Haas, Mickelson, Bradley put on fantastic finish

By Randall MellFebruary 20, 2012, 2:26 am

LOS ANGELES – Move over, Kobe.

Outta the way, Chris Paul.

Down in front, Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Robert Downey Jr.

Bill Haas is Mr. Big Shot here in the shadow of Tinseltown, if only for one wild, wacky and wonderful afternoon at Riviera.

First, Haas wins the $10 million FedEx Cup jackpot with his great escape from the water at the end of the Tour Championship last September. Now this. Now Sunday’s 43-foot birdie putt to slay the wickedest little hole in golf and win a playoff at Northern Trust Open. Now this clutch finish to upset the overwhelming crowd favorite, Phil Mickelson, and Mickelson’s surprisingly popular sidekick, Keegan Bradley.

“To beat guys like Keegan and Phil, guys of their caliber, it’s amazing and something I’ll never forget,” Haas said.

Does golf end any more dramatically than it did Sunday? If you didn’t like that finish, you don’t like golf.

Martin Scorsese couldn’t have scripted a more riveting final scene.

Mr. Big Shot prevailed in an ending chock full of big shots.

Haas won at the second playoff hole, at No. 10, a wicked, wicked little hole, maybe the wickedest little par 4 in golf. He won after enduring a nerve-wracking wait on the practice range, a brutal pause on his adrenalin button to see if either Mickelson or Bradley would birdie the 18th hole to force a playoff.

The first roar told Haas the game was still on. A second should have jarred him, rattled him, but it didn’t.

At the foot of the historic Riviera clubhouse, in a gorgeous little natural amphitheater around the 18th, Mickelson and Bradley scripted one of the most memorable finishes in the 10 decades this event has been played.

First, Mickelson ignited a roar of giddy delight, rolling in a 27-foot birdie. After celebrating with a roundhouse punch, and skipping over Bradley’s line to retrieve his ball, Mickelson whispered something to Bradley, his pal.

“Join me,” Mickelson told him.

Bradley did, rolling in his 13-foot birdie putt to make all those fans erupt yet again.

“Even though I didn’t win the tournament, to make that putt on the last hole, one of the toughest holes on the PGA Tour, is really awesome,” Bradley said.

Down on the practice range, nobody would have blamed Haas if he waved a white flag, but he didn’t.

Before the putts dropped, Haas turned to his brother and caddie, Jay Haas Jr.

“No matter what happens from here on, this is pretty cool,” Bill told Jay Jr. “We’re on the range warming up to maybe go into a playoff.  We're doing a lot of good things just to be in this situation.”

Haas said he prepared mentally for a playoff.

“Secretly, I was hoping they didn't [make the putts],” Haas said. “But I expected them to make it.”

Haas wasn’t the favorite, not among the Southern California galleries who rooted hard for Mickelson all day, and almost as hard for Bradley. They’ve both won major championships. Though Haas, 29, has now won four times in less than three seasons, he isn’t in that major championship class. Not yet, anyway.

“I don't say this in a negative way, but everybody was cheering for Phil,” Haas said. “He just won this last week. He’s the man. If I'm at home, I'm cheering for Phil. Everybody was saying, `Go Phil, go Phil.’ Keegan has a big fan base. I think he was easily more popular than I was in that group. I'm not saying fans did anything wrong. I just was somewhat under the radar.”

At the second playoff hole, the 315-yard par-4 10th, Mickelson and Bradley sprayed tee shots right and short of the green. Haas blew a driver left of the green, in the rough but at a better angle to attack that back-left pin.

Haas walked to his ball remembering how his dramatic blast to escape from the water won him the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup jackpot late last summer.

“Part of me was saying, I have done this once before, let’s do it again,” Haas said. “Another part of me was saying, don’t screw this up.”

Even from a decent angle, Haas couldn’t pitch at the pin. He pitched 43 feet right of the pin and was happy just to keep the ball on the green there.

“I never expected to make a 40-footer, especially in that situation,” Haas said. “That was a little bit of luck involved, but I felt like I put a good roll on it.”

When Bradley missed his birdie chance, and Mickelson failed to get up and down from a greenside bunker, Haas put his name on the trophy with his stunning birdie. That’s Bill “Mr. Big Shot” Haas.

