PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- Bill Haas' lead is now just two after he made his first bogey in 42 holes at the second hole on Sunday.
Haas drove into the tree-lined right rough and then put his his second shot into the right greenside bunker. He blasted out to 8 feet but missed the putt for par to drop back to 12 under, which is where he started the day.
Haas, who had two-putted from 37 feet for birdie at No. 1, bounced back quickly, though, when he drained a 30-footer at the third hole. His playing partner, Webb Simpson, answered with a 5-footer for his second birdie of the day to move to 11 under.
The other member of the final group, Charl Schwartzel, missed an 11-foot birdie putt at the first hole, which is playing the easiest on the course, and then lipped out a 7-footer for par at the second to fall back to 8 under.
Fredrik Jacobson is the only other player in double figures at 10 under after making birdie on two of his first three holes.
Bill Haas has a three-shot lead going into the final round at Riviera. (How/Getty Images)
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
Bill Haas will have a familiar face alongside him in the final group: fellow Wake Forest alum Webb Simpson, who arrived on the Winston Salem, N.C., campus the year after Haas graduated.
But part of the reason Haas is playing in the final group goes back to some work he did on his swing with coach Billy Harmon and dad and Champions Tour player Jay Haas after the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.
"My swing looked lazy and I was getting ahead of it," Haas told Golf Channel Sunday morning. "I'm basically trying to hit it really high and a little harder. It's helped me stay behind it. Having a little more speed is key for me."
A third-round 64 certainly helped.
As for playing with Simpson, whom he leads by three? "It'll be an easy walk," Haas said. "I have to beat the golf course. We'll be grinding out there."
Haas and Simpson will tee off, along with Charl Schwartzel (also three back), at 1:30 p.m. ET.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- A year ago, Bill Haas faced a two-stroke deficit in the final round of the Northern Trust Open.
On Sunday, though, he'll be the hunted instead of the hunter as Haas takes a three-shot advantage into the final round of his title defense at venerable Riviera Country Club. The third-round 64 he shot tied for the low of the week and was three strokes better than anyone else in the field.
Haas knows Sunday won't be easy, though. He closed with a 67 a year ago and ended up beating Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley, the overnight leaders, on the second hole of sudden death.
""(It's) very difficult in this game to just pull away from the rest of the field," he said. "You've only seen a few guys ever really do that. And those are guys like Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson.
"So I think I've just got to try to stay in the moment, don't let my emotions get the best of me. ... The guys behind me are going to make birdies and it will certainly get closer at the top. So I've just got to try to hang in there and give myself a chance on the back nine."
Haas has completed 54 holes in 12 under which is three strokes ahead of another former Wake Forest All-American in Webb Simpson, who is the reigning U.S. Open champion; as well as the 2011 Masters champ, Charl Schwartzel, and former UCLA standout John Merrick.
Simpson and Schwartzel both shot 68s on Saturday while Merrick, who is from Long Beach, bogeyed the last hole for a 70.
"Bill shooting 7 under is incredible out there," Simpson said. "I mean, it was very tough. I felt like my 3 under was pretty good."
World No. 3 Luke Donald and overnight co-leader Fredrik Jacobson are tied for fifth at 8 under. Donald, who is playing in his first tournament of 2013, shot 70 on Saturday while Jacobson had a 72.
Haas will be seeking to join Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Paul Harney, Mike Weir, Corey Pavin and Phil Mickelson in winning back-to-back at Riviera. The 30-year-old, who won the 2011 FedExCup, is looking to win for the fifth time in his career -- as well as for the fourth straight season.
Haas, who tied for ninth and fifth in his last two starts, hasn't made a bogey since his 14th hole on Thursday. He has played his last 40 holes in 11 under, making nine birdies and an eagle Saturday at the driveable par-4 10th.
"I made some great up-and-downs to keep things going and the chip-in at 10 was a nice bonus," Haas said.
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- The 10th hole at Riviera Country Club has been pretty good to Bill Haas.
He just chipped in from 57 feet for eagle at the driveable par 4 to open a two-stroke lead midway during the third round of the Northern Trust Open. A year ago Haas drained a 40-footer for birdie there to beat Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley on the second hole of sudden death.
Haas' eagle was the third of the day at No. 10, which is playing to 286 yards today, and the fourth of the tournament. He's now 10 under and two strokes ahead of Charl Schwartzel.
Josh Teater, Webb Simpson, Sang-moon Bae, Fredrik Jacobson and John Merrick are tied for third at 7 under while Sergio Garcia is alone at 7 under.
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- Webb Simpson and Charl Schwartzel are applying pressure on Saturday during the third round of the Northern Trust Open.
