Bill Haas wins Hope Classic for 1st PGA victory


LA QUINTA, Calif. (AP)—Bill Haas ’ hands were frigid and shaking when hestepped up to his second shot on the 90th hole, knowing he probably needed abirdie to win his first PGA Tour title at the Bob Hope Classic after 140fruitless starts.

A $900,000 check and a Masters exemption were riding on this tense finish toa marathon tournament Monday. Haas even figured his famous father might bewatching somewhere in the gallery, although he wasn’t sure.

It was all a recipe for panic, but Haas cooked up something remarkableinstead.

Bill Haas celebrates his birdi…
AP - Jan 25, 7:07 pm EST

“It was the most nervous I’ve ever been,” Haas said. “I’ve been nervousover 3-footers to finish fifth, but it was different knowing that if I executedthis shot, it could mean the difference (between) winning or finishing fifth.”

So he warmed his hands, steadied his will and nailed an aggressive approachshot on the 18th after his two co-leaders failed to do it. He then two-putted toa one-stroke victory, putting his name in Hope Classic lore alongside his fatherand finally doing what’s been expected from the talented son of Jay Haas sinceshortly after he picked up a golf club.

Haas hugged his father after hitting a perilous 1-footer to finish onestroke ahead of Matt Kuchar , Tim Clark and Bubba Watson with an 8-under 64, buthe did the toughest work with his 3-iron moments earlier. Determined not to comeup short on the green or the scoreboard, Haas expertly dropped a 3-iron behindthe pin, setting him up for 30-under 330 finish and the chance to scratch hisname off the list of good players with no wins.

After six days and five rounds over four courses, the 27-year-old formercan’t-miss prospect finally had a PGA title and an achievement befitting hispedigree.

“Patience isn’t one of my key virtues,” Bill Haas said. “It’s somethingI’m still trying to learn. This week, we were forced to be patient. Who knows?Maybe the rainout was good for me. It obviously was. It worked out for thebest.”

Nobody was more impressed than Jay Haas, who benefited from the rain thatwashed out Thursday’s second round at the Hope Classic and pushed the finale toMonday. The 1988 Hope Classic winner was able to make it back to the mainlandfrom his Champions Tour event in Hawaii in time to see his son in competitionfor the first time in about two years.

“To win the same tournament I won is special, and then for me to get to seeit—that’s really special,” said Jay Haas, who texted his son on Sunday nightwith a simple message: “Hit when you’re ready, and never before.”

But Bill Haas didn’t charge in front until the final hole after abackstretch battle with four players—three seeking their first Tour victories.He was the last of three co-leaders to play the par-5 18th, but Kuchar and SouthAfrica’s Clark both missed birdie putts at the Arnold Palmer Private course,with Kuchar lamenting his inexact approach shot before Clark laid up.

Haas made sure he had no regrets.

“I’d been wanting to win from the first tournament I played, but it’s aprocess, and there’s a lot to it,” said Haas, a touted rookie in 2006. “It’sspecial, but I don’t know if it’s a monkey off my back. I know how hard it wasto win, and I’m grateful.”

Fourth-round co-leader Watson also birdied the 18th after barely missing achip for eagle, grabbing a share of second place.

Haas missed the cut at last week’s Sony Open, but credited his steady playin Palm Springs to a tip he received from teaching pro Bill Harmon whilepracticing with his father in nearby Indian Wells last Monday.

“It’s definitely neat that down the road, 22 years from now, we can look atboth our names on the list here,” Bill Haas said. “I’m not trying to comparemyself to him. He’s almost unreachable.”

They’re the eighth father-son combination to win on the PGA Tour, but BillHaas spent most of the day trailing Kuchar, who came from three shots back androcketed up the tight leaderboard.

Kuchar had eight birdies in his first 11 holes, but just one in the lastseven. Although his 63 was the best final round, he wished for a better secondshot on the 18th. His hybrid approach landed well back on the fringe, eventuallyleading to a missed 13-foot birdie putt.

“It’s a hole where you’re counting on making a 4,” Kuchar said. “I putmyself in a difficult situation … but shooting 63 is fantastic. I wasn’t sureif I had that much in me today. It was a great round of golf.”

Rookie Alex Prugh , who shared the lead with Watson entering the final round,started slowly but closed with three straight birdies to finish fifth at 28under in his third career PGA Tour event. Mike Weir , the 2003 champion,threatened before dropping back with a double bogey on the 13th, eventuallyfinishing sixth at 26 under.

Kuchar went ahead with six birdies on the front nine at the Palmer course,surging past Watson and Prugh early in the round. Haas stayed close to Kuchar’sblistering pace with five birdies on the first eight holes, and Clark caught upon the 15th hole with a 6 1/2 -foot birdie putt.

Kuchar’s fast start didn’t shake Clark, who has never won on the PGA Tour.He has a runner-up finish for the sixth straight year, including his 2006 finishat the Masters.

“I made a bunch of birdies, (and) you would think that I putted my eyeballsout, but I missed a lot of short ones,” Clark said.

“There’s always going to be an exciting day with so many guys bunched inthere, and I started to make some birdies on the back nine to get back intoit,” Clark added. “When you know you have to make birdies, it makes things alittle bit easier.”

DIVOTS: Vaughn Taylor , who lost a six-hole playoff at Turning Stone toKuchar last October in the PGA Tour’s most recent Monday finish, shot afinal-round 67 to finish in the five-way tie for 10th. … Shane Bertsch , wholed with an opening-round 62, ended up tied for 71st after a 69-77-71-72 finish.… Al and Brent Geiberger were the last father-son duo to win on the tour.