LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Bill Haas, author of perhaps the shot of the year on the PGA TOUR -- a shot that helped earn him the 2011 FedExCup title -- is the first headliner to commit to the 2012 Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.
"The commitment of Bill Haas is a major jump-start for the 2012 Humana Challenge," said Larry Thiel, tournament chairman. "We look forward with great anticipation to announcing other significant player and celebrity commitments in the weeks ahead."
Haas, who captured the 2010 Humana Challenge (formerly the Bob Hope Classic) for his first PGA TOUR victory, proved his stellar play was no fluke. This year, he fell just short of defending his crown, falling in a playoff with eventual winner Jhonattan Vegas and co-runner-up Gary Woodland. Illustrating the strength of the Humana Challenge field, all three playoff participants went on win 2011 titles on the PGA TOUR -- three of the 23 victories earned by alumni of the 2011 Humana Challenge.
Woodland's turn for victory came two months later at the Transitions Championship in Tampa. Haas' chance would come at the season-ending TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola, and in dramatic fashion. Holding the lead going into the final stretch, Haas bogeyed two of his last three holes on the demanding East Lake Golf Club to bring Hunter Mahan into a sudden-death, playoff, with the winner not only collecting the $1.44 million first prize, but the $10 million FedExCup bonus.
On the second playoff hole, Haas pushed his drive into a fairway bunker. His approach appeared near-miraculous but bounced over the green and rolled into the lake left of the green. Mahan, meanwhile, played connect-the-dots: fairway to green to 25 feet.
When he arrived at the water hazard, Haas discovered his ball was still playable but with a quarter of it under water. In the NBC announcer booth, commentator Johnny Miller gave Haas "about a 1 in 10 chance of getting this within 15 feet."
Instead, Haas saved the miraculous for his third shot. He opened up the face of his sand wedge and splashed the ball to 30 inches, pulling off what many observers called the shot of the year. He tapped in for par to halve the hole, and then sealed the victory with a par on the third extra hole to become the first player in his 20's to win the FedExCup.
"It was an all-or-nothing shot. If I don't pull it off, I'm shaking Hunter's hand," Haas said about a shot that effectively earned him $11.44 million -- or nearly as much as his father, Jay, earned in a PGA TOUR career that featured nine titles, including the 1988 Bob Hope Classic. Jay and Bill are the only father/son champions of the same event in PGA TOUR history.
The TOUR Championship victory, one Haas produced by becoming only the fifth player to shoot all four rounds in the 60's at East Lake, capped a year in which, on top of the FedExCup title, the younger Haas earned $4,088,637 (seventh on the money list) and had seven top-10 finishes -- including that victory and playoff defeats at the 2011 Bob Hope Classic and Greenbrier Classic. He defined those stats by finishing second in draining putts inside of 5 feet (making 97.93 percent of his putts inside that distance) and eighth in greens-in-regulation (69.44 percent).
Further defining Haas' marvelous season is a trip to Australia as a member of the United States Presidents Cup Team. A captain's selection by U.S. Captain Fred Couples (1998 Bob Hope Classic champion), Haas will make his first professional team appearance during the biannual competition Nov. 14-16 at Royal Melbourne Golf Club. Jay Haas is serving as the assistant captain.
"It is a very special thing. It's something that I've worked for, kind of set as a goal from the beginning of the year," Bill said. "And for it to happen like this is awesome."
Humana Challenge tickets, beginning as low as $20, volunteer information and registration, and an assortment of tournament information can now be obtained through the PGA TOUR golf event's brand-new website at www.HumanaChallenge.com.
The Humana Challenge features a field of 144 PGA TOUR professionals and 144 amateurs, including celebrities. The first three rounds of the four-day tournament will be played in a pro-am format, with the pro-am teams consisting of one professional and one amateur playing in groups of four. Round 4 will feature professionals only. Tournament week is designed to bring the idea of "participatory wellness" to life for people of all ages and will feature a first-ever national conference focused on health and well-being on Tuesday, Jan. 17, highlighted by a keynote address from President William J. Clinton. Additional pro-ams will be held Monday and Wednesday of tournament week. The tournament also will honor and celebrate the legacy of Bob Hope. The defending champion is Jhonattan Vegas. Live and replay tournament coverage will air on Golf Channel. For tickets and information, call 1-888-672-4673 or visit http://www.humanachallenge.com
During the past 52 years, Desert Classic Charities has distributed more than $50 million in donations to charities throughout the Coachella Valley, primarily the Eisenhower Media Center. The funds were raised from the annual Bob Hope Classic (now the Humana Challenge) PGA TOUR event.