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An Interview With: Jay Haas

JULIUS MASON: Jay Haas, ladies and gentlemen, at the 86th PGA Championship sits at 4-under for the first round.

Jay, we're all anxious on some opening thoughts about what went on out there today.

JAY HAAS: Well, we were pretty fortunate that the wind seems to be dying just a little bit, but early this morning, I was 7:30 off the tee and it was pretty darned cold out there. The wind was whipping pretty good. I think it's maybe died a little bit and it's starting to warm up a little.

I think generally, wind was more in and downwind today, as opposed to across, and I think that made the course play a little bit easier, especially on the holes on the lake. The last couple of days, you've been fighting the crosswind, and if you get it riding the wind, it goes too far. If you hold it up into the wind, it doesn't go far enough.

So it was a little easier to judge shots going into those holes.

Personally, I played about as good as I can play from tee-to-green. I missed two greens and putted on both of those from the fringe, so I was very, very happy with that.

JULIUS MASON: Let's go through your card real quick. Talk about the birdies and the bogey.

JAY HAAS: I started on 10, birdied 13, probably hit the best shot of the day. I hit a 6-iron to about four feet there. Pin was in the back left over this knob and you have Lake Michigan to the right and the wind howling. That was my best shot of the day, really.

16, I hit a 5-iron up just short and right of the green and pitched that to about eight feet, made it for birdie.

17, I hit a 5-iron about 50 feet past the hole and 3-putted, left the first one about six or seven feet short and missed that.

2, I hit it over the green with a 5-wood and chipped it back to about eight feet and made it.

5, a sand wedge to about eight feet and made that putt.

And 8, I hit a 5-iron to about five feet and made that one.

JULIUS MASON: Questions, folks.

Q. Can you compare or contrast this golf course with the TPC at Sawgrass or the PGA Stadium Course?

JAY HAAS: I think this course has the potential to be much harder than that course. I think they were pretty nice to us with the tee markers today. They had it up at 11; No. 8, they had it up quite a bit, and that made those holes a little bit easier to take.

And the pins weren't easy, but they were not as tough as they could put them here. I think the PGA is like us, it's the unknown here. We've never played competition here, so we don't know, you know, what the scores are going to be like. I guess it's pretty hard to predict what's going to happen out there.

I'm a little surprised at K.J. and Darren, birdie, birdie, birdie start, and Ernie, 6-under. I'm a little surprised at those scores. As I think you heard during the week, we were saying that this is one of the hardest golf courses we have ever seen. I think it was mostly due to that wind either coming off the land going toward the water or the other way, and I think today it was a little more of a favorable wind.

I think the PGA will see this, see some pretty good scores, and say we can probably pin them a little bit harder.

Q. You've had good starts, good opening rounds in three majors this year. Is there anything in particular that causes that?

JAY HAAS: Not really. I wish I knew. I wish I could keep it going all four.

Like I said, I didn't know what to expect coming in here. Don't know, it seemed like one of the hardest courses we have ever played. If that was the case, 6-under wouldn't be leading the tournament.

I've played well most of the year. I get excited every time I play, but especially for the major tournaments. I just happened to hit the ball well today. It wasn't anything that I do differently or anything like that. I just played very well.

Q. You seem so content; your son is now out on the Tour, your family life. How do you explain at age 50, is this like the happiest time in your golf life? You seem so relaxed out there.

JAY HAAS: Pretty much. So I've played very well for the last couple of years, but I also had a great attitude. I think I went into 2003 with kind of a, hey, this is my last go-around here at 49 and let's just see what happens and have some fun and all that. You hear that all the time, and I don't necessarily think that that equates to great golf.

For me, I've been very relaxed. I probably had my best attitude consistently for the last couple of years on the golf course that I've ever had in my career. You know, good play then feeds that good attitude and vice versa, so to have Bill playing in some of these events has been wonderful for me. I'm just having the time of my life.

Q. There was a penalty today for slow play, and somebody else was put on the clock, and the fellas were kind of moaning and groaning when they came in; they just said, "We are the first, they made us an example." Any comments on slow play today?

JAY HAAS: The group in front of us got put on the clock on No. 4 or 5, and they warned us that they would get going and that we needed to watch it for our group. The very next hole, they said we were on the clock and we caught right up to that, or got back into position.