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Expired visa, helicopter, odd clubs all part of Vegas' journey

By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 3:48 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jhonattan Vegas thought someone was playing a practical joke on him.

Or maybe he was stuck in the middle of a horror movie.

Scheduled to leave for The Open a week ago, he didn’t arrive at Carnoustie until a little more than an hour before his first-round tee time Thursday.

“Even if somebody tried to do that on purpose,” he said, “you couldn’t really do it.”

The problem was an expired visa.

Vegas said that he must have gotten confused by the transposed date on the visa – “Guessing I’ve been living in America too long” – and assumed that he was cleared to travel.

No problem, he was told. He’d have a new visa in 24 hours.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Except the consulate in New York didn’t respond to his application the next day, keeping him in limbo through the weekend. Then, on Monday, he was told that he’d applied for the wrong visa. UPS got shut down in New York and his visa never left, so Vegas waited in vain for seven hours in front of the consulate in Houston. He finally secured his visa on Wednesday morning, boarded a flight from Houston to Toronto, and then flew to Glasgow, the final leg of a 14-hour journey.

His agent arranged a helicopter ride from Glasgow to Carnoustie to ensure that he could make his 10:31 a.m. (local) tee time.

One more issue? His clubs never made it. They were left back in Toronto.

His caddie, Ruben Yorio, scrambled to put together a new bag, with a mismatched set of woods, irons, wedges and putter.

“Luckily the (equipment) vans are still here,” Vegas said. “Otherwise I probably would have played with members’ clubs today.”

He hit about 20 balls on the range – “Luckily they were going forward” – but Carnoustie is one of the most challenging links in the world, and Vegas was working off of two hours’ sleep and without his own custom-built clubs. He shot 76 but, hey, at least he tried.

“It was fun,” he said, “even though the journey was frustrating.”

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'Brain fart' leads to Spieth's late collapse

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The closing stretch at Carnoustie has famously ruined many a solid round, so Jordan Spieth’s misadventures on Thursday should not have been a complete surprise, but the truth is the defending champion’s miscues were very much self-inflicted.

Spieth was cruising along at 3 under par, just two shots off the early lead, when he made a combination of errors at the par-4 15th hole. He hit the wrong club off the tee (4-iron) and the wrong club for his approach (6-iron) on his way to a double bogey-6.

“The problem was on the second shot, I should have hit enough club to reach the front of the green, and even if it goes 20 yards over the green, it's an easy up-and-down,” Spieth said. “I just had a brain fart, and I missed it into the location where the only pot bunker where I could actually get in trouble, and it plugged deep into it. It was a really, really poor decision on the second shot, and that cost me.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth continued to compound his problems with a sloppy bogey at the 16th hole, and a drive that sailed left at 18 found the Barry Burn en route to a closing bogey and a 1-over 72.

The miscues were more mental, a lack of execution, than they were an example of how difficult the closing stretch at Carnoustie can be, and that’s not good enough for Spieth.

“That's what I would consider as a significant advantage for me is recognizing where the misses are,” said Spieth, who was tied for 68th when he completed his round. “It felt like a missed opportunity.”

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Perez: R&A does it right, 'not like the USGA'

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:28 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez didn’t even attempt to hide his frustration with the USGA at last month’s U.S. Open, and after an opening-round 69 at The Open, he took the opportunity to double down on his displeasure.

“They (the R&A) do it right, not like the USGA,” Perez said of the setup at Carnoustie. “They've got the opposite [philosophy] here. I told them, you guys have it right, let the course get baked, but you've got the greens receptive. They're not going to run and be out of control. They could have easily had the greens just like the fairway, but they didn't. The course is just set up perfect.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Concerns at Shinnecock Hills reached a crescendo on Saturday when the scoring average ballooned to 75.3 and only three players broke the par of 70. Of particular concern for many players, including Perez, were some of the hole locations, given how fast and firm the greens were.

“The U.S. Open could have been like this more if they wanted to. They could have made the greens a bit more receptive,” Perez said. “These greens are really flat compared to Shinnecock. So that was kind of the problem there is they let it get out of control and they made the greens too hard.”