BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- Jay Haas survived an extremely difficult Oak Hill CC setup to win the Senior PGA Championship May 25 and earn a spot at treacherous Oakland Hills CC for the PGA Championship.
Haas, 54, is the only player in the field this week to have played in the last three majors at the Michigan monster. Haas was T-7 at the 1979 PGA, T-15 in the 1985 U.S. Open and T-90 in the 1996 U.S. Open. Additionally, Haas went 1-2-1 for the United States in the 2004 Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills when he was 50.
After a bogey-bogey start Thursday, Haas said he was worried about "embarrassing the senior players," but he settled down and shot a three-over 73. But considering he missed five weeks this summer after injuring his right hamstring playing football with family members June 28 at his daughter Haley's wedding, it wasn't a bad performance.
"And I didn't even catch the pass," he said Thursday after his round, showing a cellphone photo of the badly bruised leg about a week after he pulled the muscle. "I just fell on my ass and rolled around in pain. It was pretty nasty."
Haas' son, Bill, came close to getting in the field (he was fourth alternate), and had he been first alternate, Jay said he would have pulled out to give Bill a berth. "I wish Bill had been the No. 1 alternate," Jay said. "I wouldn't have been playing." Haas added that Paul Azinger, with whom Haas was paired along with Michael Campbell, said he checked with officials Thursday morning to make sure Bill wasn't first in line. If he had been, Azinger told Haas he would have withdrawn so father and son could play together. (Jay and his younger brother, Jerry, played together at the 2006 PGA at Medinah.)
Haas' perspective on Oakland Hills from nearly 30 years ago and today was interesting. The course measured 7,014 yards in 1979; this week it is 7,395. The renovations haven't just kept up with equipment advances, in Haas' mind. "You're hitting more club, believe it or not," he said. "Even as far as the ball is going, they've moved the tees back so far."
The differences were clear on the par 3s. "I remember occasionally it being a wood on the ninth," he said. "It was a driver yesterday in the practice round. Today they had the tees up a little bit and it was a 5-wood. On No. 17, it has always been a 3- or 4-iron shot. It was a 4-wood or 5-wood today. No. 13 used to be a 7- or 8-iron, sometimes as little as a 9-iron. Today we hit 5-irons to the middle of the green. Certain holes definitely are playing longer than they did in 1979. And some of the longest holes seem to be some of the tightest holes."
*-- Bill Fields *