Final-hole birdie gives Haas lead in Principal Charity Classic

June 08, 2007
PGA TOUR staff

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- Everything seems to be breaking right for Jay Haas these days.

Haas got off to a good start in his bid for his third Champions Tour victory of the year, holing a 20-foot birdie putt on the final hole Friday to take a one-stroke lead in the Principal Charity Classic.

Category Total Rank
Eagles 0 N/A
Birdies 8 1
Pars 8 T66
Bogeys 2 T50
Double Bogeys 0 N/A
Other 0 N/A
Driving Accuracy 78.6% T12
Driving Distance 301.5 yds. T12
Putts per Round 27.0 T2
Putts per GIR 1.467 1
Greens in Regulation 83.3 T4
Sand Saves 0.0 T22

Haas, who leads the money list and has eight top-10 finishes this year, shot a 6-under 65 in his first tournament round on the Glen Oaks Country Club course.

"I really played well," Haas said. "I drove the ball well, hit a lot of fairways, hit a lot of greens and I hit a lot of quality iron shots."

Dave Eichelberger, the 1999 U.S. Senior Open winner at Des Moines Country Club, opened with a 66, and 2001 Glen Oaks winner Jim Thorpe was two strokes back along with 2002 champion Bob Gilder, Mark James and David Edwards.

Haas was 5 under through 11 holes, sticking three approach shots within 5 feet for easy birdies. His early luck ran out on No. 12 when he hooked his drive into the rough and bogeyed the hole. He fell into a tie with Eichelberger with another bogey on the 467-yard, par-4 17th, which is considered one of the toughest on the Champions Tour, before pulling ahead with the long birdie putt on 18.

Haas hit a 7-iron on 18 that went behind the hole and landed on an upward slope. He struck his putt harder than he would have liked, but -- after breaking 5 feet -- it found the cup and capped a stellar day on the greens. He putted just 27 times.

"It was nice to come back from that after giving one away at 17," Haas said. "Certainly 65 is a nice way to start."

Eichelberger fell behind with a double bogey on the fourth hole, then played bogey-free the rest of the way. He eagled the par-5 ninth hole, chipped in from 40 feet on 17 and finished with a birdie.

Eichelberger hasn't had much success in Iowa since winning the U.S. Senior Open eight years ago. His best finish in this tournament was a tie for 19th in 2006, and only twice in six tries has he broken par for the tournament.

But Friday's low score was yet another indication that Eichelberger's game is coming around. Eichelberger, 52nd on the money list, shot below par for the fourth consecutive round and finished at 5 under for the first time since 2005.

"I've had those good thoughts every year since 1999," Eichelberger said. "But I haven't had anything spectacular since '99. It's the first time I've had a really low round."

James was 1 over through eight holes before four straight birdies put him in contention. He bogeyed 16, but capped his round with birdies on his final two holes.

Tom Purtzer, Tom Wargo, Tim Simpson and Keith Fergus shot 68s, and Tom Kite and Denis Watson, the Senior PGA Championship winner two weeks ago at Kiawah Island, S.C., topped a group at 69. Kite hit 16 greens in regulation, but bogeyed four holes.

Defending champion Gil Morgan shot a 72, while Hale Irwin opened with a 73.

The wind, which many worried would keep scores high, died down after reaching 21 mph early in the day. Still, only 23 of the 76 players broke par, and nobody played bogey-free.

Even Haas had a pair of bogeys, but he made up for them with a round-high eight birdies. Perhaps his best one came on the 195-yard, par-3 fifth, when he stuck his tee shot within 5 feet of the cup.

Haas was one of only three players to birdie the hole.

"I paid for my bad shots today, and was rewarded for some good ones," Haas said. "I gave myself a good many opportunities to go low and I did."

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