Playing in successive groups, the reigning U.S. Open champion and the 2011 Masters winner have made two birdies in their first six holes to get to 8 under and pull within a stroke of Sang-moon Bae.
Fredrik Jacobson, who was tied with Bae, had his problems on the fifth hole when his drive landed on the side of a hill in deep rough. He took one swipe at the ball and didn't advance it, eventually reaching the green in four and lipping out a 34-footer for bogey.
Defending champion Bill Haas is on the move, as well. He's made two birdies in his first eight holes and is tied at 7 under.
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- The first 10 holes of Bill Haas' title defense at the Northern Trust Open have landed him in a tie for the lead with Matt Kuchar.
The two started on opposite nines within 11 minutes of each other. Kuchar birdied his first three holes and ended up making the turn in 4 under. Haas, who started on the back nine, shot 33 and then made a 15-footer to tie Kuchar.
The ageless Fred Couples is tied with Brandt Jobe. Pat Perez, Jimmy Walker, Josh Teater and rookie James Hahn for third at 2 under. The 53-year-old Couples, who is playing in his 31st Northern Trust Open, has just made the turn.
Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley, the two men Haas beat in that playoff last year, aren't faring as well. They are playing with Haas in one of the day's featured groups -- Mickelson is even par while Bradley is 1 over.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- Bill Haas isn't one to live in the past.
Of course, he'll always remember seeing the 45-foot birdie putt that he was just trying to get close drop decisively into the cup. When Phil Mickelson couldn't hole his bunker shot and Keegan Bradley missed a 15-footer to tie, Haas had earned the fourth title of his career in a playoff at the Northern Trust Open.
"I mean, how many times have I three-putted from 40 feet? Plenty of times," Haas said on Wednesday as he marveled at the memory. "... For it to go in, something I'll never forget, and playing that hole, certainly it's a good feeling."
As luck would have it, Haas tees off on that same 10th hole at 10:11 a.m. ET in the first round of his title defense -- playing with Mickelson and Bradley, no less. And if he should bogey? Well, let's just say he won't be dwelling on the past anymore.
"It's what have you done for me lately in this game," Haas said with a smile.
And lately, Haas has been playing quite well. He returns to Riviera on the heels of top-10 finishes at the Farmers Insurance Open and Waste Management Phoenix Open. The 30-year-old has got some momentum, and he'd like nothing better than to carry it through the year, as well as this week.
That's something Haas learned he needs to do better after last year's playoff win at Riviera.
In his next 15 starts, the former Wake Forest All-American only had one more top-10 finish, a tie for seventh at the Wyndham Championship. He went into the BMW Championship, the penultimate event in the FedExCup Playoffs, ranked No. 28 and when he closed with a 78 there the reigning FedExCup champ was eliminated from the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola.
To say Haas was extremely disappointed not to get the chance to defend his title probably would have been an understatement. At the same time, though, it was a motivating factor for 2013.
"Obviously my goal last year was to make it back to THE TOUR Championship, and had such a nice start here on the West Coast," Haas said. "To basically fail at that in the Playoffs; I got a way from the game a little bit, took a break. And I went and played overseas a couple of events and felt like I was, okay, you can still play this game, you're not terrible and all the things that I was telling myself.
"Just had some motivation from those events overseas and really just wanted to start the year off nice. ... This is a great week to hopefully have everything start clicking."
Some players might have headed to the nearest sports psychologist for an attitude adjustment after the disappointing finish at Crooked Stick. But Haas sought the counsel of his father, Jay, who won nine times on the PGA TOUR and has another 16 titles on the Champions Tour, and instructor Billy Harmon, a long-time family friend.
"(My dad) always tells me what you're feeling now I've felt 10 times that and you're going to feel it again in the future," Haas said. "If it's a sports psychologist telling me that I'm like, well, how do you know?
"... There's other guys they can tell me what they think but they don't care. And my dad I know loves me and cares about me and knows how I'm feeling."
Haas said his father's advice wasn't technical -- after all, the son has proven he can play with the best. But patience and maintaining a positive outlook is key to shaking off the occasional bogey and moving forward in the game.
"I think more than anything he wants me to conduct myself better at certain times -- body language, emotions, just control them better," Haas said. "... It's something I'm working on/just doing it."
And focused on getting better every week.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Bill Haas and Phil Mickelson teed off within nine minutes of each other on opposite nines at TPC Scottsdale on Friday.
They'll be seeing a lot of each other on Saturday, though, after Haas played his way in the final group with a bogey-free 64 that left him 13 under and four strokes behind Mickelson. Keegan Bradley, who is tied with Brandt Snedeker at 12 under, joins the two on the first tee at 12:50 p.m. ET.
