Jay Haas has finally reached the magic age. On December 2nd, he turned 50. The retirement village down the road had a place reserved for him. The folks were waiting with his cardigan vest, pipe and warm slippers. The stage was set for him to slip into something more comfortable and to start enjoying his elder-age status.
Except for one thing ' he doesnt want to go.
Haas, you see, had a pretty good season last year. He won $2.5 million playing with the kids and was 15th on their money list. Hed just as soon stay put where he is, if its all the same to you. And it is.
His old buddies have all taken the guaranteed money and run. Its easy to get comfortable when there rarely is a cut ' i.e., the Champions Tour. Craig Stadler, Bruce Lietzke, Tom Watson, Tom Kite all have said theyll move on with no problem. But not Haas. Not after the results were in following last year.
I've been telling people that my schedule is the same through the Heritage as it was last year, Haas told a media gathering at his first tournament of the year, the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. The Heritage is the MCI Heritage the week after the Masters, 16 tournaments deep into the season. By then the old boys of the Champions Tour will already have played seven times.
But Haas says that he isnt going to the Champions Tour just because he can. He isnt leaving the PGA Tour just because he turned 50. And if he even approaches the success that he had last year, Haas doesnt think he will join the Champions Tour at all in this his 50th year.
In his mind, hes 10 years younger than the calendar says he is. He has five children, the oldest is 23, but the youngest is 11. He has cars that may be 50, but then he isnt a car.
I try to think of myself as a 40-year-old instead of a 50-year-old or 49-year-old, Haas said.
I don't know, not that I'm turning by back on the Champions Tour, I just feel like this is where I want to play, this is all I know and (Ill) just maybe re-evaluate things after that (The Heritage.)
That will be maybe, oh, 10 tournaments, eight, 10 tournaments, something like that (that he will play), and maybe I'll know more about how I'm playing, how things are going.
Astounding stuff indeed from a man who has a son, Bill Haas, who, if Jay doesnt move on, might any day join him on the PGA Tour.
The others who have gone on to the Champions understand. After all, Haas 15th-place finish on the PGA Tour money list speaks volumes. If any of them could finish that high among the younger set, they would be playing with the kids before you could say PGA Tour.
Haas was too polite to say it, but what he wants to do is see if he remains competitive. He is just too good to take his clubs and shuffle off to play exclusively with the seniors. Not that the money isnt quite a bit better on the junior tour. Last years leading money winner, Vijay Singh, made better than $7.5 million. Tom Watson led the elder set with $1.8 million. Haas himself at two-point-five was considerably above Watsons figure.
I guess I feel like these are the best players in the world, Jay said in explaining his decision to stay put. This is what I wanted to do all my life, and I think if I turn this page, then I can't go back there again. So I really want to try to focus as much as possible out here for as long as I can.
I guess I feel like if I played well at 49, just because I turned 50, it shouldn't mean that I can't do it this year. Now it might not. It was an unusual year in the progression of my career the way it was going there toward the end, but I feel like I'm not playing any differently right now than I was last year.
There is, of course, the underlying matter of the Ryder Cup. Haas has advanced nicely toward that goal, and of course it would hardly be a possibility if he were playing the Champions Tour. He plans to play a couple of Champions Tour events ' he will definitely play the PGA Seniors, possibly The Legends. But he plans to play around 20 PGA Tour events, and he says he wont add the 12 Champions Tour events needed to ensure Champions membership.
When I take a week off the regular tour, I don't see myself necessarily filling it in with a senior event, just because, I guess if I'm going to take a week off here, I want to rest and get ready for the following tournaments, said Haas.
Haas, in other words, plans to stay right where he is. And not one person blames him.
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