Haas wins Senior PGA Championship
By Jeff Latzke, Associated Press
May 29, 2006
EDMOND, Okla. — After a number of close calls and years of trying, Jay Haas’ first victory in a major championship came when he wasn’t expecting it.
Haas won the Senior PGA Championship on Sunday, beating Brad Bryant on the third playoff hole for his third straight Champions Tour victory.
Bryant, who caught Haas with an eagle at No. 16, missed a short par putt on the pair’s third trip to the par-4 18th.
"I guess I wasn’t expecting it," Haas said. "I was expecting to go to the next tee and I think when Brad missed ... I didn’t know what to do or where to go, who to look at, anything like that."
Haas ended up one stroke behind Hale Irwin for the Senior PGA title in 2004 and he has also racked up third-place finishes in the U.S. Senior Open in 2004, the PGA Championship in 1999 and the Masters in 1995.
"I really wasn’t thinking in those terms that I had been falling back so many times. I guess I don’t think too much of the past, about what I haven’t done. But, yeah, it kind of hit me there," Haas said. "And it was on TV and I wanted to say, ‘We did it, Jan,’ and I couldn’t get that out. Nothing would come out.
"And I was getting ready to tear up, so it was a pretty emotional time for me."
At the third playoff hole, Haas and Bryant both drove into the fairway but Haas’ second shot landed in a bunker. He popped onto the green from there, but Bryant was in better position after chipping onto the back fringe and pushing a long putt close to the cup.
Haas stepped up first and dropped his putt from about 12 feet. Bryant missed to the left — his shoulders slumped after a brilliant comeback.
"It’s good to have a major player win a major championship," Bryant said. "Not that I wouldn’t be a great champion but, you know, when you look at that time, Jay’s been such a great player for such a long time, he deserves a major."
Haas had a 3-under 68 and Bryant a 71 to finish at 5 under for the tournament. Third-round leader Gil Morgan, who shot a 74 on his home course at Oak Tree Golf Club, finished two strokes behind in third place. This was the fifth Champions Tour win for Haas, who also has nine PGA Tour victories.
The 52-year-old Haas started the day four strokes behind Morgan and pushed into the lead with a string of five straight birdies beginning at the fourth hole. He led by two strokes midway through the round.
"I felt in control. I felt like it was my tournament," Haas said.
Bryant, also in pursuit of his first Champions Tour major, began charging with birdies at the 12th and 13th before a bogey gave him a brief setback at the 15th. He drilled his second shot within a few feet of the hole at No. 16 and pumped his fist after pulling even with Haas.
He wasn’t done yet.
After Haas birdied the 18th, Bryant hit his drive into the right rough. Before his second shot, a microphone caught him telling caddie Tony Smith, "It’s not my best shot here, having to hit it low."
Twisting awkwardly, he guided the chip shot around a tree limb to leave about a 20-footer that he made before he leaped and thrust his right fist into the air.
"Eighteen, it was just found money," Bryant said. "I mean, it was like, you know, walking out there and finding five bucks laying on the sidewalk. I was just really lucky."
Bryant’s par putt on the first playoff hole spun halfway around the hole before falling in and Haas created drama on the second hole when he saved par after his drive at No. 1 caromed off a tree and ended in rough along the 18th fairway. Bryant’s birdie putt there came up short.
Haas also survived a scare at the par-5 16th when his second shot hit off a wooden retaining wall but skittered into the rough and stayed out of a creek. He then flipped the ball onto the green but couldn’t capitalize on a makable birdie putt.
He pumped his fist and slapped hands with playing partner Dana Quigley after a birdie putt at the 18th, forcing Bryant to match him in the following group.
Morgan tipped his cap throughout the day to cheering crowds at most tees and greens and even exchanged high-fives with fans along the ropes. But his dream scenario to win just down the street from his house didn’t work out.
The 59-year-old player was trying to become the oldest Senior PGA champion since Sam Snead in 1973 and the fourth oldest ever.
With the pressure of the third-round lead and a unique, final opportunity to win on his home course, Morgan wasn’t pleased with how he played.
"Just all the things that were involved probably created a little bit more stress," Morgan said.
Haas capitalized on an Oak Tree connection of his own. He spent the week at Oak Tree member Bob Tway’s house and used the fellow pro’s TiVo system to watch replays of his rounds.
And finally, he got the major he’d been after for so long.