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

    Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

    Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

    Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

    Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

    The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

    Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

    By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

    JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

    Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

    Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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    Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

    Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

    The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.