Proud papa Haas hoping for major breakthrough at Oak Tree
His nine wins on the PGA Tour, three Ryder Cup appearances and two straight Champions Tour wins notwithstanding, Jay Haas is most proud of his two boys, Bill and Jay Jr.
By T.J. Auclair, Junior Editor
EDMOND, Okla. -- One of the most humble, gentlemen in all of golf also happens to be one of the most successful players on today's Champions Tour.
Jay Haas, 52, comes into the 67th Senior PGA Championship at Oak Tree Golf Club this week as arguably the hottest golfer in the field and certainly one of the favorites. He won the last two events he played on the Champions Tour -- the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf and the FedEx Kinko's Classic -- and currently holds the No. 2 spot on the money list, not far behind leading money winner Loren Roberts.
"I've had a good stretch recently and it's always nice to be playing well coming into an event like this," Haas said. "It's always nice to have some confidence and an idea of where the ball might be going off the tee and things like that."
For parts of the past three seasons Haas has split his time between the PGA Tour and Champions Tour. The reason being, he was just playing too well on the PGA Tour not be out with the younger guys.
Despite having amassed nine wins in his days on the PGA Tour, appearances in three Ryder Cups -- including 2004 at Oakland Hills -- and the first four of what would seem to be many wins among the senior players, Haas' proudest moment on the golf course had little to do with any of those accomplishments.
That moment came three weeks ago in Charlotte, N.C., at the PGA Tour's Wachovia Championship. Jay was one of three Haas' in the field that week along with his two sons, Bill and Jay Jr.
Bill is a member of the PGA Tour. He earned his card through the Tour's grueling Qualifying School. Jay Jr., on the other hand, got into the field by grinding it out for a spot in the Monday Qualifier.
While they didn't play together in the tournament rounds, the three Haas' did manage to hook up for a practice round.
"Aside from personal achievements, I guess just the thrill of that week was something that is unmatched," the eldest Haas said with a grin that proud fathers the world over can relate to. "I've had tournament wins, and that's wonderful. That's what we strive for and everything. But with the three of us playing together, that's not something you expect to happen. To have that happen on that stage is probably the highlight of my career."
As for how they all made out: Jay finished in a tie for 22nd, Jay Jr. missed the cut and Bill took low-Haas honors with his best finish of the season, a tie for fourth.
"That was something that I say I couldn't even have dreamed," Jay Haas said. "Playing with Bill the few times that we've played together has been amazing. But with both of them in the field and playing a practice round together on Tuesday there was just, I don't know, I never would have dreamed something like that was possible. I had a ball. It was great. I was disappointed for Jay that he didn't play better, but happy for Bill that he got a big check. I had a decent week and made the cut. It was just great overall. The only thing more I guess I could have asked for would have been for Jay to make the cut and get a few more rounds under his belt. I think it was good for him to get a taste of it and maybe get his juices going that perhaps he wants to do this again. We'll see. It was something that I will just never forget."
While Jay Haas is always about family first, he'll be looking to pin down another first this week -- winning a major championship.
Haas, who has contended several times in majors throughout his career, is hoping his bid for that elusive major will come to fruition this week. A little local knowledge should help, too. Haas and Curtis Strange are both staying with PGA Tour star and 1986 PGA Champion Bob Tway, who has a home nearby and plays Oak Tree quite often.
"I was talking to my host, Bob Tway," Haas said, "he says you've got to put it in the fairway here. I've been driving the ball pretty well lately. That'll be a big key for me just to try and put the ball in the fairway and listen to what my host tells me."
Haas comes to this Senior PGA looking for some sort of redemption. He missed the cut last year at Laurel Valley after finishing second in his first-ever Senior PGA in 2004.
"I'm kind of anxious to get back into it a little bit and feel like a part of it again," he said. "Last year was a big disappointment for me and I wasn't playing very well. It's always been my idea that if I play well, I can be competitive out here and if I don't play well -- I don't care if I'm one of the better players, because I'm not one of the better players -- if I don't play well, I'm not going to be a contender. I just need to be sharp."
Having been around the game and sustaining such a high level of play all these years, one might think nerves don't come into the equation for Haas. But, that couldn't be further from the truth.
"In the couple of tournaments that I've won recently I was as nervous as I've ever been coming down the stretch," he admitted. "To me there's no difference between this and any of the majors we play on the PGA Tour. If you're in the hunt and you're trying to win a tournament, you're still trying to be the best that week and there's pressure. You have to hit the shots no matter what. The ball doesn't know that it's a major, a senior major, or not a major. It just goes where you hit it. You have to do what you do. To me, there's no difference."