Haas, two-time champ, opens up three-shot lead at Principal Charity

By Luke Meredith
Published on

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa -- Only Jay Haas knows what it's like to take the biggest lead in Principal Charity Classic history into the final round.

Haas handled the pressure of an equally large cushion just fine five years ago, so the odds for an unprecedented third Champions Tour title in Iowa are certainly in his favor.

Haas will carry a three-shot lead into the final round at Glen Oaks Country Club after shooting a bogey-free 6-under 65 on Saturday.

Haas also led by three after two rounds when he won the senior event in Iowa in 2007. He repeated as champion in 2008 by rallying from two strokes down in the final round.

"It wasn't comfortable then. It probably won't be comfortable now. But it beats being three behind, I guess," Haas said.

Larry Mize eagled the 18th hole to get within three of Haas at 8-under 134. Tom Lehman is four strokes back, followed by Andrew Magee at 6 under.

Fred Funk and Kenny Perry lead four players at 5-under 137.

Haas began the day two shots behind unheralded first-round leader Mike Goodes. But Goodes stumbled early, and Haas got hot on a course he's had more than his share of success on in the past.

Goodes bogeyed two of the first four holes after collecting birdies on all of them on Friday. Haas quickly passed Goodes, hitting two early 40-foot birdie putts and recording an eagle on the downhill par-5 ninth hole.

Haas then stuck his tee shot on the par-3 No. 16 close to the pin to set up another birdie.

"I had a lot of chances. Drove the ball well, hit good irons. Was trying to be patient," Haas said.

Goodes shot a 74 and is 4 under for the tournament.

Mize has posted one top-10 finish all season. But he made up for a bogey on the 17th hole by dropping his approach on the par-4 18th within a few feet of the cup, where it bounced three times before rolling in.

Lehman, the 2011 points champion, is in contention for his first win of 2012 after shooting a solid 4-under 67.

Lehman opened with a birdie and reached 8 under with another birdie on No. 15. He bogeyed the par-3 16th and is 7 under heading to Sunday.

"In some ways really pleased, in some disappointed. I left a few out there," Lehman said. "I find it very difficult to putt, more so than hit shots, with the gusty wind like this."

John Cook, who at second is the highest ranked golfer in the points standings in the field, also had a 67 to get to 4 under.

Graham Marsh, who made the first hole-in-one at Glen Oaks in six years on Friday, withdrew because of back trouble.

According to Lehman, the key for overtaking Haas on Sunday will be the conditions.

It's expected to be in the mid-80s, about 10 degrees warmer than Saturday, with a lot less wind. That could leave the door open for someone to get on a roll and overtake Haas.

"I think if it's gusty winds like this, I'd take another 4 under and take my chances," Lehman said. "(Haas) is an awfully good player, so he typically does not beat himself. So someone's going to have to go out and shoot a good round and beat him."