Haas wins sudden-death playoff for 67th Senior PGA title
The third time was the charm for Jay Haas on Sunday, both in the Senior PGA Championship and the sudden-death playoff that decided it. Haas defeated Brad Bryant on the third hole of sudden-death playoff to win his first career major.
By T.J. Auclair, Junior Editor
EDMOND, Okla. -- It took three playoff holes and what was left of his remaining nerves but once it ended, Jay Haas had earned his first major win at the 67th Senior PGA Championship at Oak Tree Golf Club on Sunday.
Haas got up and down from a front-right greenside bunker, draining a testy 12-foot par putt on No. 18. That left Brad Bryant with a 4-footer to extend the playoff to a fourth hole. However, Bryant hit a weak putt that slipped past the left side of the cup, ultimately handing Haas the championship and his third consecutive Champions Tour win.
"I was expecting to go to the next tee and I think when Brad missed I didn't know what to do or where to go, who to look at, anything like that," Haas said. "It was a little relief, but definitely just bliss, joy. I don't know."
Despite the way it ended, Bryant said he was pleased with his second-place finish.
"Jay will be a great champion for this championship," Bryant said. "I think that that's good. It's good to have a major player win a major championship, not that I wouldn't be a great champion, but you know, when you look at it, Jay's been such a great player for such a long time, he deserves a major. He deserves a major, quite honestly, more than I do. I'm glad he won. He's a tremendous man."
Both Haas and Bryant holed dramatic putts on the 72nd hole, but Haas was the first player to post 5 under par in regulation.
Playing in the group behind Haas, who minutes earlier had drained an 8-footer for birdie and the clubhouse lead, Bryant followed by hitting a terrific approach from the right rough to 15 feet. When his right-to-left putt died in the hole, he jumped in the air and got a bear hug from his caddie.
The celebration didn't last long, as Bryant needed to head back to the tee at the 433-yard par-4 18th for the first hole of the sudden-death playoff.
Both players made par, but Bryant's was interesting. His third shot, a chip, rolled to within 4 feet of the hole. Needing par to extend the playoff, Bryant's ball lipped around the cup before dropping in, sending oohs and ahhs throughout the enormous gallery surrounding the green.
The playoff resumed at No. 1, a 437-yard par 4. When Haas' drive sailed way right, Bryant had the upper hand and placed his tee shot in the fairway.
With a birdie putt from 15 feet for the win, Bryant came up short and left and for the second time, and the playoff moved over to No. 18. Only this time, it would be decided there.
Back on the 18th tee, Haas ripped his drive down the center of the fairway. Bryant followed with a perfect tee shot of his own.
For his approach shot, Haas had 182 yards to the hole into a strong breeze, while Bryant had just 157.
With a 5-iron, Haas sent his second shot into the deep, front-right greenside bunker with not a whole lot of green between the ball and the hole. It was only the second greenside bunker he had been in all week.
"I remember what Tiger did a few years ago there at St. Andrews and didn't hit in the bunker," Haas said. "It was nothing like that. That's way better. But, yeah, I wouldn't have thought that at the start of the week that I would have been in plenty of bunkers."
Bryant took a few seconds to figure out the wind. Once he had it gauged, he unleashed a mid-iron shot into the fringe in the back-right corner of the green.
From 70 feet, Bryant was the first to play the third shot. Playing 10 feet of break, he nestled the ball to within 4 feet of the hole.
Haas' bunker shot came up well short of the hole and left a nervy 12-foot par putt, which he poured in on the right edge as if it were nothing.
When Bryant blew his par putt by the left edge of the hole, Haas became a major champion for the first time in his 29-year professional career.
"I guess I don't think too much of the past, about what I haven't done," Haas said. "But yeah, it kind of hit me right there. And it was on TV and I wanted to say, 'We did it, Jan (his wife), and couldn't get that out. Nothing would come out. And I was getting ready to tear up, so it was a pretty emotional time for me there."
With a strong wind blowing through the grounds of Oak Tree Golf Club, Haas somehow found a way to combat the breeze, and actually stunned everyone -- including himself -- with a run of five straight birdies that followed back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 2 and 3.
"Heck, 1, 2 and 3 if you hit any kind of decent shots, those are some of the easy holes out here. So as I was two over, I did not feel very confident," Haas said. "But at the same time I had hit a lot of good shots up to that point. The five birdies in a row were something that -- I think six in a row is the most I've ever done -- and never in a major tournament. Never right by the lead. I had some stretches and everything, but to do it on this golf course and to get in the hunt. I said on the 18th green I got the fresh tires way too soon in NASCAR speak, being from South Carolina. But I looked up after No. 9 or 10 and I had like a two-shot lead. I went, 'oh my goodness, that's way too early to have a two shot lead.'?But again to be sitting here I didn't think it was going to happen and at quite a few times during the day. But it sure is sweet."
In the meantime, hometown favorite Gil Morgan, a native of Edmond and a member at Oak Tree who had the 54-hole lead, played the bogey-birdie game. Beginning on the third hole, Morgan went bogey-birdie over the next six holes before he bogeyed No. 9 to make the turn at 3 under par. Another bogey at No. 12 dropped him to 2-under and effectively ended his chances.
"Basically I kind of got out of sync, I think the front nine there," said Morgan, who finished alone in third place at 3 under par. "And I think that was the story of my round today. I played very poorly for about four or five holes on the front and then wasn't able to muster anything on the back."
Dana Quigley, a runner-up in 2005, finished in fourth place at 2 under par, while Loren Roberts finished fifth at 1 under par.
Bryant was sailing along at 6 under par until he hit a messy patch on the front nine. He bogeyed No. 5 after a poor bunker shot, bogeyed No. 6 after failing to get up and down and double-bogeyed No. 7 after missing a short bogey putt. He battled back with birdies at Nos. 13 and 14 but a bogey at 15 put him behind the eight ball before his dramatic eagle brought his chances back to life.
Bryant made a terrific birdie on No. 8, sticking his tee shot on the par 3 to within five feet, but gave the shot back at No. 9 after a wayward tee shot into the trees on the left forced him to punch out. The safety shot he played got dangerous when it skidded through the fairway and into the rough, leaving him an awkward sidehill lie. From there, he hit his third shot well over the flag and two-putted from 30-feet for bogey. He went into the back nine three shots off the lead at 2 under.
"I got to play with Gil again today and one of the things I do when I play with Gil is I watch him and I try to mimic his composure," said Bryant, who played his last six holes in 4 under par. "He stays so level and so he's just wonderful to watch on the golf course. He's great man to know off the golf course. So I think that that helped a lot as far as having my composure."
Haas nearly played his way out of the tournament on No. 16. Shortly before Bryant's eagle, Haas' second shot with a fairway wood bounced into and safely out of a lateral hazard on the left, just in front of the green.
Taking advantage of his lucky break, Haas was able to make par.
"I was very fortunate," Haas said. "As I said, you have to get lucky breaks to win tournaments and that was a pretty glaring lucky break right there."