Time for Younger Haas to Pay His Dues

By Associated PressDecember 7, 2004, 5:00 pm
PGA TourLA QUINTA, Calif. -- Bill Haas never imagined playing anywhere but the PGA Tour, and he couldn't hide his frustration after coming up two shots short of a tour card at Q-school.
Moments after signing his scorecard, he was angry with himself and bitter about his immediate future.
He ridiculed his performance, a tie for 43rd among 169 players.
'If I was good enough, I wouldn't have been on the bubble,' he said. 'I'm obviously not ready.'

And he cringed at the thought of having to play on the Nationwide Tour next year.
'There's some really good players on the Nationwide Tour, but it's just not where I want to be,' Haas said. 'I don't want to be on the Nationwide Tour, and I think if I have to play there more than four or five years, I'll quit golf.'
After loading his clubs into the car in the parking lot at PGA West, the 22-year-old son of Jay Haas stared at the pavement as his mother put her arm around his shoulder and whispered encouragement.
What Haas could have used was a heart-to-heart with David Duval.
'I'm sure with how Bill Haas played this summer, and how he is regarded as a player, he feels he should be playing on the PGA Tour,' Duval said Tuesday morning from his home in Denver. 'I felt like that's where I should play. But the path to get there sometimes makes a few turns.'
Eleven years ago, Duval took one of those unexpected turns.
Duval was a can't-miss kid who had the 54-hole lead at the BellSouth Classic as an amateur, an All-American all four years at Georgia Tech who saw Q-school as merely a stop sign on the road to stardom.
Duval was so good that he almost got his card by playing a limited schedule on the Nike Tour - two victories and a third place in just nine starts to miss his card by $2,875.
Then came Q-school in the California desert.
That was when there was a cut after four rounds, and Duval didn't even get past that.
'I played the last 10 holes in 5 under and that was going to be the number,' Duval said. 'I got in front of the computer with everyone else and watched that arrow move. I was at 1 under, and then it moved to 2 under. And I was like, 'I'm out of here.'
'The feeling of not making it ... it's a disaster.'
Haas has received even more attention during his college career, in no small part because his father has done amazing things on the PGA Tour as a 50-year-old - making the Ryder Cup team and Tour Championship - and because the son has impeccable credentials himself.
Bill Haas was an All-American at Wake Forest this year, won the Jack Nicklaus Award and Ben Hogan Award as the top college player and set an NCAA record for lowest stroke average.
He turned pro and tried to get his card by making enough money through sponsor's exemptions.
Haas missed only one cut and didn't do anything spectacular, although Haas showed plenty of grit. When his seven exemptions ran out, he qualified for the Deutsche Bank Championship and was in contention, paired with Tiger Woods in the second-to-last group in the third round, before tying for ninth.
His hopes ended at the Canadian Open, where he finished three shots out of the top 10 and had nowhere else to play. That sent him to the second stage of Q-school, which he passed at tough Black Horse on the Monterey Peninsula. And he battled back after an opening 75 in the final stage at PGA West.
But all that mattered at the end of six rounds was that he did not finish among the top 30 and ties. He will not have membership on the PGA Tour next year, an even bigger blow considering he wanted to play with his father, and the window for that opportunity is closing.
Haas at least has full status on the Nationwide Tour, and he'll figure out soon enough that it's not all bad. But in the moments after Q-school, he already was cooking up plans to reach the big leagues.
'If I can get seven starts (sponsor's exemptions), I'll play on tour,' he said. 'I don't like the Nationwide Tour. I'd much rather play on the PGA Tour.'
Who wouldn't?
Haas played three times on the Nationwide Tour, twice missing the cut. He knows how tough it is out there.
'A lot of players have taken at least a year out there,' Haas said. 'Apparently, that's what I need to do. I've got to pay my dues, which is fine.'
Duval only hopes he makes a full deposit.
After his Q-school flop, Duval focused almost entirely on the Nike Tour and finished eighth on the money list to get his PGA Tour card. The year in the minor leagues served him well. Duval was 11th on the money list as a rookie and was never lower than 10th the next six years as he ascended to No. 1 in the world.
'If I was him, I wouldn't mess around on the PGA Tour,' Duval said. 'Serve your time, if you want to call it that. If he wants to play an event or two when there's not any Nationwide stuff, that's fine. But as good as he is, he might win three times by June if he focuses on that. Or he could finish in the top three on the money list and make $400,000 or $500,000. As a 22-year-old, that's not bad.'
And that might be the most important message of all.
Haas is only 22. His future is no less bright just because he failed his first try at Q-school.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."

Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

Ko told GolfChannel.com Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

“It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

Ko released this statement through the LPGA on Wednesday: 

"It has been my dream since I was young to play on the LPGA Tour and I look forward to testing myself against the best players on a worldwide stage. I know it is going to be tough but making a first win as an LPGA member and winning the Rolex Rookie of the Year award would be two of the biggest goals I would like to achieve next year."

Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

“I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

And that’s a magic word in golf.

There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.

Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery

A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

“The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

“It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

Parity was the story this year.

Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

“I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.