New father Haas finding new levels of success at Muirfield Village

Interview: Bill Haas

Following a second-round 67, Bill Haas reflects on his play in the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance.

DUBLIN, Ohio -- Don't tell his wife Julie, who is at home with their newborn son, but Bill Haas has had a couple of "great" nights of sleep this week.

Granted, he may not be changing diapers or dragging himself out of bed for those late night feedings, but Haas has a cell phone full of photos and videos of little William Harlan Haas Jr, born 17 days ago, and a ton of appreciation for his bride.

"She certainly is toughing it out through the nights by herself," Haas said. "If anything else, it makes me that much more excited to get home."

First, though, Haas has work to do. And if he continues playing like he has in the first two rounds of the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance, Haas just might be bringing a trophy back to Greenville, S.C., along with that suitcase full of laundry.

Haas, who won the 2011 FedExCup, fired the day's low round of 67 that included a birdie-eagle-birdie spurt to move to 9 under for the tournament. He leads Matt Kuchar, who shot 70 in the second round; Charl Schwartzel, Bubba Watson and Kyle Stanley by three strokes as the former Wake Forest All-American seeks the fifth win of his PGA TOUR career.

Of course, Haas gets to sleep in while the latter three return to finish their second rounds early Saturday morning after play was suspended for the third and last time due to dangerous weather conditions on Friday evening at 7:07 p.m. ET. Schwartzel was playing No. 16 while Watson was on the 15th and Stanley another hole behind.

Haas has appeared a lot more relaxed this week than the man who played his last two tournaments on high alert, wondering whether Julie would go into labor while he was inside the ropes at the Wells Fargo Championship or THE PLAYERS Championship. He missed the cut in each, became a father on May 13 and the 31-year-old returned to action this week with no expectations to bear.

"I had a great two weeks off, I had a son," Haas said with a big smile on his tanned face. "I've been having great fun with that at home with my wife. And I think I'm just in a better frame of mind than I was three weeks ago after missing my second cut in a row. I don't know if I give that credit or just the break was nice. ...

"And I love being under the radar, that's fine with me. Let your clubs do the talking and hopefully at the end of the week I'm happy to surprise anyone."

Truth be told, had this week's event been any other than the Memorial Tournament, Haas might had opted for another week at home. But the host, Jack Nicklaus, was kind enough to give Haas an exemption when he first turned pro -- "It's something I'll never forget," he said -- and the tournament is steeped in Haas family lore.

Haas' father Jay played in 29 Memorial Tournaments, second only to Nicklaus, and his nine top-10s are the most in tournament history. Jay played 110 rounds at Muirfield Village and broke par in 68 of them -- which is another event record.

As Bob Baptist, a long-time Columbus Dispatch reporter, suggested to Haas "if there was a category for best player in the Memorial, it might be your dad."

The younger Haas, though, admits he's often left Muirfield Village scratching his head.

With this week's two sub-par rounds, just his third and fourth in the 60s here, Bill now has nine in 26 trips around Jack Nicklaus' signature creation. His best finish, though, is a tie for 30th in 2008 -- and the two years father and son were both in the field Jay -- who was in his 50s at the time -- tied for 21st and 29th to his son's share of 67th and missed cut, respectively.

But the closest Jay came to winning was in 1993 when he tied for fourth, three strokes behing Paul Azinger. So his son could shore up a hole in the Haas family resume this week at Muirfield Village.

"Even though I've never really had great success here personally, I love coming back, look forward to it every year," Haas said. "And part of it might be I've always known how much my dad liked it and how well he did here.

"Hopefully I can continue on the weekend and get a better taste in my mouth on how to play it as opposed to just liking it."

Among the many memories is the year Bill caddied for Jay at the Memorial. He was in college at the time, and he doesn't remember where his dad finished other than that Jay had a "nice week." So did the younger Haas, who earned some extra spending money by wearing a Memorial cap with his caddy bib.

"I really wasn't a hat wearer," he recalled, grinning. "And they said, we'll give you 50 bucks a day, do you want a hat or visor?  I said I'll take both."

Haas stands to make a lot more money this week, of course. But only time will tell whether William follows in the family footsteps and slings his dad's bag across his shoulder one day. 

"It's hard to imagine," said Haas, who appreciates his father's longevity in the game they love so much. "Golf obviously runs in our family and he'll definitely be around it, no matter what ... but (I) certainly won't push him into it. I hope I'm playing long enough that he can caddy for me."

First, though, Haas would like to bring home a trophy for William to hold.