In the final round of the 2013 AT&T National, Bill Haas shoots a final-round 66 to claim his fifth win on the PGA TOUR.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
BETHESDA, Md. -- You don’t often hear professional golfers use the word choke, or the expression “threw up on myself.” Not when confidence out here is as fragile as your grandmother’s china.
Bill Haas used them a handful of times on Sunday. But Haas also operates in reality, which can either be very good or very bad.
“I've always said if you make three birdies in a row, you're positive,” Haas said. “If you make three bogeys in a row, you're not positive. Which comes first?”
It was certainly the latter earlier this season in L.A. when he blew a three-stroke lead on the final day, shot 73 and finished third.
It wasn’t the case Sunday at a tough Congressional Country Club.
Haas shot a 5-under 66 to coast to a three-shot win at the AT&T National.
Roberto Castro finished second.
The fifth victory of Haas’ career, it moves him into the top 10 in the FedExCup standings and puts him in an exclusive club as one of only four players to win at least once on the PGA TOUR each of the last four years. The others? Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose and Dustin Johnson.
“I can't even tell you how good it feels,” Haas said. “I was trying to keep my emotions in check out there. It's so hard to do.
“As many times as I've choked and hit bad shots and I've been nervous and it hasn't worked out, I was feeling all those things today, and to hit good quality golf shots down the stretch is such a good feeling.”
He hasn't always felt that way about himself, though.
Beating himself up has been as much a part of Haas’ M.O. as his pre-shot routine and having his brother on the bag.
“He drives himself that way, but sometimes it turns into a negative,” said Haas’ dad Jay, who was on his way home from the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship. “But I think he knows that, and I think that's why he gets so frustrated. But he can't help himself sometimes.
“I stress to him it's OK to get mad, but being negative and beating himself up is not the answer.”
But at Congressional, Haas had all the answers.
He made six birdies and just one bogey Sunday, and he finished the week as the only player to break par in all four rounds on a golf course that didn’t play much different from when it hosted the U.S. Open two years ago.
The winning score that week was 16 under. Haas was four strokes higher this week.
“I'm most proud of how he went out and won it,” Jay Haas said. “He didn't back into it or come from way behind; he played one of his best rounds ever. That's what a winner does.”
Papa Haas should know.
He had nine wins on this TOUR and has another 16 on the Champions Tour. Few, however, have come on venues as storied as some of the ones his son has raised the trophy at.
Among the courses little Haas has victories at? East Lake, Riviera and now Congressional.
Even Tiger Woods, who was on hand to present the trophy after sitting out with a strained elbow, came away impressed.
“He handled his business through the tougher stretch of holes and pulled away,” Woods said.
That included the toughest hole on the course, the par-4 11th.
A day after making triple bogey there, Haas piped a drive down the fairway, hit 5-iron onto the green and made par. He also played his final 11 holes in 5 under.
“I know he's had some setbacks and he's had quite a few chances; that was probably weighing on him,” Jay Haas said. “He's obviously showing a lot of people he's a top player. He's won on some pretty damn good places.”
Haas has also benefitted in moments like this from being a father, saying it has changed him and that there are times on the golf course when the thought of going home to his young son William, born earlier this year, puts everything in perspective.
It hasn’t always been easy though, especially given the expectations that go with being the son of a nine-time PGA TOUR winner.
“A lot of kids that go into their father's business and don't succeed or don't get the deal done that their dad got done,” Haas said. “It's hard. At any moment it could go astray and go wrong, those thoughts creep into your mind. You've just got to somehow not think of that stuff, not think of how you screwed up before.”
This time it was different.
As many as six players had a share of the lead at some point Sunday until Haas broke from the pack with a birdie on the eighth hole before adding two more on Nos. 9 and 10.
Haas led by at least two shots the rest of the way and never looked back.
He’ll try to only move forward now.
Unlike Mickelson and Rose, Haas has never won a major. He hasn’t even contended in one like Johnson.
What will it take for him to take that next step?
“I would like to be a part of that, but honestly, I would just like to work hard, see the results, and if the next level comes, then I welcome it,” Haas said. “I'm 31 years old, still trying to grow up and still trying to work on that. That's what the best players have. They're mentally tough. They beat you with your mind just as much as their sticks.”
Sunday that’s what Haas did, too.