Ten years after 1st DBC, Haas in contention

Bill Haas is in contention at 6 under halfway through the Deutsche Bank Championship, 10 years after he tied for ninth as a Monday qualifier.

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NORTON, Mass. –– In another time – say, 10 years ago – Bill Haas might have followed Saturday’s second-round 69 at TPC Boston with a phone call to his father. But it’s because of conversations like the one he had with Jay Haas on this weekend in 2004 that Bill Haas could walk from Saturday's work at the Deutsche Bank Championship with a sense of fulfillment, not the urgency to reach out for advice.

His 2-under-69 effort to get halfway home on 6-under 136 puts Haas in the thick of things. That he’s breathing easy and maintaining perspective is a tribute to the nine years and hundreds of tournaments that define Haas’ PGA Tour career. A far cry from Labor Day weekend of 2004, for sure.

On Saturday of the 2004 DBC, Haas fired a 7-under 64 to get in at 133, two behind the leader, Vijay Singh. More memorably, Haas was tied with Tiger Woods, which earned him the right to be paired in Round 3 with the game’s most prolific winner. “I remember being very nervous,” Haas said. But oh, how a phone call back home settled the emotions.

Jay Haas famously told his son that night, “he’s the man, but you’re the man, too.” The memory to this day makes Bill Haas smile. His dad was telling his son, “the fact that you’re playing with him means you’re doing pretty well yourself” and it sunk in.

“It was good advice. It somewhat calmed me down,” Bill Haas said.

Though the behemoths – Woods and Singh – earned the final pairing for Monday’s fourth round in 2004 and that Singh won to knock Woods from the top spot in the world rankings, Haas came away a big winner that weekend, too. He held his own with 71-73 finish, earned a share of ninth, and rallied around the positives.

“It was a confidence-builder and helped me realize that I can play out here.”

Fast-forward to 2014 and Haas has proven that many times over. Now in his ninth year, he has five PGA Tour wins, including the 2011 Tour Championship that earned him the overall FedEx Cup title.

He entered the finale that year 15th in the FedEx Cup standings and guess what? Haas is presently sitting in 21st place so if you’re feeling a sense of deja vu, well, who knows? Haas is in position to move up in the FedEx Cup standings should he maintain the quality of play that has framed not only his first two rounds here but his season.

After all, Haas in 24 stroke-play events has yet to miss a cut in 2013-14. The only time he has missed weekend play was at the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head Island, S.C., but that was owed to a fracture in his wrist. Haas was sidelined for a few weeks, but since returning to action there has been great consistency, albeit not the sort of red numbers that Haas would prefer.

“I’m proud to say I've played a lot of four‑round events, but certainly my weekends have not been what I'd like,” Haas said. “I haven't shot any crazy bad numbers, but I haven't shot any crazy good ones. In order to win you've got to shoot 60s on the weekend, and I haven't really done that.”

There have been four top 10s and 14 times Haas has finished within the top 25. But because he lacks a win or a handful of seconds or thirds, Haas lags behind in the Ryder Cup standings, 28th, and while that seems to be the bulk of the media focus this week, the 32-year-old responds with the sort of simple grasp with which he has always had.

“I probably need to win (to be considered a captain’s pick), but that’s my ultimate goal, anyway,” Haas said. Then he shrugged. “Two more good days will go a long way.”

No stop along the PGA Tour represents how long a way Haas has come in this PGA Tour odyssey than this week’s gathering at TPC Boston.

Having followed in his father’s footsteps as a brilliant player at Wake Forest University, Bill Haas in the summer of 2004 was just another young talent back to square one, trying to prove himself. When he journeyed 30 miles north of Boston to Stow Acres’ North Course in August 10 summers ago, Haas took on a Monday qualifier (with Joe LaCava on the bag) and hurdled the challenge flawlessly. With birdies on six of the first seven holes, he shot 65, breezed to medalist honors, and followed that up with a 69-64 start at the Deutsche Bank Championship.

Haas settled for a share of ninth at the 2004 DBC, but as a testament to how far he has come in this PGA Tour career, he’d be sorely disappointed if he didn’t do far better than that this weekend.

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