Haas has Masters in his DNA ... and the lead after 68

By Rex HoggardApril 10, 2014, 10:10 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Bill Haas’ history at Augusta National began long before he rounded Amen Corner in 1 under par on a breezy spring day, before he signed for an opening 68 that left him a stroke clear of the field, before he needed just 28 putts on greens that were looking more like Sunday than Thursday at the Masters.

Haas has been making the trip down Magnolia Lane ever since he can remember, attached to his father Jay’s hip for some 20 years and his family’s heritage at the game’s most iconic of golf courses.

In short, Bill Haas grew up at Augusta National and on Thursday, when swirling winds turned the damp course into a surprisingly demanding test, Jay Haas’ youngest son matured even more.

Standing behind the clubhouse after following every step of his son’s round, Jay Haas’ mind raced back to all those trips to the year’s first major with Bill, like in 1995 as he turned onto Magnolia Lane and his 13-year-old asked, “Dad, do I need my ticket today?”

“I’m like, oh boy. Let’s go back to the house,” Jay Haas laughed.

And in 2003 when Haas’ oldest son, Jay Jr., turned up ill on Day 1 and had to be replaced on his dad’s bag for the week by Bill. “He looked at Jay Jr. and said, ‘You’re done for the rest of the week,’” Jay Haas recalled.

Jay Haas would finish tied for third in ’95, his best showing at Augusta National, and would go on to play in 22 Masters with Bill, along with the rest of the family, there for every peak and valley.

“I remember like it was yesterday, he said it was 20 years ago he finished third and it does not seem that long ago,” Bill Haas said. “I remember a lot of the shots he hit coming down the stretch. It was probably the age, too, I was starting to play golf, and so I think I enjoyed it more. I appreciated it probably.”

Haas also remembers his great uncle Bob Goalby who won the green jacket in 1968, and his uncle, Jerry, playing the event in 1985 and his uncle, on his mother’s side, Dillard Pruitt tying for 13th in 1992.

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The Masters is in the Haas DNA, so it was no surprise that the next generation would excel on a day when Augusta National was playing so perfectly like, well . . . Augusta National.

Haas birdied No. 2 after hitting his second shot on the par 5 short and right, just where he knew to hit it.

“Over the years we’ve talked about certain holes. I’ve been in all these places and he’s asked, ‘Why was I left at (No.) 2?’” Jay Haas said. “He misses that shot right every time, just where you need to be.”

If experience is passed down from generation to generation, Bill Haas has a combined 56 starts at the former fruit nursery, from his father’s 22 to Goalby’s 27 and his own four trips to the Masters.

Haas made mistakes on Day 1. Not sure there’s ever been a perfect round played at Augusta National, but he rebounded from bogeys at Nos. 1 and 17 with birdies each time, including a towering 8-iron to birdie range at the last.

Despite his lineage, Thursday’s 68 was Haas’ first round in the 60s at Augusta National and his father’s history at the Masters isn’t much better, with just five top-10 finishes to show for more than two decades of effort.

It’s not a mystery what has held either player back at the Masters and when asked what his issues at Augusta National have been the younger Haas didn’t pull any punches.

“Putting, golf shots, nerves, all of the things that get you,” but he pauses and adds in signature Haas style, “tomorrow, it's a new day.”

In many ways, Bill Haas’ career has mirrored that of his father - sneaky consistent with bouts of stellar play but perhaps lacking a high-profile exclamation mark like a major championship.

Haas seemed to inch toward loftier status in 2011 when he won the Tour Championship down the road in Atlanta to claim the FedEx Cup.

He also made an interesting, if not difficult, team change last month when he split with his brother Jay Jr. who had caddied for him. It was the same week (Valspar Championship) that John Peterson parted ways with longtime looper Scott Gneiser.

“Jay (Jr.) gave me Bill’s number and said he thought we’d be a good fit,” said Gneiser, who began working for Haas two weeks ago at the Valero Texas Open.

The change likely helped Haas temper some of his aggressiveness on a course that rewards experience above all else, and he has plenty of that. Before teeing off on Thursday, Jay Haas reminded Bill that the hole location on No. 6, back right, was “the kind of shot that there is no bailout, you just have to hit a shot.”

But then Haas knew that somewhere deep within his genetic code. When asked if the Masters is in his blood he said, simply, “I guess so.”

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

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First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

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After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.