Jay Haas is learning quickly how to survive on the Champions Tour and really like it. He won again last week, the second time in three weeks he has won on the Champions, and now he gets to play with the elder gents in the season-ending free-for-all ' the Charles Schwab Cup Championship where the top 30 money-winners go off by themselves to play for even more cash.
Haas first victory three weeks ago propelled him into the No. 30 spot. And his win Sunday bumped him all he way to No. 23. This, after just playing in nine Champions Tour events this year.
The 51-year-old had considered playing the regular tour as long as time would let him. He turned 50 way back before last season began, but he played plenty well enough to win a couple million and finish 27th ' with the youngsters. So he figured this year to be roughly the same.
Alas, in 16 tries with the kids this season, he was only sitting in the 144th spot with little more than $485,000. It doesnt take Alan Greenspan to tell you which tour it would be wise to play on, not with almost $745,000 in nine events.
His first win of any kind since 1993 came in a Champions Tour event in North Carolina three weeks ago. That was a little of eye-opening, Jay said.
I played in Greensboro last week (on the regular tour) and felt pretty low and thought I was a little overwhelmed on that tour, so I didn't know what to think this week,' Haas said at the time, just after he had won the event. 'But I came here with a little better attitude, and I liked the golf course from the start.'
Slowly, but surely, hes been noticing the calendar, noticing that it says he was born back in 1953, realizing that people like Craig Stadler, Mark McNulty, Loren Roberts, Curtis Strange theyve all made the switch.
I don't know, it's hard to turn my back on it when I've played well the last couple years, Haas confessed. It's hard to say, you know, I've had enough of that. I would love to win over there (on the regular tour). You think I'm still capable. But I need to play better than I played.
And so, the Champions became more his focus. He had started thinking seriously about curtailing his regular-tour schedule back at the end of May at the Senior PGA. He spoke of the reasons he wanted to continue playing the regular tour, but also of his feelings about joining the gents full-time with whom he has spent the majority of his golfing career.
I guess last couple years I had, two years ago I was trying to qualify for the Presidents Cup, last year for the Ryder Cup, Haas said. This year I won't say I don't have goals, but Im not as, I'm not as focused on one certain thing this year.
And I think that's hurt me a little bit. I don't really seem to - I'm just kind of playing. And I think I need to change that. I need to focus on a certain goal that I want to try to achieve this year.
And I think that one of those is to win out here on the Champions Tour, he said last month. That's been a definite goal this year. To qualify for the season-ending, I guess it's called the Schwab Cup, the top 30 to get into that.
Haas is hampered mostly by his lack of length ' he could get it out there only 276 yards this year on the regular tour, and nowadays thats good for only 184th with the younger men. In addition, his putting suddenly turned sour when he was playing with the boys. He is only 152nd in that category.
But among the seniors, his driving distance of 278 doesnt seem so bad ' he hasnt had enough tries to be ranked, but he would be 31st if he had. Thats about where his putting average of 1.781 would place him ' in the 33rd spot.
So now, with only an occasional exception, Haas has launched a new career. Its called the Champions, and Haas has already proven hes a champion.
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