Haas Arrives at Long Last

By George WhiteMay 30, 2006, 4:00 pm
So maybe Jay Haas has found a home after all. Hes 51 years old and has been eligible for the Champions Tour for almost 18 months, but hes had a problem really being a senior.
Until now. Last week he won the first major of his career, the Senior PGA Championship. That, friends, was his third straight Champions Tour victory. Nothing better to snap you suddenly into reality than to reel off three wins back to back to back.
Jay Haas' Senior PGA Championship victory was his third straight win.
Haas had a terrible time letting go of the PGA TOUR. And really, you couldnt blame him. After all, he finished 15th on the regular-tour money list at the age of 49, his highest finish since 1982. He won $2.5 million that year, and in 2004 when he was first eligible for the Champions Tour, he was still good enough to grab $2 million out of the regular tour coffers.
Consider that you only make about one-third to one-fourth as much money for a similar Champions Tour finish, and you learn very quickly the attraction of staying on the regular tour as long as you can. In 2004, Haas was 27th on the PGA TOUR money list with $2 mil. In 2004, the 27th man on the Champions made only $689,420. The $2 million figure would have been third on the Champions Tour. So it doesnt take a Bill Gates to decide where you need to be.
Last year, Haas got a cold dose of reality. Age finally caught up with him. He tried to play the regular tour but he could finish only 151st on the regular-tour money list while playing in 16 events. He did dip a toe into the Champions Tour, playing in 10 events and being voted rookie of the year.
This year, it has been mostly about the senior set. He did play four events on the regular tour (he has an exemption for this year thanks to his selection on the 2004 Ryder Cup team), finishing as high as a tie for 22nd at Wachovia. But he says such forays into the land of the youngsters is strictly a some-time thing now. He is ready to start acting his age.
Er ' almost. He has entered the Memorial this week, his all-time favorite tournament after the majors. While in Ohio, he will attempt to qualify for the U.S. Open. And he will play in the PGA Championship in August.
Actually, Haas was searching for a tour that he could play when he was 46. He finished 144th that year, 92nd when he was 47 and 98th when he was 48. But then his game was reborn after a few lessons with putting guru Stan Utley. Maybe, he theorized, he wasnt so bad after all. And he certainly wasnt.

I didn't think I should play as poorly at 45, but I wasn't sure I should play as well as I did at 50, Haas says.
So it was just hard to let go. That's all I ever knew. That competition, those courses, those guys that I was competing against. That was what I had known. And so it was just hard to turn my back on it. And playing well. I guess to me, being in contention at Harbortown or the U. S. Open, something like that, the PGA Championship, that was an unbelievable charge. And I didn't know if I would get that same feeling.
Now since I've played Champions Tour golf and won a couple events, it's the same to me. If you're coming down the stretch with a chance to win the tournament, it doesn't seem to be any different to me than it was 20 years ago. So it's still golf, it's still low score wins, and you're competing against some quality people. But it's tough to say that's over. But I'm OK with it now. I'm ready to move on.
Haas, though, hasnt completely lost his desire to play with the young men. He has a son, Bill, who keeps banging on the door of the PGA TOUR. Jay leaps at the chance to play alongside his son, and that is a feeling that will never change, regardless of how he does on the Champions or the regular tour.
That's been the main reason that I've played this year is to just be with Bill, play practice rounds with him and just watch him a little bit, Haas said.
It never gets old, and I wish I was 42 instead of 52 and still being able to do that week in and week out with him. But he's a big boy and he's, and he can do it without me, I'm sure. He would probably just as soon do it without me, so. But that doesn't mean I'm going to leave him alone.

Haas, though, is bright enough to know that his days as a true competitor on the regular tour are probably over. Hes bright enough to know that on that tour hes probably just an oddity now, an older guy getting a chance to test himself against the young men. But against men of his generation, the situation is far different.
I don't know, I get to the PGA TOUR events and I feel like I cannot make any mistakes, Haas said. I feel like I have to play almost perfectly to be a threat. To even make the cut I really have to play well.
I come out here and where there are no cuts normally - I guess I don't feel like I can coast by any means, but it's just a little bit different mindset. I don't know what it is. It's just I feel like I'm outclassed a lot of times if I don't play well at a PGA event, PGA TOUR event, I'm down the road. No questions asked.
So he makes a final decision to play the Champions Tour and he wins a Champions Tour major. What do you think about that? If youre Jay Haas, playing with these older gents isnt half bad.
Email your thoughts to George White

Def. champ Fitzpatrick grabs lead at Euro finale

By Associated Press, Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 1:50 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Defending champion Matthew Fitzpatrick shot a second straight 5-under-par 67 to secure a one-stroke lead halfway through the European Tour's season-ending Tour Championship on Friday.

At 10 under after two rounds on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estate, Fitzpatrick leads English compatriot Tyrrell Hatton, whom he beat by one shot to win the title last year.

Hatton moved into contention with a brilliant 9-under 63, a round soured only by a closing bogey on the par-5 18th hole.

In the Race to Dubai, main protagonists Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose experienced contrasting emotions to their opening rounds. Fleetwood boosted his chances by rising into a tie for 11th at 6 under after a 65. Rose endured a three-putt bogey on the 18th to finish with a 70, and dropped on the leaderboard so he's just two shots ahead of Fleetwood.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Order of Merit, stayed in contention by adding a 69 to his opening 70 to be one shot behind Fleetwood.

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Fleetwood needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

Fitzpatrick made two bogeys but eagled the 14th, and five birdies contributed to his 67.

Overnight leader Patrick Reed is now three back following an even-par 72. Reed is in the field thanks to a European Tour regulation that allows the Presidents Cup to count as an official event, thus allowing him to meet his quota of tournaments played.

