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Jay Haas surprised himself with his eagle Saturday, but no one is surprised he's in the thick of things after 54 holes. (Martin/Getty Images)

T.J.'s Take: Miracle shot boosts Haas

By T.J. Auclair, Interactive Producer

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- The weather was beautiful at Oak Hill Country Club on Saturday, but the scores -- for the most part -- were still ugly.

Germany's Bernhard Langer was his usual steady self and posted an even-par 70 in the third round of the 69th Senior PGA Championship. With a 54-hole total of 2-over-par 212, Langer will take a one-shot lead into the final round over Rochester native Jeff Sluman and 2006 champ Jay Haas.

Scott Simpson recorded the only sub-par third round score with a 1-under-par 69. At 6 over, Simpson is tied for fourth with former PGA Tour winner and current PGA Club Professional Bill Britton. Tom Kite, Greg Norman, Scott Hoch and Joey Sindelar are all five shots off the pace at 7 over par.

Bernhard Langer is trying to get his first major win on the senior circuit. (Martin/Getty Images)
Bernhard Langer is trying to get his first major win on the senior circuit. (Martin/Getty Images)

In the most dramatic moment of the championship to this point, Haas crashed what was becoming the Sluman/Langer party with an unheard-of eagle on No. 17, which has played as the most difficult hole at Oak Hill this week.

After hitting what he called one of his best drives of the week off the tee at 17, Haas still found the left rough and was faced with a tricky second shot. It reminded you of one of those old Larry Bird/Michael Jordan basketball commercials. You know, over the rafters, through the bleachers, off the shot clock, nothin' but net.

For Haas, it was under the tree limb, over the bunker, through the fringe, onto the green nothing but cup. Surely he didn't call this one the way Larry Legend and MJ called theirs, but Haas' incredible eagle from 162 yards out with an 8-iron -- which could be plaque-to-mark-the-spot-if-he-goes-on-to-win worthy -- sent the galleries into a frenzy and momentarily gave him a share of the lead at 2 over.

Moments before Haas' miracle on 17, Langer and Sluman both had mini-disasters. Both players made bogey after missing par putts from inside of three feet. That meant that once Haas' eagle landed, there was a three-shot swing at the top and a three-way tie for the lead

"I thought left bunker wouldn't be too bad, short left wouldn't be too bad," Haas said. "And somehow it came out pretty good and needed a little bit of a kick left and I really couldn't see it. At one point, it kind of got lost in the shadows and then it kind of popped out into the sun.

"It looked like it was going on the green. So I was just ecstatic about that. Then I thought, 'well this might be close.' And by that time it disappeared. So I saw the crowd go nuts up there and I went pretty nuts."

Which is why Langer knew something was up.

"As we were on 18 tee we heard this huge roar and I could tell by the roar, I figured somebody holed the second shot," Langer said. "I didn't know it was Jay, but I knew somebody did. Then when I got to 18 I looked at the leaderboard and I saw Jay going from 4 over to 2 over and I knew what happened. So that's what can happen out here."

Sluman and Haas each made bogey on No. 18 after finding the rough with tee shots, while Langer made par to take his one-shot lead into the final round.

While the names Langer, Sluman and Haas would seem to be solid ones atop the leaderboard, anything is possible on a course as difficult as Oak Hill -- especially with its beastly final three holes. On Saturday, that set of holes played as the ninth, first and second hardest on the course, respectively.

Thanks to Haas' eagle on No. 17, he, Langer and Sluman combined to play the final three holes in 4 over par.

"Somebody 8 over maybe shoots 4 under [on Sunday], 4 over [for the tournament] might be a good number," Haas said. "I don't know. Depends on the weather. It's supposed to be nice, but it's still hard. It's still difficult. It ain't easy when it's hard. Isn't that what they say?"

Well put.


MOVING BACKWARDS: On moving day at the Senior PGA Championship, 36-hole leader Tom Purtzer moved in the wrong direction.

Purtzer started the third round with a one-shot advantage over Jay Haas and Massy Kuramoto. Things went south quickly on Saturday for Purtzer, who had three bogeys and two double bogeys on the front nine.

With four more bogeys on the back, Purtzer went on to shoot an 11-over-par 81.

QUOTE OF THE DAY I: "Nope." -- Jay Haas, putting it simply, when asked if he had ever hit a more remarkable shot in his career than the one he hit on No. 17 for eagle

QUOTE OF THE DAY II: "The front side ate my lunch again. I think I'm 14 over on the front and 2 over on the back for the championship. I need to do a little better job on the front side." -- Robert Thompson, a PGA Club Professional from Huntsville, Texas, playing in his first Senior PGA Championship, who shot a 7-over-par 77 on Saturday with a 5-over 40 on the front and sits at 16 over par for the tournament


ROUND OF THE DAY: Scott Simpson's 1-under-par 69. Any under-par score at Oak Hill is spectacular, but this one by Simpson was exceptional -- and the only one in the third round.

Three over par through 11 holes on Saturday, Simpson rallied to make five birdies (and one bogey) over his final seven holes.

SHOT OF THE DAY I: The second shot out of the left rough on the 460-yard par-4 17th by Jay Haas. Haas played it perfectly, ran it up and into the hole for an eagle and -- at the time -- a share of the lead. If Haas goes on to win, there's no doubt he'll look back on that shot as the moment that changed everything.

SHOT OF THE DAY II: Bruce Vaughan's hole-in-one at the 164-yard, par-3 sixth hole with a 7-iron. It was Vaughan's first hole-in-one in senior golf competition. This is the second consecutive year that a player has made an ace in the Senior PGA Championship. Last year, PGA Club Professional Ron Stelten had an ace at Kiawah Island in the final round on the 194-yard 14th hole.

Vaughan, 51, is playing in his second Senior PGA Championship. Last year at Kiawah Island he tied for 24th.


SHOT OF THE DAY III: Defending champion Denis Watson's 9-iron from 144 yards on No. 9 for eagle.

"That was about the only highlight of my week so far," said Watson, who was 4 over for the day and 10 over through 54 holes. "I hit a 3-wood off the tee and just a little off the fairway. And then I hit a 9-iron from 144 and jarred it. So it was sort of a surprise when it went in."

EASIEST HOLE: The 323-yard, par-4 14th. It played to an average score of 4.095 on Saturday with 14 birdies, 50 pars, 18 bogeys and two double bogeys.

MOST DIFFICULT HOLE: The 460-yard, par-4 17th. It played to a stroke average of 4.667. Aside from Haas' improbable eagle, four players made birdie, 28 made par, 46 made bogey, seven made double bogey and two triple bogeys.


1. Greg Norman. It's been a long time since the Great White Shark was in contention to win a tournament. His last win anywhere in the world came in the 1998 Greg Norman Holden International on the Australasian Tour.

2. The galleries. No doubt they'll be out in force to support their hometown hero, Jeff Sluman. You can bet your life on the fact that Sluman will be jacked up for the final round with a chance to win and the crowd could prove to be the 15th club in his bag.

3. Any player in the top 10 after 54 holes, who manages to post a score under par on Sunday. If someone within as many as seven shots of the lead can put up an early number to get the leaders thinking and over-thinking down the stretch, things could get interesting.

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