By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- There’s a new member in the 60 club on the Champions Tour.
No one has shot the magic 59 on the 50-and-over circuit (yet), but now there are eight 60s after Jay Haas fired a 10-under round on Friday at the par 70 Desert Mountain Cochise Course in the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.
Haas shot 28 on the back nine, birdieing seven of nine holes. On the par-5 18th he needed eagle for 59 and was in the greenside bunker in two shots, but came up short with the bunker shot. He made the ensuing 6-footer for the 60. It’s his lowest round on the Champions Tour and the course record at Desert Mountain.
“I tried to stay aggressive, and I did all day,” said Haas, who knew exactly where he stood on 18.
Haas is 58 years old and has won two Schwab Cups, but has never won the season finale. He’s at 14 under and has a five-shot lead over Tom Lehman, who is chasing the Schwab Cup himself. He projects to overtake Bernhard Langer at the moment, as Langer is tied for fifth at 6 under.
The last 60 on the Champions Tour was last year, by Nick Price at the Toshiba Classic. Haas isn’t the oldest player to shoot the number; Walter Morgan did it at age 61 in 2002 at the AT&T Canada Senior Open Championship. The other five to do it: Isao Aoki, Bruce Fleisher, Jim Thorpe, Tom Purtzer and Craig Stadler.
”Obviously with the dynamics of our team, I felt it really important to have someone from Asia involved in it,” Price said during a news conference in Dublin, Ohio, site of next year’s Presidents Cup.
Maruyama was a member of the International Presidents Cup Team in 1998 and 2000. He posted a 5-0-0 record in the 1998 matches, helping lead the International Team to its lone outright victory in The Presidents Cup.
Maruyama is one of four players in event history to go 5-0 (Mark O'Meara, 1996; Tiger Woods, 2009; Jim Furyk, 2011). His overall record in two appearances is 6-2-0. Maruyama has won three events on the PGA TOUR and 10 on the Japan Golf Tour, most recently the 2009 Golf Nippon Series JT Cup.
In the 2011 Presidents Cup in Melbourne, Australia, four of the 12 members of the International team were from Asia – Koreans K.J. Choi, K.T. Kim and Y.E. Yang, and Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa. Every International team except the 2005 squad has had at least one player from Asia.
Price said he intends to lean on Maruyama for advice with the pairings.
“He'll help me, I know, with some of the decision making,” Price said. “There could be two Koreans, two Japanese -- there could be four Asians on the team. I really felt he would have a better understanding of how to pair the guys.”
Plus, added Price, Maruyama will be an asset in the team room.
“He has a smile and a demeanor about him that is just second to none,” Price said. “He loves to joke. He loves to tell stories. He loves -- he's just got a passion for life.”
Price’s other two Captain’s assistants are from his native Zimbabwe – Mark McNulty and Tony Johnstone.
U.S. Captain Fred Couples tabbed Jay Haas as one of his assistants, and will announce the other two at a later date.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
MELBOURNE, Australia -- Jay Haas knows his son Bill will be nervous when he steps to the No. 1 tee at Royal Melbourne on Thursday.
But the U.S. assistant captain wants the reigning FedExCup champion -- and the two other Americans who are making their international team debuts -- to embrace the experience. And most of all, enjoy it.
"He said he's nervous and he's excited, all this stuff. I said, 'You should be,'" the elder Haas explained. "This is about as big a stage as it gets, and try to relish that role. He and all of the other guys, they all know how to play golf. I can't really tell him anything other than to enjoy it and just to look around and look at these 11 other guys that you're in the room with. That's about as good as it gets out here."
Bill Haas became one of Fred Couples' two Captain's Picks the day after he won the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola -- and the $10 million FedExCup bonus, in the process. Jay Haas is making his second appearance as an assistant captain after competing in two Presidents Cups and three Ryder Cups during his prime.
The last time the Presidents Cup was played in Australia there was another father-son duo on the U.S. Team as Jack Nicklaus had his son Jack II as his assistant. But this week marks the first time one is competing, and Haas isn’t sure there’s a way to prepare his son -- or Nick Watney or Webb Simpson -- for the first-tee jitters.
"It's just different,” Jay said. “ ... So to me, when you're in that situation, you should be nervous, because you care. If you didn't care, you're on your way through and you get your butt handed to you probably.
"So you know, about all I can tell him is to embrace this situation. You've got to love it. You've got to love not being able to spit and not being able to think and walk and talk; it's the best. To be that uncomfortable, there's no other feeling like it. You've got to love that feeling, and talk yourself into it I think, more than anything."
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
SAN FRANCISCO – A little more than two months ago, Jay Don Blake was a Champions Tour journeyman.
