Rejuvenated Haas Ready for Action


Champions TourWEST DES MOINES, Iowa -- Jay Haas held off committing to the Champions Tour for as long as he could, hoping to remain competitive on the PGA TOUR.
Then came last year's PGA Championship at Medinah in Illinois. One day after surviving the cut with a second-round 68, Haas found himself in the fairway, 203 yards from the hole, faced with trying to knock the ball over a sand trap onto an elevated green.
He grabbed his 4-iron -- opting for length at the expense of ball placement -- and had an epiphany that has since shaped his career.
'I said, 'You know, this is not my strong suit here.' Some of the other guys would be hitting a 6-iron from that same spot and have a chance to stop the ball on the green,' Haas said. 'I said, `This is it. I'm going have a steady diet of this from now on. I can't afford to give up 20-plus yards to the average hitter out there.''
That was enough to convince Haas that the Champions Tour was his future. He's been the senior circuit's best player ever since.
Haas, the defending Charles Schwab Cup champion, leads the tour with two victories and earning of $1,260,658 entering the Principal Charity Classic at the Glen Oaks Country Club.
Haas headlines the field that includes seven of the top 10 money leaders.
Gil Morgan, who made up two strokes on the final two holes to win the tournament in 2006, is back to defend his title. Morgan ranks second in career Champions Tour winnings, but he has just two top-10 finishes this season.
That being said, Morgan has shown a knack for defending titles, and playing well at Glen Oaks. Morgan has won tournaments in back-to-back years four times on the Champions Tour, and has won more money at this tournament than anyone else.
Two of the event's marquee names, Hale Irwin and Tom Kite, are in the top five on the tour's money list. Irwin finished 9 over is last time out, at the Senior PGA Championships at Kiawah Island, S.C., but he preceded that outing with five straight top-10 finishes.
'It was disappointing at Kiawah. I didn't play particularly well, but up to then I've had a pretty darn good year,' Irwin said Thursday. 'If I can continue playing as I've been playing and I think am still capable of playing, than that's all I can ever do.'
Kite has yet to win this year, losing to Haas in a playoff at the Legends of Golf. That was one of three second-place finishes for Kite, who has won nine Champions Tour events during his career.
Tournament organizers moved the event back to Glen Oaks in 2006, much to the delight of the players. The traditional layout, which is usually in good shape by early June, has always been a favorite on the circuit.
This will be the first appearance at Glen Oaks for Haas, who bypassed West Des Moines in 2006 to play in the PGA Tour's Memorial.
'I don't think it was about not wanting to be here,' Haas said of the Champions Tour. 'It was just, I guess I had to reset some goals.
'I just love it out here. I've had the time of my life the last year-and-a-half.'
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