Haas is competing for the first time with the fellas of the Champions Tour this weekend at the Senior PGA Championship. He could have been playing with the older gents from the first of the year ' his 50th birthday was back on Dec. 2. But he is 11-for-11 in making the cut on the PGA Tour, hes won more than a million dollars, and hes finished in the top 10 four times. The money machine wont stop gushing out the dollars.
The clock is ticking toward his 51st birthday, but theres no way he can quit the junior tour yet. Hes 25th on the money list, and hes won more than anybody has on the Champions Tour ' the leader on the Champions has won less than $900,000. He would love to be out there with his compadres, but unfortunately they just wont stop throwing the regular-tour money at him.
Right now, in fact, he has concrete plans to play in just three Champions events ' the tournament this week, the British Seniors and the U.S. Senior Open. The Ryder Cup ' where he is currently 11th on the point standings ' will make all the difference in the world.
If I do make it, then I'll go one way (on the regular tour) maybe in the fall, Haas said this week before a media gathering at the Senior PGA. And if I don't, then I'll maybe play more Champions Tour golf.
So this week I don't think will dictate a lot of that. Hopefully a good week here (at the Senior PGA) will give me another boost - I think any time you play well, no matter what competition, what field, what age group, whatever, it's - for me, it's a boost to my confidence if I can play well.
Haas was just like all the others in their late 40s a couple of years ago. In 2000 he finished 144th in the money rankings. As late as 2002, he was no better than 98th. Just take it easy, play a couple more years out here, then go strong with the senior set when he hit 50.
Except ' it didnt quite work out that way. Suddenly he found he was very competitive again. Last year when he was 49, he shocked himself and everybody else by finishing 15th on the regular-tour money list. That wasnt exactly the way he envisioned the meltdown into the Champions Tour. And to be 25th this year, that isnt exactly the recipe, either.
What happened? Stan Utley was what happened. Utley is a putting and short-game guru, and it took only a couple or three visits with him to totally change Haas outlook. He is fourth on the tour this year in the scrambling category, and that is something that never happened to Haas before.
Personally, hes much closer to the gentlemen on the Champions Tour, both in age and the comfort-level. It's kind of odd, Haas admits. Most of the time on the regular tour, I have to ask my caddie who half the guys are on the range because of how many young players are out there now. But I'm anxious (about his debut with the seniors), I'm nervous about it, I'm excited about it. I'm looking forward to it.
Next week he will be right back where the kids are (hes got a couple of sons who are as old as some PGA Tour regulars). This week is just a little diversion from his real job. Come Tuesday hell be at The Memorial. The dilemma is still going on. And yes, its about money ' where to get more of it, just as it was when he started the regular tour back in 1977.
You know, when I started at 23 I guess I was, I felt like if I could play 20 years and be somewhat successful and put some money away - it would be a good career, he says. I would figure something else out to do then (when it came time for him to retire.)
But I would have never dreamed this, to win a million dollars in a year. That (a million dollars) was a career. Early on in the late 70s, I think there were only a couple guys that had gone over a million in career earnings. So that was - I couldn't foresee the fact that we were going to play for so much money.
A million? Did he say a million? Jay Haas has won FOUR MILLION in the last two years alone - and of course 2004 isn't even at the halfway point yet..
That, though, has caused him major mental problems. When will he ever get out there on the Champions Tour? At least, if he needs a little help, he can afford a psychiatrist.
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