"They're good guys and very good players, so it's always fun to be up there near the top," said Haas, who happened to beat the two in a playoff at the Northern Trust Open last year.
Mickelson appeared to be pulling away, though, when he got to 19 under after he drove the 17th green and two-putted for birdie. A water-logged double bogey at the 18th hole, though, made the gap much more manageable.
"Obviously Phil is playing very well," Haas said. "Obviously we would need him to do that on 18, and we need him to do more stuff like that for us to catch him. I don't think it's that big of a speed bump for him. He'll make a lot of birdies.
"But we all know the way the course is playing, if there's no wind on the weekend, you've just got to keep making birdies."
Haas has made his share, too. He started on the back nine Friday, birdied the first two holes and went on to make the turn in 30. The front nine wasn't as generous but a 14-footer at the seventh hole propeled Haas into sole possession of second.
"I'm very pleased with my two days," Haas said. "... (The highlight was) just getting off to a nice start, birdied 10 and 11 right out of the gate, so that kind of frees you up a little bit."
Haas said he became aware of Mickelson's surge when he saw the scoreboard by the sixth green after he putted out for par. Mickelson had just stiffed an 8-iron to 4 feet for an eagle at No. 17 to get to 17 under and Haas trailed by five again.
In a wierd way, the knowledge was a good thing for Haas.
"I just remember thinking that maybe he wasn't going as low today, and then I looked up and saw that he was 6 under for the day," Haas said. "Just made me basically focus on me actually more than anything and just say, well, you can't do anything about him. That's how you have to do it. One shot at a time, I guess."
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Phil Mickelson flirted with the PGA TOUR's 36-hole scoring record on Friday before making a water-logged double bogey on the 18th hole at TPC Scottsdale.
The two-time Waste Management Phoenix Open champion is right where he wants to be, though --- alone at 17 under after Friday's 65, four strokes ahead of his nearest competitor, Bill Haas. Mickelson has a two-day total of 125, which ties the midway mark at TPC Scottsdale set by Mark Calcavecchia in his 2001 victory.
Haas made up ground with a 64 in the second round while Keegan Bradley and Brandt Snedeker are tied at 12 under, another stroke off the pace. Bradley shot a 63 while the reigning FedExCup champion shot 66.
Snedeker and Haas came to Phoenix with momentum, too, after tying for second and ninth at last week's Farmers Insurance Open. Mickelson, on the other hand, was searching for form after finishing T37 and T51 in his first two starts.
After rounds of 60 and 65 before an adoring crowd, Arizona State's favorite son certainly appears to have found it.
That said, Mickelson was obviously disappointed with his finish on Friday. But at the same time, he could see an upside as he contemplated a weekend of competition he said would be a "shootout."
"I think it's very possible that's going to help me because it's got me refocused, that I cannot ease up on a single shot," Mickelson said. "... These guys are going to make a lot of birdies and I've got to get after it and cannot make those kinds of mistakes.
"Hopefully it'll help me refocus for tomorrow's round and come out and shoot something low."
Mickelson, Haas and Bradley will play together in the final group on Saturday. The three have history together -- Haas beat the other two in a playoff at the Northern Trust Open 50 weeks ago after Bradley and Mickelson both birdied the 72nd hole to force sudden death.
Not to mention, MickMickelson and Bradley teamed for three emotionally-charged wins at the most recent Ryder Cup. Mickelson played with Haas on the last Presidents Cup in Australia, too.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- There's a been-there, done-that feel to the top of the leaderboard at the Waste Management Phoenix Open right now.
Phil Mickelson has opened a three-stroke advantage at 15 under after making four birdies in his last six holes. Keegan Bradley has already posted 12 under after shooting 63 on Friday but Bill Haas has gotten to that number, as well, and he has seven holes to go.
The same three players figured prominently into the outcome at the Northern Trust Open 52 weeks ago. Haas closed with a 69 at Riviera and ended up beating Mickelson and Bradley, who played in the day's final group, in a playoff that both birdied the 72nd hole to make.
A final pairing featuring the three would be interesting. But a decision on whether the third round will be contested in threesomes or twosomes won't be made until tournament officials see how many players survive the cut. There are currently 74 players are 4 under or better.
Brandt Snedeker, who is playing the opposite nine, was also tied with Haas and Bradley until he made double bogey at the par-3 12th hole. Snedeker, who tied for second last week and shared third at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, put his tee shot in the back greenside bunker and left his second one there as well, then proceeded to miss a 6-footer for bogey.