The 2005 Senior PGA Championship
A PGA of America Event. Click to learn more

An Interview With Jay Haas

May 25, 2005

JULIUS MASON: Jay Haas, ladies and gentlemen. Playing in the 66th Senior PGA. Which is his second senior PGA Championship. He had a pretty good one last year. Jay, some opening thoughts and we'll go to Q&A.

JAY HAAS: Just really looking forward to it. My second senior event this year. I played in the Legends and didn't do very well there. But I'm anxious to get here, the couple tournaments that I played last year were on courses that I had played before. And Valhalla I played in the PGA and Bellerive, I had played before growing up and Pebble Beach, the three tournaments I played last year. So knowing this course a little bit, being here and doing some outings here years ago and then we played the Pennsylvania Classic several years ago, I guess. So it's nice being back here. I'm staying at Latrobe Country Club, one of Arnold's houses over there and it's just a great week and the course is in unbelievably great shape. And just looking forward to getting started.

JULIUS MASON: Questions, folks.

Q. Obviously the Arnold Palmer is obviously the big attraction everywhere, especially here in West Pennsylvania. As his career might perhaps be winding down, put in perspective the impact he's had on the game of golf?

JAY HAAS: I don't know if I could do that in just a few words. It's incredible.

I told a few of my friends that yesterday morning I was, I went to his office, at his house there and just sitting in there and just watching him, being in that situation, I said I bet there's ten million golfers that wish they could be sitting right here and just for five minutes and just experience the feel of that guy. And what he has meant and done and been and some of the pictures on the wall and just I don't know, it's hard to put into words. It's almost a feel that people in golf have when they're around Arnold.

It's a good feeling. There is nothing but good stuff. We played five holes yesterday afternoon, just the two of us and it was just it was worth my trip here to put it that, to put it in my mind, that if nothing goods comes out of it this week, just being there with him and those five holes and talking about the way the course used to be. When he was first involved with the golf course here. It was just neat. Just listening to him and being around him.

Q. The fact that you both went to Wake Forest, does that enhance the relationship between the two of you? How long after you were out of Wake Forest did you meet Arnold or was it while you were there?

JAY HAAS: You know, I met Arnold briefly through my uncle Bob Goalby. Back when I was 12, 13, 14 years old probably. I met him again before I came to Wake Forest, when I was looking at the school. He came down there, was doing an exhibition for the school and kind of promoting Wake Forest. And these are things that he would not remember. I played with Arnold at the, in Greensboro in 1973. I was an alternate into the tournament and Roberto DiVicenzo withdrew Thursday morning and I was paired with Arnold and was a freshman in college, a freshman at Wake Forest. And ended up making the cut. But in 173, you know, he was the man. And obviously still is, but he was still the guy that was going do win the tournament that week. For sure. So to be in that situation was something I'll never for get. I don't know if he ever, if he remembers anything like that. But it was one of the greatest moments of my life at that time. But I think that Wake Forest certainly is a tie there. It means a lot to both of us. We were commenting yesterday morning when I was in his office, I had gotten an e mail from a friend that had his speech, that he gave at Wake Forest, last week, at graduation, and that, you know, just some great words there. I was thinking I was there last year when my son Bill graduated and Colin Powell spoke. Not that I didn't get anything out of Colin Powell's speech, but for Bill's sake it would have been neater for him to say Arnold Palmer spoke at his graduation. But so that definitely is a tie there with all of us, Curtis and Billy Andrade and Lanny Watkins and go down the list of guys who have gone there and have played out here. He's the dad taking care of all of his children out here, I guess.

Q. You mentioned that you had played here before. How was the course then and how does it suit your game?

JAY HAAS: Well, four years ago it's pretty much like it is now. There's maybe a couple extra tees that I don't know that we'll use this week, but the 18th hole has, had been changed by then. The first time I came here gosh, 25 years ago probably, played in the Alcoa Easy Open, it was like a one day pro am. There was some good it was a good time. And the 18th green was up on the hillside a little bit. It was a par 5, I guess. But it was not a, right on the water there and it was a much different hole. But I don't know if it plays to my strengths at all. I still feel like I'm, I won't say I'm the longest hitter in this field but I'm probably in the top 15, 20 percent of the guys off the tee length wise. Which is the opposite on the PGA TOUR. I'm in the bottom two percent of length out there. But you definitely have to play the ball in the fairway here. The rough's not brutal, but with the conditions like this, you have to play out of the fairway. Many of the holes, No. 2, a relatively easy hole, if you put it in the fairway. A 3 wood and a wedge. But if you drive it in the rough or the bunker, with the water in front of the hole there, you, it makes it much more difficult. So not any different than any week that we play. If you hit the ball pretty well and make some putts you got a chance. If not, then it's going to be a struggle.

Q. The fact that you still play quite a bit on the regular TOUR, does that help you? I mean staying sharper so to speak? You're competing against probably guys that are just a little bit above maybe what you see on the Champions Tour.

JAY HAAS: I guess I'm careful of how I approach that. I approach each tournament the same. Whether it be next week the Memorial tournament I'm going to play in, or the Senior PGA. To me a shot on the 18th hole here over the water with a 3 wood, I don't care if you're playing with four of us playing or the senior PGA, it's a tough shot. And I want to perform at may best. And to win here or to play well, to contend, I'm going to have to play my best.

Last year at Valhalla, probably from tee to green it was one of the best tournaments I played all year. No matter Regular TOUR, SENIOR Tour. So to me there is not a lot of difference, mentally, the way I approach it. I feel confident that if I play well I will be in contention, whereas some other events maybe on the Regular TOUR that if I play well I still might get run over by a lot of these guys. Again, I'm 160th in driving distance on the PGA TOUR. Out here I might be in the Top 30. So there's a good bit of difference there. In that regard. Maybe it makes me feel like I can you know, that's an advantage for me as opposed to a disadvantage on the PGA TOUR. But as far as being competitively sharp, all these guys have been playing all year and to me golf is golf. It's still lowest score wins. The competition matters a little bit, but you have to do it yourself.

