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Oak Hill is playing like a U.S. Open so faqr this week, says Bernhard Langer. (Martin/Getty Images)

Notebook: Haas busy influencing his fellow players

By T.J. Auclair and Lauren Deason, PGATOUR.COM Staff

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Jay Haas has been busy influencing his fellow golfers lately.

The Golf Writers Association of America holds a dinner on Wednesday in Augusta, Ga., the week of the Masters Tournament. Haas attended to receive the GWAA award for being the Champions Tour Player of the Year.

Sitting one table down from Haas was Greg Norman, who was honored with the GWAA Charlie Bartlett Award for his commitment to charity. Prior to the ceremony, Haas went to have a little chat with Norman.

"I would like to think I helped talk him into playing (the Senior PGA Championship) this week," Haas said. "...He was with Chris (Evert, his fianc´┐Że) and she said, 'I'm going to make him come out and play some.' And I said, 'Come on, you know, you'll have a great time.'"

Norman told Haas he was considering committing to the Senior PGA Championship and Haas gently prodded him to go through with the idea.

"Well, I saw him on Tuesday and he was cussing me under his breath because it was so cold and windy," Haas said.

He also doled out some valuable advice to Jeff Sluman a few weeks ago. Sluman credits Haas with helping turn his season around after Haas gave him a few simple swing tips at the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am.

Haas, modest as usual, protested that he wasn't the cause for Sluman's recent success on the Champions Tour.

"On the range I was watching him hit shots and they were low, much lower than I'm used to seeing him hit," Haas recalled. "I said to him, 'Your club has got to be shut somewhere. Try to fan it open at the top.' I don't know if it clicked right away but he's been playing really well.

"He had the low round on Sunday (at the Regions Charity Classic) and he shot even par today. I'm glad he's playing better. Everybody gets tips, though, so I don't know if I should take credit for it."

DEFENDING CHAMP: Denis Watson, the defending champion of the Senior PGA Championship after his emotional win at Kiawah Island's Ocean Course a year ago, said his first round at Oak Hill Thursday was "a struggle."

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Watson opened with a 2-over-par 72 that included five bogeys and three birdies. All three birdies came on the front nine at Nos. 4 (a 570-yard par 5), 6 (a 170-yard par 3) and 8 (a 428-yard par 4).

"I'm a little frustrated, but also happy that I didn't shoot 78 or something, which can go that way pretty fast," Watson said. "And so it will be interesting to see how the weather treats the players this afternoon. And the greens are still tough, even still, they're a decent pace where you cannot be too defensive."

FUZZY BEING FUZZY: As he put the finishing touches on a disappointing 6-over-par 76 in the first round of the 69th Senior PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club on Thursday, the always animated Fuzzy Zoeller reached into his bag and grabbed a cigarette.

Raising his hand to put the cigarette to his lips, Zoeller looked down at his caddie who was putting golf balls back in the bag and said, "If it gets up over 45 [degrees] we'll come back and hit balls. So, we're probably not hitting any balls."

Zoeller's round wasn't all that bad when you consider he started with four consecutive bogeys and was 6 over par through seven holes after a double bogey on No. 7.

And as for that weather, it was 41 degrees with a steady rain when Zoeller teed off with playing partners Greg Norman and Jeff Sluman at 8:00 a.m.

"Fuzzy was probably more than anybody in our threesome a little stiff," Sluman said. "And he got off to a non-Fuzzy start, but it was difficult. There's no question, but the golf course doesn't let you just kind of walk in there and get loose. I mean Oak Hill, you better be ready and loose and be ready to play on that first tee shot."

SO-SO START FOR BERNIE: Bernhard Langer was easily a pre-tournament favorite to win the Senior PGA Championship this week, win two wins already this season on the Champions Tour and the top spot in the Charles Schwab Cup points standings.

However, Langer wasn't exactly in love with the way he started at Oak Hill on Thursday with a 1-over-par 71.

"You don't win a tournament the first day. You can lose it, but you can't win it," he said. "So I'm just trying to be near the leaders going into the weekend and hopefully have a good weekend."

And what about that weather? Was it like a British Open?

"Not so much a British Open, but maybe a U.S. Open the way the set-up is," Langer said. "You hit a little bit of a loose shot or something you could be punished. The greens are very severe. You don't want to go over the greens. So you're always playing for the front edge. And the greens are very well bunkered, so you only have a very narrow entrance into the greens."

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