So, again, this course is not easy and people can get behind making a -- two guys make a double or something, you're going to go behind. But I don't know that they were trying to make an example of anyone. I think you can play, if you're ready to play, no matter if you're making 5, 6 or 7s. If you're ready to go, you can play quick.

Q. Is too early to draw conclusions or could we be deceived by the low scores that we're seeing?

JAY HAAS: I don't know that you'll be overrun by low scores. Like I said, I'm a little surprised that the scores were as low or as low so far. I think the greens are a little soft for us, or softer than they look. I don't know if that makes any sense, but with the wind blowing, it just seems like the ball is going to get away from you. And by the end of the day, maybe that will be the case, but I think with the softer greens, being able to kind of control the ball a little bit on the greens, shots into the holes, I think that makes it not as difficult. I won't say easier, I hate to use those words when you're talking about a golf course, but I think if the greens firm up a little bit as the week goes on, I don't think you'll see that happening all week.

Q. Can you talk about how well you've played over the last year and a half or two years, but the one thing missing in that equation is winning. Could you be content to play at this level and not win, and how much did having a chance to win at the Senior Open whet your appetite for actually winning a tournament, as opposed to a good showing?

JAY HAAS: Well, I don't think any of us are ever content. I'll put myself in that category, that I'm not content by not winning.

Am I devastated or disappointed? Devastated, no; disappointed, yes. Do I feel less than, because I haven't won? It's difficult to win out here, and I put myself into position a couple of times and haven't pulled it off.

Being in the hunt at the U.S. Open was great. I felt like I should have won that tournament or given it a better chance than I did. But, I guess I haven't dwelled on that fact that I have not won a tournament. I'm playing as hard as I can play, trying as hard as I can every single time. I can't do any more than that. But I can't say, well, I'm disappointed or I'm not disappointed or content, not content.

I don't know, I guess it's not going to help me whether I feel one way or the other. I just need to go do it.

Q. We remember you around here from 1981. Does that seem like a hundred years ago? Are you a much different player, much different person?

JAY HAAS: At times, it seems, yes, a long, long time ago. I think I'm a different player. I seem more consistent. I have been more consistent in my ball-striking for the last year and a half, two years. I think my attitude is better. I don't get as upset as I used to. I still get mad out there and still get on myself, and I get disappointed when I don't hit good shots and all that. But I'm able to put it aside a little bit easier than I used to.

But yeah, that seems like an awfully long time ago. From '77 when I started, not many of us are left out here that were on the first tee back then.

Q. How quickly in the round did you realize that there could be a score? Was it a shot you hit? Was it seeing the other guys put the birdies up?

JAY HAAS: Yeah, I think I got 1-under through 13 and I thought 10 through 13 were playing very difficult. And then when I birdied 16, turned around and bogeyed 17, but then 18 was a 3-wood and an 8-iron shot out of the rough. It's been unreachable in the practice round, and I felt like 1 through 4 were going to be downwind, you could kind of get on top of things a little bit, or at least I felt like I could.

I felt like once I made that birdie at 13, I felt like, you know, if I hit some good shots, there was some holes that I could get.

Q. With your place in the Ryder Cup standings, obviously you're putting pressure on the guys behind you in the standings now with an early start and a good round. How much is that in the back of your mind this week? I know you have to focus on the tournament, but how much is it in the back of your mind and when do you think you'll think seriously about it again?

JAY HAAS: I guess it's been on my mind since I got into the good position at the end of last year, and I started off this year with a good finish at the Bob Hope and got into the top 10. I've been trying to do it. It's been my goal. I've stated that. I'm sure it's the goal of a lot of the guys out here; they just haven't been as vocal about it.

But I don't go into each round thinking I need to play well because of the Ryder Cup. Or if I make a bogey, well, that's going to cost me the Ryder Cup, or if I make a birdie, now I'm in good shape. I don't really think that.

After the tournament was over last week and I realized that I've gotten some points and moved into the top 10, that was wonderful. That was what I was trying to do for the last couple of weeks. Last week and this week, I said that I felt like all along if I played well, I would make it, and if I didn't play well, I wouldn't make it, as simple as that. I don't think I can -- I certainly can't wish good luck for me or bad luck for anybody else; I just have to take care of what I can do.

But it's been, I don't know, it's been fun to be able to even consider that, I guess, to just be in the hunt to be on that team.

Q. With that, how much do you monitor the players behind you in the standings? Let's say after your round, how much are you going to be aware of that?

