When the current star of the Champions Tour tees it up Thursday at the U.S. Open, he will be playing in his fourth major in as many decades on the course with the reputation as one of the toughest, then and now.
Haas first U.S. Open at Winged Foot was in 1974. He was an amateur and Winged Foot, with its tight fairways, deep rough and severely contoured greens made quite an impression.
Haas returned to Winged Foot for the 1984 Open and the PGA in 1997. Both he and Winged Foot are getting older and better.
Haas was the low amateur in 1974, at 27 over par, 20 strokes behind winner Hale Irwin.
I just remember being here and having the time of my life and being low amateur, he said. I had mixed emotions when I left and that was a good thing. I got an exemption into the U.S. Amateur later in the year, but I also realized that I shot 27 over par, and if I was going to do this for a living, I needed to improve quite a bit.
He has nine victories on the PGA TOUR, the last at the Texas Open in 1993, and he has won five times on the Champions Tour, including his last three starts. He has been on three Ryder Cup teams and two Presidents Cup teams. He is 29th on the PGA TOUR career money list with $14.4 million, and he is second on this years Champions Tour list with $1.2 million.
Not bad for a guy who had one birdie in his first U.S. Open.
Thats one of the things I do remember from 1974. I made one birdie in 72 holes on No. 16, he said of the par-4. Thats pretty hard to do, to play 72 holes and only make one birdie and finish 27 over par.
Things were a lot better in 1984, when Haas finished tied for 11th at 7 over, 11 strokes behind winner Fuzzy Zoeller. In 1997, he was tied for 61st when Davis Love III won the PGA Championship as a rainbow formed in the distance.
The course that opened in 1923, the same year Yankee Stadium did just a few miles down the road, hasnt changed very much. The distance has increased as the technology has improved, but the scary looks off the tees are still there whether youre an amateur or a grizzled veteran.
Number 9, I just felt like it was a bowling alley. Its just so straight and knowing that youve got no chance to get to the green if you drive it in the rough, he said of the 514-yard hole, the longest par-4 in Open history. To me, its very similar to what it was, just the fact that the added length has made up for a little bit of how far the ball is going.
Haas most memorable Open isnt 1995 when he tied for fourth, his best finish of the 26 starts.
In 2003 and 2004, Haas and his son, Bill, became one of six father-son combinations to play in the same Open. In 2004, at Bethpage, Jay and Bill Haas became just the second father and son to both make the cut in an Open, joining Joe Kirkwood and Joe Kirkwood Jr. in 1948.
Bill Haas, a rookie on the PGA TOUR, didnt qualify for the years Open. Jay Haas did, and he gets another shot at Winged Foot in another decade.
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