Insider: Haas looks solid entering Regions Tradition
May 14, 2014
By Vartan Kupelian, PGATOUR.COM
- Jay Haas has three top-10 finishes in the Regions Tradition. (Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Jeff Maggert is a rookie but already he knows the reality of life on the Champions Tour.
“It is kind of strange telling everyone you're the youngest guy in the tournament when you're 50 years old, but there is kind of a smaller window out here to be successful,” Maggert said.
“Obviously on the PGA TOUR you can look forward to a 20-, 25-year career, and out here the time between 50 and 60 just seems to pass really quickly.”
Jay Haas and others can tell him how quickly.
Haas, 60, is off to a flying start this season after what, by his standards, was an indifferent 2013 campaign. Haas has won 16 times on the Champions Tour. Fourteen of those victories came in a span between October, 2005, and October, 2009, the year he won the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship. It was his third senior major title after victories in the Senior PGA Championship in 2006 and 2008.
Haas didn’t win in 2010, ending his streak of seasons with at least one victory at five. He did not have a top-three finish in any event for the first time on the Champions Tour.
When he drew a blank again in 2013, it appeared his window might be narrowing. But one month after his 60th birthday last December, Haas has rebounded nicely to put together a very nice start to the 2014 season.
He has six top-five finishes in seven tournaments and is third on the Charles Schwab Cup points list behind Bernhard Langer and Fred Couples. Haas is a two-time winner of the Charles Schwab Cup, in 2006 and 2008.
“I guess I'm a little surprised at how well I've played early on in the year,” Haas said at the Insperity Invitational. “I didn't really know what to expect. Last year was not terrific. I didn't feel like I played up to my potential.
“I've hit the ball well, I've driven the ball well, my irons are good, putting well, chipping well, doing what you have to do to finish up high. And I've done it on all different types of golf courses, too, which has been kind of nice.”
Haas has had to compensate for loss of distance, something that goes hand-in-hand with advancing years. But it hasn’t prevented him from competing because the rest of his game has been so impressive. He ranks in the top 8 on the Champions Tour in nine of 11 statistical categories. Even at TPC Sugarloaf, a long golf course, Haas gave himself an outside chance down the stretch. He finished third.
“Personally I didn't think it fit my game that well, but I managed to hang in there,” he said. “It's just been very much fun. I'm very confident in my game. Again, driving the ball well and giving myself opportunities.
“I'm adequate off the tee but not as long as say Freddie or Bernhard, Kenny Perry. Guys like that can pop it out there pretty good. I still get it around.”
The Champions Tour kicks off its major championship sequence this week with the Regions Tradition at Shoal Creek. It’s the first of five majors and the first of back-to-back majors, with the Senior PGA Championship up next week at Harbor Shores Golf Club in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Both Shoal Creek and Harbor Shores are Jack Nicklaus designs.
David Frost is the defending champion at Shoal Creek, where he was a stroke better than Couples.
Haas has three top-10 finishes in the Regions Tradition. His best was a T3 in 2008. In 2010, he tied for 10th and a year later he tied for fifth.
Langer, who has opened a 388-point lead in the Charles Schwab Cup race, will be the player everybody is chasing at Shoal Creek. Langer has finished first, second or third in six of his seven events. He’s coming off a victory at the Insperity Invitational, his second of the season.
Langer has finished top 10 in 17 consecutive events dating back to the Senior Open last July when he lost a playoff to Mark Wiebe.
“I've had a wonderful start, been in contention most weeks I've teed it up,” said Langer, 56. “It's fun, just playing good golf, very consistent, had lots of top 10s lately and it's always nice being amongst the last two or three groups on Sunday and playing for the title.
“I've been very blessed to be playing some really good golf the last few years. I'm planning on enjoying it while it lasts. I know the clock is ticking and it gets harder and harder once you get near that 60 and over-60 mark, but there's been some great players like Hale Irwin and Tom Watson and Gil Morgan, Larry Nelson, they hung in there for a long time so I'm hoping to do the same thing.”