JAY HAAS: I really don't. There are so many guys that have the potential, especially here with double points or quadruple points, I guess you'd say. There's way too much to worry about in my eyes for worrying about my game than to worry or think about who is coming up behind.

I read the papers and see the standings and everything, but I certainly can't control -- last week coming down the stretch, I was just trying to make birdies as much as I could and birdied 17, 18 and it played out that a couple of the guys that were ahead of me didn't finish ahead of me at that tournament, and I passed them.

But I didn't think, boy, I've got to do this because of So-and-So's 12th or 14th or whatever. I've got way too much to think about than to worry about those guys.

Q. So much of the degree of difficulty in this golf course is visual. The fact that you guys have been here for a few days working, how much did that comfort level come into play today when the wind was down and allow you guys to shoot the scores you did?

JAY HAAS: I think without question, you give the guys out here a chance to see the course under different conditions, learn it a little bit, learn the greens, where to miss, which side, things like that, I think that certainly will help us.

You know, if the wind keeps up and the greens dry a little bit, the pins, they get pretty creative with pin placements out there. It will still be difficult I think by the end of the week.

The guys, like you said visually, it's very intimidating, but if you hit solid shots, you can get it.

Q. Did you change your practice routine before this week or before the Senior Open or has it been consistent all year long?

JAY HAAS: Pretty consistent all year long. I did come up here last Monday just to see it without 40,000 people out there and kind of could see it, take my time and all that. So I did that.

Then I played nine holes Monday, 18 Tuesday, nine yesterday. It felt like I had seen it enough, and I wasn't going to learn it any more playing 54 holes Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.

I felt like I knew it as well as I'm going to know it. But no, I haven't really changed much. I've been working pretty hard all year and going to stick with that.

Q. Do you think the course was set up too easy today, and given the comments that some of the players made the last few days, do you think maybe the PGA erred on the side of caution with moving up so many of the tee boxes?

JAY HAAS: I don't know that you can say they erred. The 11th hole, you just don't know what the wind is going to do here, and literally, I hit a great drive on Tuesday there and was into the fairway about two yards in the perfect dead center of the fairway, and I got to the fairway just by a couple of yards. Not that that's a bad thing; that's just the way it is, you just deal with it.

But, you've got to think about 156 guys getting around here and trying to finish the round and all that. So I think as the week goes on, you'll see the course toughen up, the pins will toughen, the tee markers will toughen. When you have 70 or 75 guys, it's a little bit easier to get them around and you don't have to worry so much about a five-hour round. But you put 150-some players out here, then you're going to slow down.

I don't think they erred. I know personally, like I said, I played about as well as I could play and if I had shot 70 or 71, I'd say, that's a heck of a round, or 72. It was difficult out there, and I'm kind of surprised that 5-, 6-, 7-under, whatever is going to be leading, is leading. I don't think you'll see a great amount of those scores, though.

Q. Darren Clarke spent Sunday, Monday and Tuesday with Stan Utley doing some pretty intense work.

JAY HAAS: I'm a little hot about that, too.

Q. He's given away your secrets. Are you at all surprised at the quick turn? Because I hear it was an utter rebound in chipping.

JAY HAAS: Darren and I talked in the locker room, I guess, on Monday. He said he spent all Sunday with Stan. He was very excited about what he was working on.

You know, I guess I'm a little surprised, yeah, that if it was a complete revamp that he picked it up so quickly. But, some of those things, you get the right feel and you just believe what you're doing is right, and that's kind of the way I felt the whole time in the last couple of years. You just feed off that confidence.

Obviously, he had to make some putts to get 4- or 5-under so quickly. Yeah, I saw that, and I said, I wonder if Stan is watching that leaderboard. He's probably got a big grin on his face, and I'll be giving Darren a little piece of my mind, too.

Q. In any way, shape or form, does your desire to make the Ryder Cup Team trace it's origins back to the disappointment of the last time you were on the Ryder Cup Team?

JAY HAAS: Well, you like to ask some negative questions, don't you? Jesus. (Laughter.)

No, I'd just like to make the Ryder Cup Team. Not at all. That was a very big disappointment for me and everybody on that team. I just think to be on the team in any two-year span is pretty special, and those are my goals and dreams to do that each time.

JULIUS MASON: Take that, Dan. Jay Haas, ladies and gentlemen.

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