Fitzpatrick was helped immensely also by the 18th, where Hatton, Rose, and Reed all made bogeys. Fitzpatrick birdied the hole for a second straight day with a 25-foot putt.

''I said to my caddie, we were putting really, really well all week so far,'' Fitzpatrick said.

''The thing is, you get so many fast putts around here, even uphill into the green, they are still running at 12, 13 (on the stimpmeter) even. You've just got to be really sort of careful. Every putt is effectively a two-putt. You've got to control your pace well and limit your mistakes, because it's easy to three-putt out here.''

Rose, hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey, was disappointed with his finish despite playing solid golf from tee to green.

''To make six (on 18) just ends the day on the wrong note, but other than that, I played really well on the back nine,'' Rose said.

''I was aware of the scores and who had done what today. But listen, halfway stage, I'd probably have signed up for that if somebody said on Wednesday you would be in this position after two rounds. It's a position you can build on the weekend.''

Fleetwood resurrected his chances of winning the Order of Merit with a 65, eight shots better than his opening round. His only bogey of the day came on the seventh after an errant drive, but that was the only mistake on a solid day that saw him make eight birdies.

Fleetwood spent hours on the putting green after his first round.

''I needed a low one today for (a tournament win and the Order of Merit),'' he said. ''Luckily, I got a good score.''

Closing eagle gives Kirk 1-shot lead in RSM

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 12:16 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - Chris Kirk holed an 18-foot putt for eagle on his final hole for a 9-under 63 and a one-shot lead Thursday in the RSM Classic.

Kirk played the par 5s on the Plantation Course at Sea Island Golf Club in 5 under.

''I kind of hit my putter on the fringe a little bit and I wasn't sure it was going to get there, but that was just kind of the day that it was,'' Kirk said. ''Even when I thought it wasn't quite going to work out, it still went in the middle of the hole.''

The seven lowest scores of the opening round came on the Plantation Course during a picturesque afternoon on the Golden Isles. Sporting a University of Georgia hat Thursday, Kirk won at Sea Island four years ago for the second of his four PGA Tour victories.

''It's a big Georgia territory out here on St. Simons,'' Kirk said. ''Hopefully, my hat will bring me some luck the rest of the week.''

The tournament is the final PGA Tour event of the calendar year, and Kirk is sorting out equipment changes.

''I'm still trying to get it all worked out and figure out what I want to do going forward,'' Kirk said. ''But keep shooting 9 under, so I won't have to worry about it too much.'

Joel Dahmen had a 64.

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''I think it played a little easier today,'' Dahmen said. ''The wind was down, greens were a little softer over here on the Plantation side. But just kept the ball in front of me and made a bunch of 8- to 10-footers.

''I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

Sea Island resident Hudson Swafford was at 65 at the Plantation along with Jason Kokrak and Brian Gay.

''I feel like I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

He played alongside fellow former Georgia players Bubba Watson and Brian Harman.

''We are right in the heart of Dawgs' territory, mine and Harman's backyard, so it's kind of nice,'' Swafford said.

Though, his caddie wore an Auburn shirt.

''We don't need to talk about that,'' said Swafford, not needing to be reminded that Auburn beat Georgia in football last week.

Nick Watney and Brice Garnett each had a 5-under 65 on the Seaside Course, which will be used for the final two rounds.

Brandt Snedeker opened with a 67 in his first return from a sternum injury that sidelined him since the Travelers in June.

Harman shot 69, and Watson had a 71.

Co-leader Smith credits Foley's influence

By Randall MellNovember 16, 2017, 11:33 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sarah Jane Smith is making the most of the devoted efforts of Sean Foley this week.

Foley’s prize pupil, Justin Rose, is in the hunt at the World Tour Championship in the United Arab Emirates, looking to win the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, but Foley isn’t there with him.

Foley promised to help Smith this week, and he’s living up to the pledge, making the trip to Naples.

“At 33, Sarah is in her prime,” Foley told GolfChannel.com. “She is going to hold a trophy at some point. She is too skilled not to win.”

Foley's extra attention is paying off for Smith.

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With a 6-under-par 66, Smith moved into early contention to make her first LPGA title memorable at the CME Group Tour Championship. She’s tied for the first-round lead with Taiwan rookie Peiyun Chien.

“I just seem to play my best with him,” Smith said.

Foley, the former coach to Tiger Woods, was No. 10 in Golf Digest’s Top 100 teacher rankings released this fall.

Foley sees a lot coming together in Smith’s game. She is a 12-year veteran building some momentum. She tied for third at the Women’s Australian Open earlier this year and is coming off three consecutive top-15 finishes in Asia. She is sixth on tour in birdies this season. 

“As a coach, you try to get a player to see something in themselves that is already there,” Foley said.

Rose, by the way, opened with a 6-under-par 66 in Dubai and is one shot off the lead.

Seeking awards sweep, Park 1 off lead

By Randall MellNovember 16, 2017, 11:03 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park made a strong start in her bid to make LPGA history with an epic sweep of the year’s major awards.

Park opened the CME Group Tour Championship Thursday with a 5-under-par 67, moving her a shot off the lead.

Park is looking to join Nancy Lopez as the only players to win the Rolex Player of the Year and Rolex Rookie of the Year awards in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Park has already clinched the Rookie of the Year Award.

Park, 24, can also walk away with the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Race to the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot.

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Nobody has ever swept all those awards.

There’s even more for Park to claim. She can also take back the Rolex world No. 1 ranking. She’s No. 2, just two hundredths of a point behind Shanshan Feng.

“I think the course suits my game really well,” Park said through a translator. “I think I can play well in the next rounds.”

Park played the course just once before Thursday’s start, in Wednesday’s pro-am.

The reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion, Park won twice this year. She also won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open this summer.