Time for Younger Haas to Pay His Dues

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PGA TourLA QUINTA, Calif. -- Bill Haas never imagined playing anywhere but the PGA Tour, and he couldn't hide his frustration after coming up two shots short of a tour card at Q-school.
 
Moments after signing his scorecard, he was angry with himself and bitter about his immediate future.
 
He ridiculed his performance, a tie for 43rd among 169 players.
 
'If I was good enough, I wouldn't have been on the bubble,' he said. 'I'm obviously not ready.'

And he cringed at the thought of having to play on the Nationwide Tour next year.
 
'There's some really good players on the Nationwide Tour, but it's just not where I want to be,' Haas said. 'I don't want to be on the Nationwide Tour, and I think if I have to play there more than four or five years, I'll quit golf.'
 
After loading his clubs into the car in the parking lot at PGA West, the 22-year-old son of Jay Haas stared at the pavement as his mother put her arm around his shoulder and whispered encouragement.
 
What Haas could have used was a heart-to-heart with David Duval.
 
'I'm sure with how Bill Haas played this summer, and how he is regarded as a player, he feels he should be playing on the PGA Tour,' Duval said Tuesday morning from his home in Denver. 'I felt like that's where I should play. But the path to get there sometimes makes a few turns.'
 
Eleven years ago, Duval took one of those unexpected turns.
 
Duval was a can't-miss kid who had the 54-hole lead at the BellSouth Classic as an amateur, an All-American all four years at Georgia Tech who saw Q-school as merely a stop sign on the road to stardom.
 
Duval was so good that he almost got his card by playing a limited schedule on the Nike Tour - two victories and a third place in just nine starts to miss his card by $2,875.
 
Then came Q-school in the California desert.
 
That was when there was a cut after four rounds, and Duval didn't even get past that.
 
'I played the last 10 holes in 5 under and that was going to be the number,' Duval said. 'I got in front of the computer with everyone else and watched that arrow move. I was at 1 under, and then it moved to 2 under. And I was like, 'I'm out of here.'
 
'The feeling of not making it ... it's a disaster.'
 
Haas has received even more attention during his college career, in no small part because his father has done amazing things on the PGA Tour as a 50-year-old - making the Ryder Cup team and Tour Championship - and because the son has impeccable credentials himself.
 
Bill Haas was an All-American at Wake Forest this year, won the Jack Nicklaus Award and Ben Hogan Award as the top college player and set an NCAA record for lowest stroke average.
 
He turned pro and tried to get his card by making enough money through sponsor's exemptions.
 
Haas missed only one cut and didn't do anything spectacular, although Haas showed plenty of grit. When his seven exemptions ran out, he qualified for the Deutsche Bank Championship and was in contention, paired with Tiger Woods in the second-to-last group in the third round, before tying for ninth.
 
His hopes ended at the Canadian Open, where he finished three shots out of the top 10 and had nowhere else to play. That sent him to the second stage of Q-school, which he passed at tough Black Horse on the Monterey Peninsula. And he battled back after an opening 75 in the final stage at PGA West.
 
But all that mattered at the end of six rounds was that he did not finish among the top 30 and ties. He will not have membership on the PGA Tour next year, an even bigger blow considering he wanted to play with his father, and the window for that opportunity is closing.
 
Haas at least has full status on the Nationwide Tour, and he'll figure out soon enough that it's not all bad. But in the moments after Q-school, he already was cooking up plans to reach the big leagues.
 
'If I can get seven starts (sponsor's exemptions), I'll play on tour,' he said. 'I don't like the Nationwide Tour. I'd much rather play on the PGA Tour.'
 
Who wouldn't?
 
Haas played three times on the Nationwide Tour, twice missing the cut. He knows how tough it is out there.
 
'A lot of players have taken at least a year out there,' Haas said. 'Apparently, that's what I need to do. I've got to pay my dues, which is fine.'
 
Duval only hopes he makes a full deposit.
 
After his Q-school flop, Duval focused almost entirely on the Nike Tour and finished eighth on the money list to get his PGA Tour card. The year in the minor leagues served him well. Duval was 11th on the money list as a rookie and was never lower than 10th the next six years as he ascended to No. 1 in the world.
 
'If I was him, I wouldn't mess around on the PGA Tour,' Duval said. 'Serve your time, if you want to call it that. If he wants to play an event or two when there's not any Nationwide stuff, that's fine. But as good as he is, he might win three times by June if he focuses on that. Or he could finish in the top three on the money list and make $400,000 or $500,000. As a 22-year-old, that's not bad.'
 
And that might be the most important message of all.
 
Haas is only 22. His future is no less bright just because he failed his first try at Q-school.
 
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