Champions Insider: Haas trying to break droughtJay Haas has 14 career Champions Tour wins, but is trying to avoid a shutout in 2010.September 01, 2010
Vartan Kupelian, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
Pebble Beach Golf Links is a place where history repeats. It's all about traditions and memories, and where the cyclical nature of sports is amplified.
That makes it a perfect venue for Jay Haas in his quest for a belated first victory on the 2010 Champions Tour.
Haas returns to the Monterey Peninsula after being sidelined for last year's First Tee Open with tendinitis in his left elbow.
The injury bothered him for a good part of the 2009 season and after playing in three straight majors -- the Senior British, Senior U.S. Open and JELD-WEN Tradition -- Haas took a month off.
He returned for the Greater Hickory Classic at Rock Barn in late September -- and won.
Haas won again in his next start, adding another Champions Tour major, his third, to his resume at the Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship.
It's September again and Haas is looking for his first victory of the year. Again.
Remember that part about history repeating? Besides, Pebble Beach is a destination that gets golfers excited.
Schwab Cup: Top 5 Player Points Bernhard Langer 2,791 Fred Couples 2,130 Tom Lehman 1,420 Nick Price 1,246 Fred Funk 1,243
"I've always enjoyed playing here, whether it was the old Crosby, the AT&T and now our First Tee event," Haas said.
"I missed it last year and I'm anxious to be back. The course looks awesome and it looks like we'll have good weather again. It's a place that we all love to play and hopefully my game will be up to the task."
Jeff Sluman and Mark O'Meara can attest to the repeatable nature of Pebble Beach. Sluman is the two-time defending champion of the First Tee Open and O'Meara won five times at Pebble Beach during his PGA TOUR career. O'Meara added a joint third-place finish last year at the First Tee Open.
Haas was runner-up in 2004, tied for 2nd in 2006 and tied for 7th in 2007.
The Home Care & Hospice First Tee Open is played on Pebble Beach and the Del Monte Golf Course.
"I've had a bunch of good finishes in this event but haven't won," he said. "I like playing Pebble. The old Del Monte course has given me some trouble over the years. I've scored OK over there but have no great scores. You have to have a good score over there to get a cushion coming to Pebble Beach."
For the tournament's Friday and Saturday rounds, each Champions Tour player is teamed with a junior amateur and two amateur partners for a total of 78 foursomes. Three events are scored -- the professional stroke-play, the pro-junior gross and a better-ball score of all four players.
"It's a great format here with the junior player," Haas said. "This time of the year, it's really special."
He's hoping the unique nature of the competition will help kick-start another late-season surge.
"Everything needs to be upgraded and I've worked on that lately."
-- Jay Haas
"I'm disappointed with the way I've played this year," Haas said. "I've played better over the last month-and-a-half. At this time of the year, lots of times I've gone downhill and felt tired but right now I feel energized. I think I have some good golf left in me the rest of the year."
In July, Haas had a T5 in Montreal and T8 at Carnoustie. He tied for 10th at the JELD-WEN Tradition last month.
Haas doesn't pinpoint any particular area his game needs improvement to repeat last year's big finish.
"Not really, I've been a little off in all phases," he said. "I haven't been driving the ball well, haven't hit my irons good and haven't putted well. There hasn't been a bright spot.
"Everything needs to be upgraded and I've worked on that lately. It's just one of these stretches where I'm not scoring like I need to."
Haas has won at least twice each year on the Champions Tour since 2005. The high-water mark came with back-to-back four victory seasons in 2006 and 2007 when he earn Player of the Year honors.
Last year's successive victories were followed by three more terrific starts. He produced T2 finishes at both the Administaff Small Business Classic and AT&T Championship and a T10 at the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship to turn an ordinary campaign into a memorable season, the kind that often are etched at Pebble Beach.
Champions Tour Insider notes: • This is the first year of sponsorship by the National Association for Home Care (NAHC), a non-profit representing 25,000 homecare and hospice organizations.
• Two-time defending champion Jeff Sluman is trying for a rare hat-trick. Only five times has a Champions Tour event been won three straight years by the same golfer: Chi Chi Rodriguez, Digital Seniors Classic (1986-1988), George Archer, Northville Long Island Classic (1990-92), Hale Irwin, Senior PGA Championship, (1996-98), Joe Inman, AT&T Champions Classic (1998-2000), Irwin, Turtle Bay Championship (2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005 -- there was no event in 2004).
• LPGA star Paula Creamer, the reigning U.S. Women's Open champion, played in the First Tee Open and finished second with Dana Quigley. Scott Langley won the pro-junior with Quigley in 2006. Langley is this year's Big 10 Conference's Player of the Year, the medalist at the NCAA Men's and finished T16 at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
• In addition to local favorite Bobby Clampett, 10 other exempt players are scheduled to make their first appearances in this event as a member of the Champions Tour. They are: Mark Calcavecchia, Fred Couples, Bob Tway, Tom Pernice, Jr., Tommy Armour III, David Frost, JL Lewis, Bill Glasson, Chien Soon Lu and Peter Senior.