Haas Has a Dilemma Anyone Would Welcome

By George WhiteMay 27, 2004, 4:00 pm
This is a dilemma no one has had to face before. Does Jay Haas jump over to the Champions Tour and start acting his age? Or does he hang on to the regular tour a little while longer, knowing that he is still very competitive with the youngsters, that he stands a good chance at making this years Ryder Cup team and may be just as competitive the next year?
 
Haas is competing for the first time with the fellas of the Champions Tour this weekend at the Senior PGA Championship. He could have been playing with the older gents from the first of the year ' his 50th birthday was back on Dec. 2. But he is 11-for-11 in making the cut on the PGA Tour, hes won more than a million dollars, and hes finished in the top 10 four times. The money machine wont stop gushing out the dollars.
 
The clock is ticking toward his 51st birthday, but theres no way he can quit the junior tour yet. Hes 25th on the money list, and hes won more than anybody has on the Champions Tour ' the leader on the Champions has won less than $900,000. He would love to be out there with his compadres, but unfortunately they just wont stop throwing the regular-tour money at him.
 
Right now, in fact, he has concrete plans to play in just three Champions events ' the tournament this week, the British Seniors and the U.S. Senior Open. The Ryder Cup ' where he is currently 11th on the point standings ' will make all the difference in the world.
 
If I do make it, then I'll go one way (on the regular tour) maybe in the fall, Haas said this week before a media gathering at the Senior PGA. And if I don't, then I'll maybe play more Champions Tour golf.
 
So this week I don't think will dictate a lot of that. Hopefully a good week here (at the Senior PGA) will give me another boost - I think any time you play well, no matter what competition, what field, what age group, whatever, it's - for me, it's a boost to my confidence if I can play well.
 
Haas was just like all the others in their late 40s a couple of years ago. In 2000 he finished 144th in the money rankings. As late as 2002, he was no better than 98th. Just take it easy, play a couple more years out here, then go strong with the senior set when he hit 50.
 
Except ' it didnt quite work out that way. Suddenly he found he was very competitive again. Last year when he was 49, he shocked himself and everybody else by finishing 15th on the regular-tour money list. That wasnt exactly the way he envisioned the meltdown into the Champions Tour. And to be 25th this year, that isnt exactly the recipe, either.
 
What happened? Stan Utley was what happened. Utley is a putting and short-game guru, and it took only a couple or three visits with him to totally change Haas outlook. He is fourth on the tour this year in the scrambling category, and that is something that never happened to Haas before.
 
Personally, hes much closer to the gentlemen on the Champions Tour, both in age and the comfort-level. It's kind of odd, Haas admits. Most of the time on the regular tour, I have to ask my caddie who half the guys are on the range because of how many young players are out there now. But I'm anxious (about his debut with the seniors), I'm nervous about it, I'm excited about it. I'm looking forward to it.
 
Next week he will be right back where the kids are (hes got a couple of sons who are as old as some PGA Tour regulars). This week is just a little diversion from his real job. Come Tuesday hell be at The Memorial. The dilemma is still going on. And yes, its about money ' where to get more of it, just as it was when he started the regular tour back in 1977.
 
You know, when I started at 23 I guess I was, I felt like if I could play 20 years and be somewhat successful and put some money away - it would be a good career, he says. I would figure something else out to do then (when it came time for him to retire.)
 
But I would have never dreamed this, to win a million dollars in a year. That (a million dollars) was a career. Early on in the late 70s, I think there were only a couple guys that had gone over a million in career earnings. So that was - I couldn't foresee the fact that we were going to play for so much money.
 
A million? Did he say a million? Jay Haas has won FOUR MILLION in the last two years alone - and of course 2004 isn't even at the halfway point yet..
 
That, though, has caused him major mental problems. When will he ever get out there on the Champions Tour? At least, if he needs a little help, he can afford a psychiatrist.
 
Email your thoughts to George White
Getty Images

Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.

Getty Images

One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 5:55 pm

Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.

Log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.

Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:

Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.

Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.

Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.

Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.

David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.

Getty Images

DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

Getty Images

Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.