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Fathers Day Treat

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OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. -- Only one thing would make Jay Haas happier than winning this week's U.S. Open: seeing his son's name ahead of his on the leaderboard.
 
'I hope he beats me every time we play,' Haas said Tuesday after playing a practice round with his younger son, Bill. 'I'm his biggest fan.'
 
Jay and Bill, an All-American at Wake Forest, have played in two PGA Tour events together, but neither tournament was anything close to the magnitude of the U.S. Open. There have been only a handful of father-son duos at the Open, and the Haases are the first in six years.
 
Jack and Gary Nicklaus played together in 1997 at Congressional. Gary and Wayne Player were both at Pebble Beach in 1982.
 
'I don't have words to express it, how much fun I'm having watching Bill play here in his first U.S. Open,' Jay said with a smile after finishing a practice round with his son Tuesday.
 
'I was thinking back, 1974 was my first U.S. Open at Winged Foot, and then I played here at Medinah in '75 as an amateur. Just to think that that much time has gone by, and I'm still playing and he's out there now, it's a thrill of a lifetime.'
 
For his son, too. Golf is something of a tradition in the Haas family. Jay's uncle is former Masters champion Bob Goalby. His brother, Jerry, is the golf coach at Wake Forest, where Bill just finished his junior year and Jay was a two-time All-American.
 
Despite those bloodlines, Bill said the game was never forced on him. He and his older brother, Jay Jr., occasionally caddied for their father -- Jay Jr. was on the bag when Jay tied for third at the 1999 PGA Championship -- but basketball was Bill's sport until high school.
 
'I was shorter than everybody, and wasn't as talented on the basketball court. So golf filled that spot,' said Bill, now 21.
 
And the more he played, the more he came to appreciate what dear old dad has done. On the PGA Tour since 1977, Jay has won nine tournaments and more than $10 million.
 
In addition to his third-place finish at Medinah in 1999, he tied for third at the 1995 Masters.
 
'Even in high school, I realized what he was doing and how tough it is out here,' Bill said. 'But in a couple of years now, I'm going to have to try to qualify to be out here and stay out here. That's my goal, that's what I want to do jobwise.
 
'Knowing what it takes, even to get out here, brings a whole new appreciation for what he's done.'
 
Which makes this week so special.
 
Jay had an automatic exemption to play in this year's Open after finishing tied for 12th last year at Bethpage Black. But Bill didn't find out until last Wednesday that he was coming, when he shared medalist honors at the Rockville, Md., sectional.
 
'I couldn't wait to play practice rounds with him here, and have him experience a major tournament,' said Jay, whose wife and two of their daughters will head up the family's cheering section. 'To have him out here and experiencing this, it's something he'll never forget.'
 
Especially when his father lines up treats like he did Tuesday.
 
Jay had arranged months ago to play one of his practice rounds with defending champion Tiger Woods. And he reminded his son of that just before Bill left for his qualifying event last week, hoping to give him some added incentive.
 
So there Bill was Tuesday morning, playing with his dad, Woods, Mark O'Meara and Fred Couples. The fivesome played nine holes together before the rain started.
 
'Just seeing how they interact, it's pretty neat,' Woods said. 'You can see Jay kind of help him on some of the pin locations and how he should play it, and it's pretty special. I wish I had that chance to be able to do that with my father. It's really neat to see that happen.'
 
While a round with Woods gives Bill a great story, Jay had other reasons for including his son.
 
It's one thing to watch and learn from him. It's quite another to see it in the world's best golfer.
 
'Tiger hit countless pitches and chips and putts around the greens, and really focused on what he's doing. That was a good lesson for Bill to learn from the best, what he has to do to prepare himself,' the elder Haas said. 'If the best player does that, then the rest of us ought to follow suit.
 
'I'm sure Bill was nervous playing with Tiger and I think that was good to experience that today,' Jay added. 'Kind of get over that.'
 
Bill tees off first Thursday, with his father following about six hours later. While both said they'll be able to keep their minds on their own game while they're playing, the other will be their first thought when they finish.
 
And unlike most tournaments, Jay can't wait to talk about the round with a fellow competitor.
 
'He and I talk about rounds over the phone when he's at college ... but you can't visualize it,' Jay said. 'But here, after we're done, we can say, 'What'd you hit at 17? How about that pin?'
 
'It's just fun to be able to rehash a round with somebody you genuinely would like to beat you.'
 
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