Bill Haas flies under Ryder Cup radar
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
Not to suggest that history will repeat itself, but there’s a part of 2014 that appears to be very similar to 2011 regarding Bill Haas.
To refresh your memory, Haas is the guy who quietly goes about his business without any semblance of nonsense. In a sports world filled with guys who love the color and sizzle and understand “branding," Haas comes from the old school where numbers – not sound bites or PR agents – were left to tell the story.
And if you suggest that he takes after his father, Jay, then you’ve paid the ultimate compliment.
“I respect my dad more than any golfer ever,” Bill Haas said. “I think that’s who I try to be like and that, in turn, makes me ‘old-school’ and a little under the radar.”
How far under the radar Bill Haas was when it came to Tom Watson’s choice for one of three captain’s picks to the upcoming U.S. Ryder Cup team, we’ll never know. But there’s no hesitation here to suggest he might have been the best fit and the most deserving pick.
No quibble with Keegan Bradley and Hunter Mahan. But the third pick? You could argue strongly on behalf of Watson’s pick, Webb Simpson, or that Chris Kirk, having won the Deutsche Bank Championship, earned the pick. My guess was Kirk, given that Watson made such a big deal of “playing well” and last time I checked, winning qualified as “playing well.”
But Haas would have been a wonderful pick, maybe the most seamless one when you consider all his attributes. Where so many get caught up in the peripheral silliness with the Ryder Cup, like spending your efforts on the first tee to amp up the crowd and being all about the show, Haas remains all about the golf.
At 32 and five times a winner, he still has no desire to adopt the “look at me” approach that so many embrace. If he’s a product of his upbringing, well, thank you very much for that compliment, too.
“That’s what I was taught growing up: let your clubs do the talking. If you’re not playing well, don’t gripe about it. Just go play better. It’s a tough-love kind of thing, as opposed to, ‘look at me.’ "
If you could blueprint a brilliant way to learn about golf, it would include having Bob Goalby as a great-uncle, Billy Harmon as a mentor and swing coach, Jerry Haas as an uncle and Jay Haas as a father. You’ll hear priceless stories and laugh heartily if you’re around them, but you’ll be spared the nonsense and propaganda that swirls in so many other outposts.
“It’s just what I’m a product of. Billy Harmon, certainly Bob Goalby, who is the one who kind of got it started for our whole family – and even Jerry Haas, my dad’s brother (and Bill’s college coach at Wake Forest). They are all guys I try to be like, the ones I don’t want to be disappointed in me when I act out of form. I try to act the way they’d want me to act.”
He nearly always does, and what’s more, this year he played in a manner that might have deserved a Ryder Cup nod. In 25 stroke-play events, he has missed the weekend just once: at Hilton Head, when he withdrew with an injured wrist that has plagued him all year. Haas owns a runner-up (at the Wyndham Championship) and four other top 10s. He has posted 15 top-25 finishes.
That Watson chose Simpson and is buying into this “redemption” philosophy is his prerogative, and while it’s human nature to second-guess, the decision has been made. You won’t hear any moans and groans from Haas. You just might, however, see something special in the coming weeks. His game is quite good at the moment, and the picture he’s painting looks eerily similar to three years ago.
Then, Haas came out of the BMW Championship 15th in the FedEx Cup standings, after having finished T-24, T-61 and T-16 in the first three playoff tournaments. He went on to win the Tour Championship and capture the overall FedEx Cup title.
This year, the numbers look similar. Having been T-15 and T-9, respectively, in the first two playoff events, Haas is 17th in the standings headed into the BMW Championship.
If he makes another run at the FedEx Cup title, there would be one thing that won’t be the same as in 2011. Then, it earned him a nod to play on the Presidents Cup team. This year, a possible Ryder Cup spot has come and gone.