Greenbrier Classic: Each week an opportunity for Haas
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. - Bill Haas understands being close enough to touch something but coming up a few inches short.
Until last week, his near misses included losing the 2011 Greenbrier Classic in a playoff with Scott Stallings.
He made a leap when he captured the AT&T National at Congressional with a final-round 5-under 66 - his fifth PGA Tour victory - that shot him from 26th to 7th in the FedEx Points standings.
Fast-forward four days later to the 7,287 yard, par 70 Old White TPC at the Greenbrier Resort, where the table is set for the native of Charlotte, N.C., to move closer to the top of the FedEx points list.
"Any time you make a cut, you're going to make some points," said Haas, who will tee off at 7:50 a.m. today from the No. 10 tee. "I finished 31st and 32nd on the list two separate years, both those years, you know, single-digit points away from making it almost. I think of every week as an opportunity. I don't think this week is the do-or-die week to become No. 1 and stay No. 1 the rest of the year, but every week is a great opportunity."
Four of the six players ahead of Haas aren't at the Greenbrier, including No. 1 Tiger Woods, No. 2 Matt Kuchar and No. 3 Brandt Snedeker. Fourth-place Phil Mickelson will try to make the cut for the first time in three tries at the Greenbrier, while No. 5 Billy Horschel tied for 33rd last year with Haas.
There is little doubt Kuchar and Snedeker will be back at it next week at the John Deere Classic. Woods is nursing an injured left elbow and isn't expected back until the Open Championship on July 18.
For the first time since the implementation of the FedEx championship in 2007, the standings will determine who retains his Tour card for the next season, with the top 125 returning.
That certainly doesn't affect Haas, who has been a PGA Tour regular since finishing tied for 26th at Qualifying School in 2005 - one year after turning pro.
He has 12 made cuts in 16 events and seven top 10s in his eighth season on tour. His win puts the Charlotte, N.C. native in good company as one of four players with at least one PGA Tour victory in each of the last four years, joining 41-time winner Phil Mickelson, six-time champion Dustin Johnson and 2013 U.S. Open champion Justin Rose.
"I was always taught break off the rearview mirror, good and bad," Haas said. "Everybody starts at even this week. With that said, I certainly have positive thoughts."
Haas has golf history running through his veins as the son of nine-time PGA Tour winner Jay Haas, nephew of Wake Forest Coach Jerry Haas and great nephew of 1968 Masters champion Bob Goalby.
He played for his uncle at Wake, as did Webb Simpson, who is in his group today and Friday. Haas graduated in 2004, a few months before Simpson began his college career.
They'll tee off today at the Greenbrier Classic, marking the first time they were in the same group in the first two rounds of a PGA Tour tournament since the March 24 Arnold Palmer Invitational. Haas finished in tie for eighth and Simpson missed the cut.
"Me and Webb share a love for Wake Forest," Haas said. "I think Jerry has meant a lot to both of our games. It's certainly where I think I developed into a better player and Webb as well.
"I think it's a great dynamic the fact that we can just talk about that and share that on the golf course. The reason we're close friends is because of Wake Forest and because of Jerry."
Simpson, who turned pro in 2008, said that Jerry and Bill played integral roles in his development on tour.
"When I got out on the Tour in 2008, there was nobody nicer in terms of giving me advice, helping me out, whatever I needed.
"Just a great ... , you know, I wish I could call him a teammate, we missed each other by a year, but great alum partnership that I feel like we have."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4837.