TROON, Scotland — Wise and experienced pro golfer that he is, Jay Haas had a little advice for his son, Bill, before the young man headed across the pond to Royal Troon for the 145th British Open.
“He told me ‘you can go 3 or 4 under on the front, and you better do that because coming in is a tough challenge,’” Bill Haas said, moments after shooting 2-under 69 Saturday to get through 54 holes at 6-under 207.
Good news is, Haas is alone in third, so in that respect he feels very much in contention.
Bad news is, he’s six behind the leader, Henrik Stenson, and five astray of Phil Mickelson, so in that respect it throws some old-fashioned perspective into the mix.
“You see your name on the board close to the leaders, but there are only a few guys that could fall backwards,” Haas said. “And you certainly can’t expect Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson to fall backwards.”
In other words, Haas knows he needs to step on it, and he knows dad is spot on about Troon — and from good experience. Jay Haas knows Troon from his first British Open (T-27, 1982), his last British Open (MC in 2004) and one in between (T-24, 1997).
Ah, but one trip to Troon that Jay Haas did not make, the sun-splashed July days in 1989 when Mark Calcavecchia won a three-man playoff? Now there’s a little history that might interest Bill Haas.
That year, Greg Norman was seven behind the leader, Wayne Grady, but birdied each of the first six holes. That’s right, six in a row. OK, so the Shark lost his magic in the playoff, but the point is, even though we have raw and cold weather, far different than 27 years ago, the opening holes still have green lights on them. Five of the six easiest holes come right away: the first is ranked 14th; the third is ranked 15th; the sixth is 16th; the fourth is 18th; the sixth is 16th; and the seventh is 13th.
Bill Haas — such a kid when he broke in on Tour in 2006 and now at 34 so polished — smiled. He knows the routine at Troon and agrees that it’s a sound theory in principle. “But it’s (only) good if you take advantage of them and make good birdies,” he said.
Haas made five birdies on a demanding day for golf, but he mixed in three bogeys while Stenson (68) and Mickelson (70) also were busy clipping more shots off par.
But it’s not as if Haas could run forward and tackle Stenson or Mickelson, so he merely shrugged and said he would accept his position and play his best on Sunday.
“I certainly don’t think Phil and Henrik are feeling the pressure tonight sleeping knowing that Beef (Andrew Johnston) and Bill Haas are behind them,” he said, laughing. “So we’ve got to use that to our advantage and just try to surprise some people.”
Haas’ record in the major championships is no secret: this is his 28th start, and his best finishes are a pair of T-12s, at the 2011 PGA and 2015 Masters. But, no, it’s not as if the self-applied Sunday pressure will be different here because it’s a major.
“I think about it every week on the regular Tour, just finishing in the top 10 or trying to win,” he said. “If you can’t win, try to finish second. If you can’t finish second, try to finish third.”
He intends to maintain that attitude Sunday. It just will happen to be a major championship.