SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Bill Haas came to the Waste Management Phoenix Open in search of a spark, and he found it in an unexpected place – on the green.
Haas entered the week mired in a slump, having missed three of his last four cuts and coming off a T-54 showing at Torrey Pines. Eight years removed from his FedExCup title, he finds himself ranked 201st on Tour this season in strokes gained-putting and arrived at TPC Scottsdale looking for answers.
The veteran opted for a Tuesday session with short-game guru Stan Utley, and the consult paid immediate dividends, as Haas needed only 29 putts during a 7-under 64 that gave him a two-shot lead after the opening round.
“I’ve been struggling, so just kind of practicing, working hard and trying to figure something out,” Haas said. “One of those days where they went in for me, so hopefully it will be one of those weeks.”
Haas is three years removed from his most recent win at the 2015 CareerBuilder Challenge, and this marks the first time he has held an opening-round lead since the 2014 Masters. He did his best work in the middle of the back nine, playing Nos. 12-16 in 5 under including an eagle on the par-5 15th.
Haas hasn’t notched a top-5 finish since the U.S. Open, and he knows he still has plenty of work to do both off the tee and on the greens if he plans to end that drought this week.
“This is only one round. I’m not saying I’m cured by any means, I’m still grinding and practicing, so hopefully you figure it out,” Haas said. “The best players seem to play well every week, and that’s kind of the goal is just to get a little bit more consistent and not have those weeks where you putt so bad or hit it so bad. To compete with these guys week in and week out, you’ve got to be sharp.”