Q. How do you think the weather is going to affect the play out here?

JAY HAAS: Well, it is certainly making the course play awfully long. Tomorrow's supposed to be a decent day. But then again cooler on the weekend. It will make the scores maybe not as good, I think the course will play longer and a lot of the holes that are mid too long irons now would maybe be mid to short irons into the greens on some of the par 4s, if it was a lot dryer and warmer. 10th hole today, I hit a 4 iron into the hole. That's a pretty difficult hole hitting a 4 iron into there. So I don't look for the scores to be unbelievably low. I think the greens are quick. Probably quicker than they were last year at Valhalla. Much more undulation in them. The weather is not a friend of any of us when we get 50 and above. It certainly makes it all of us would rather it be 85 or 90. But again, you just have to go play and try not to dwell on it too much.

Q. Speaking of the weather, last year at Valhalla was an incredible experience for those of us who were there. How difficult was that to, with all the weather that they had going on there?

JAY HAAS: Well, I handled it pretty well, I guess. Being my first senior event last year, I was just glad to be there and excited about it and everything. I wasn't into the complaining mode yet. And so it I guess it didn't bother me so much and I, this year we have had just an unbelievable bad run of weather on the PGA TOUR. And some out here, I guess. I guess I never have really thought about how it's tough to stop and start and all that. I don't think any of us like to play 30 plus holes in any given day. Last year at the Senior Open at Bellerive the last day that was pretty difficult for most of us, I think. But I guess I never really think that that's a good or bad thing. It is what it is. And I have to deal with it. And I can't complaining about it or thinking about it, dwelling on it, it doesn't change the fact that it's still the weather wasn't great last year. It was unfortunate that there was no continuity to it. I think it kept the spectators away, in a way. But I guess I don't really, I don't really say I have an advantage or disadvantage.

Q. Obviously you're playing both tours. What's your thoughts of the Champions Tour playing on that and also what are your plans in the near future about playing both tours?

JAY HAAS: 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. This year I won't say I don't have goals, but 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. 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. I see myself playing kind of half and half the rest of the year. More probably a few more Regular TOUR events than SENIOR Tour events. But I'm going to play in the Ford Senior PLAYERS Championship. I'm going to play in the British Senior, U. S. Senior Open. Probably the Jeld Wen, the tournament at Pebble Beach and maybe one or two others. So it kind of just depend on how my year is going toward the end of the year, if I have a chance to get into the American Express attorney is Top 50 in the world and I'm 45th now and sinking fast. And so I need to turn that around if I want to remain eligible for a lot of these end of season tournaments that reward good play on the PGA TOUR. So I don't know, it's hard to turn my back on it when I've played well the last couple years. It's hard to say, you know, I've had enough of that. It's I would love to win over there. You think I'm still capable. But I need to play better than I played.

Q. Earlier Hale Irwin was talking about the risk/reward nature of the 18th hole. How does that whole set up for you. Do you have a yardage that green lights you and talk a little bit about the downhill shot and how it sets up for you.

JAY HAAS: Right. Ultimately I would like to have I carry a 5 wood. I would like, if I was going to go for it, that would be the club I would like to hit in there. Maybe a 225 yard shot. To me it doesn't play as much downhill as it looks. At least it hasn't because of the weather I think has been a big part of it the last couple days here. And we played this morning and we were talking about it, it was more of a situational shot, if that's a word. If you need to make a three, then maybe, then have you to go for it. If you can reach it with a 3 wood. But a 3 wood shot into that green is not very comfortable, off of the down slope there's a wall of trees on your right side, you kind of have to hit a cut shot around there. I have heard that there's a chance that the tees could be moved up a day or two or all four days, I don't know exactly how they're going to play that hole. They have two sets of tees out there right now for us to try. It's just, it's not a comfortable shot for most of us. But at least for me I know that I would like to be able to have the perfect yardage and a great lie and everything and knock it on the green and not have to worry about making a birdie there. But it's going long on the green is not a bargain either. Those back bunkers it's not great, you're chipping back down toward the water of the. So unless I have my 5 wood that's again about a 225 shot, then I probably won't go for it the. Unless I'm playing just great and everything's going great and I have confidence that I'm going to knock this shot on the green. But it's just, I don't know that the reward is worth the risk, unless you're in desperate need of a three or a sure four.

Q. Jay, in other sports, baseball for example, when a legendary player retires there's a lot of requests for autographs for his teammates. Is it possible with guys to line up with stuff for him to sign at the end of this tournament?

JAY HAAS: I guess not really. Again, there's no definitive retirement mark for most golfers. You don't say, well, this is my last game or this is my last tournament. Very rarely it happens. Most of the time guys, you see them, they play a little bit and then all of a sudden you don't see them for a while and they just say, you know what, I had enough, that's it. There's no huge circumstance that this is the last event.

Now if Jack says he's going to play the St. Andrews this year it will be his last event, well he might play here and there and everything. But kind of that he feels like he is going to prepare for this and everything, that would be his last.

Now, Arnold, obviously this is a place that he loves and he's had a history here for 40 years probably. So this is a special place for him. If he hadn't been playing for a couple years, he would have probably still played here. So golfers just don't retire. It's what are you going to do? It's what we do, we're professionals and all that. But I don't think that the guys, you know, the guys respect Arnold, he signed ten million items already in his life time, he doesn't need to sign any more for me or any of the other guys.

JULIUS MASON: Thanks for coming down.

JAY HAAS: Okay. Thank you all very much.

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