Now he’s a multiple-event winner.
Blake won the Charles Schwab Cup Championship Sunday, the first to win the Tour’s season finale in his first appearance since Mark McNulty in 2004. He took a two-shot lead into the final round and never relinquished it, winning by two over Michael Allen, Mark Calcavecchia, Jay Haas and Loren Roberts.
Add that to his win five starts ago at the Songdo IBD Championship in Korea, where he won a four-man playoff, and Blake ends 2011 as one of four multiple winners on Tour, joining Schwab Cup winner Tom Lehman, John Cook and Fred Couples.
“How can you pass up having a chance to play on the Champions Tour?” said Blake, who rose to fourth in Schwab Cup points and will take $200,000 from that prize pool in addition to his $440,000 share of the winner’s purse from TPC Harding Park. “I wanted to be healthy and ready if I could play out here and perform like I was able to play.”
Blake, 53, won once on the PGA TOUR, in 1991 at Torrey Pines. He cut his PGA TOUR career short of age 50 due to back pain, and for three years worked on stretching and tweaking enough to give the Champions Tour a shot.
He pieced together schedules with his partial status, qualifying for some events and relying on sponsor’s exemptions at times. What he never lost was his drive and, just as importantly, a silky putting stroke.
“He’s always been a great putter his whole life,” Allen said. “When we played in college, he was a great putter, and that’s been his game.
“You go out to dinner with someone, you want to go out to dinner with a good putter, because they’re always happy.”
Blake isn’t the type for overt displays of emotion, happy or not, but the satisfaction was clear on his face late Sunday afternoon, especially with some 20 family members and friends around to share in his win. The next stop will be the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai, a winners-only event.
An event for Jay Don Blake.
“I just kept knocking at the door and I felt like sometime down the road it was going to happen,” he said.
It’s now wide open.
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
SAN FRANCISCO – Mark Calcavecchia turned the Schwab Cup race into an exciting battle Sunday afternoon, one that required watching several players other than him.
But in the end it was a result he’s all too familiar with – second.
At the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, Calcavecchia needed to win or finish no worse than two-way tie for second to steal the Cup from Tom Lehman, the points leader since the second tournament of the season.
He started the final round in a tie for sixth, but on a windy day at TPC Harding Park he made a late run with a 2-under 69.
When Calcavecchia birdied the 15th hole and Jay Haas bogeyed the 13th, there was a three-way tie for second. Minutes later, Loren Roberts made it a four-way tie at 6 under with a birdie at 15. (Jay Don Blake was well in front, so winning the event wasn’t a possibility.)
Haas and Roberts continued to pour in pars, Haas making a solid save off a bad drive at 15, Roberts saving par on the par-3 17th after missing the green.
Calcavecchia’s key moment was on 18, when he hit a great drive and only had 134 yards left to the par-4. He was in between a wedge and 9-iron in switching winds, and his 9-iron ended up pin high but well right of the hole.
“I had the right distance but I never swung at it. Wind just got it,” Calcavecchia said. “If I had to do it again I’d hit a hard wedge and take my chances. I would have hit a better shot, put it that way.”
He two-putted to post 6 under, and Roberts did the same from the next group. Calcavecchia couldn’t afford another finisher at that number, but local favorite Michael Allen hit a chip close at 18 that nearly went in for birdie. In or out, Calcavecchia’s fate was sealed.
He finished second in points, 74 behind Lehman.
“It’s kind of the story of my whole career, I’ve had a lot of seconds in my day and a lot of close calls,” said Calcavecchia, who had 13 wins on the PGA TOUR and 27 seconds. On the Champions Tour, he has one win and four seconds.
“It could have been a lot better but on the other hand I had a great year. Just rattled off more top-10s than anybody.”
True – Calcavecchia had 15 top-10s to Lehman’s 12, in one more tournament. But second place Sunday was just too crowded of a place for his Schwab Cup hopes.
SAN FRANCISCO – Tom Lehman survived a game effort from Mark Calcavecchia to win the Schwab Cup while Jay Don Blake won the Charles Schwab Cup Championship Sunday.
Blake won for the second time in two months on the Champions Tour, shooting a final-round 71 at TPC Harding Park to win by two shots.
In the season-long points race, Lehman finished T18 in the finale to open the door for Calcavecchia. But Calc needed a win or a two-way tie for second, and there turned out to be a four-way tie for second with Calc, Loren Roberts, Michael Allen and Jay Haas.
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
SAN FRANCISCO – Michael Allen has a chance to exorcise a pair of demons Sunday at a course that’s familiar and friendly to him.
Allen, a native of nearby San Mateo whose history at TPC Harding Park dates to his junior golf days, sits two shots back of leader Jay Don Blake at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship. He’s 6 under par after a third consecutive 69 and is tied with Jay Haas and David Frost.
A year ago at the Champions Tour season finale he led going into Sunday after a third-round course-record 61, but John Cook shot 67 in the final round to Allen’s 70.
That was Allen’s last runner-up finish on Tour. This year his best effort has been a pair of T3s, extending a winless drought that stretches to 2009.
Allen won his very first Tour start that year, at the Senior PGA Championship, but the second win has proved elusive.
“Getting a win is kind of big in that we all come out here to play to win. In the end, that’s why we’re here,” Allen said. “When you finally win, you kind of remember that you know how to do it.”
Allen never won in 366 PGA TOUR starts, and he’s chasing Blake, who won once in 497 TOUR starts. Blake’s win came in 1991 and he went 20 years before winning again, in September at the Songdo IBD Championship.
“Jay Don, like I have been doing, he’s been a journeyman out here playing for a long time,” Allen said. “To me, when I go out now, I have fun with it. (Sunday’s) going to be a fun day no matter what.”
The fun will be enhanced by a vocal gallery that has followed him all week, family and friends from the area and from Arizona, where he now lives.
“I feel like I’m very comfortable in this area, hopefully that vibe will carry through and I can get some good mojo out there tomorrow,” Allen said.
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
SAN FRANCISCO – A year ago, Jay Don Blake was watching the Charles Schwab Cup Championship from his couch with a Diet Coke and a doughnut. He wasn’t eligible to compete.
This year, he’s not only eligible, he’s in the driver’s seat to possibly win.
Blake shot a 5-under 66 at TPC Harding Park Saturday in Round 3 to take over the top spot on the leaderboard, two shots clear of local favorite Michael Allen, David Frost and Jay Haas.
His round included five birdies and no bogeys.
“Just kind of what you want to do around here is try to eliminate the big mistakes. I did that pretty well,” Blake said.
A win Sunday would be the biggest of Blake’s career, and on the Champions Tour would lift him into another stratosphere of players – multiple-event winners. Not bad for a player who two months ago wasn’t even fully exempt on Tour.
Blake has held the journeyman’s label his entire career, winning just once on the PGA TOUR, at the 1991 Shearson Lehman Brothers Open at Torrey Pines. He was a regular on Tour from 1987 to 2004, then walked away well before age 50 due to persistent back pain.
“I couldn’t practice like I wanted to or perform like I felt like I should be able to,” said Blake, a Utah native. “I thought, I’ve got to back away, try to analyze my life, see what I’ve got going on. I finally decided to just get some help and get it taken care of.”
Blake never had back surgery, but spent three years stretching and manipulating his back and pelvic area into shape. He then gave it a go on the 50-and-over circuit, and had to fight and scratch for his place on Tour.
He finished eighth at the 2008 q-school, which made him conditionally exempt. He played 12 events in 2009 including three off open qualifiers, with a best finish of T4 at the Regions Charity Classic, at which he had a sponsor’s exemption.
In 2010 he played 15 events, four off qualifiers, and earned temporary exempt status from the reshuffle along the way. He had a third-place finish at the Senior Open Championship and finished 34th on the money list.
That still didn’t earn him a fully exempt spot on Tour. He sat in a golf cart on the first tee at the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf as a first alternate, and also missed the Toshiba Classic and U.S. Senior Open. All the while though he was playing well, losing in a playoff to John Cook at the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am and piling up top-10s.
Finally, at the Songdo IBD Championship in mid-September, he won.
“It’s given me quite a bit of confidence, knowing that I feel like I belong and I can win out here,” Blake said. “I feel like I got to work hard to do that. It’s nice to have that win and then see if you can add to that.”
He’ll see on Sunday, playing in the final group with Jay Haas.
SAN FRANCISCO – Jay Don Blake, winless on the Champions Tour coming into this season, now has a chance for a second win in less than two months at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.
Blake, who won in a playoff at the Songdo IBD Championship, leads by two shots (8 under) at TPC Harding Park after a 5-under 66 in the third round. Michael Allen, David Frost and Jay Haas are two shots back at 6 under, and Loren Roberts is 5 under after the week’s low round (65).
Fred Couples, who co-led with Allen and Frost after two rounds, had two double bogeys on the back nine and shot 74, falling into a tie for 12th at 1 under. Playing partner Mark Calcavecchia shot 70 and is 4 under, needing to finish first or second to have a shot at the Schwab Cup.
Tom Lehman, the Schwab Cup points leader, shot 72 and is tied for 16th. He still projects to win the Cup based on the leaderboard through three rounds.