Jay Haas had one of those “gifts from the golf gods” on Friday. In one of the easiest looking rounds of golf you would ever want to see, he managed to shoot a 60 in the second round of the Charles Schwab Cup Championship at the Desert Mountain Club in Scottsdale, Arizona. The Cochise course was set-up as a par 70.
It helped that he was playing with his good friend, Fred Couples:
Well, it was just a very magical day for me for sure. I had a great pairing. I love playing with Freddie. We were buddies from way back. I’ve been his assistant on the President’s Cup the last couple of times when he has been captain. We just have a lot of history. We’ve known each other a long time. It was a relaxed a round as you can play in this situation. I had that going for me.
And it helped that he was playing well. Not just that he was playing well, but that he knew he was playing well. When you know you’re playing well, you have no doubt, you have no hesitancy. So you play with freedom, the greatest elixir in the game:
I played very well. I didn’t drive it perfectly, but I drove it well. I hit a lot of greens. I think I only missed one green and that I chipped in. So I had a quite a few chances. I made some nice midrange putts but gave myself a lot of opportunities. It was just a wonderful day. One of those that you just don’t want to end. I would have liked to keep on going out there and see how many more I can tack on.
And the other major factor was that he was playing on a golf course that the players were raving about, “best all year,” and, “as good as Augusta.” And he only added to the plaudits:
But the course is magnificent. I’m sure you’ve heard that from a lot of players. The fairways are like carpets. The greens are perfect. So if I hit a poor shot it’s my fault. There is no excuses on a bad bounce or a bad lie or anything like that. It was just fun.
It didn’t look like it was going to be a 60 when he started; he was only 1-under through 5. And after birdies at 6 and 8, he came off the front a tidy 3-under. But still at seven strokes away from where he would end up, it was a nice competitive round but no hint of the glory to come. Until he chipped in on 10:
But then the chip-in at 10 got me going. I hit a pretty good second shot there, hit the green and spun off. I didn’t have a great lie. I spent about an hour with Stan Utley up here at Grayhawk, and he gave me some tips. I told him I was chipping really poorly, and he gave me some things to think about. I chipped one in on the Pro-Am day, and I chipped one in today, and I feel like I’m doing the right thing so it was time well spent on Monday.
And as things continued to progress, he started getting ahead of himself. He birdied 10, 11, 12 and 13, and realized that there might be a 59 in the wind:
[It started] on No. 14. I had it probably 8 feet straight up the hill, maybe the easiest putt of the entire day, and I got thinking, you know, I know better, but I was thinking if I could make that one, I got two par-5s left and, hey, there is a chance. Then right away I caught myself, come on, dammit, don’t be thinking that way. One at a time, one shot at a time.
And that was the only time…sort of:
That was kind of the only time, although when I did hit the shot at 15, had it 8 feet for eagle, and I missed the putt, then it was like it was gone, forget it. I got to birdie the last three holes, and I can’t even hit the green on 17 a lot of times. I was not thinking oh birdie the last three and you can do it. That kind of washed out right there. I was trying to continue to hit the fairways, hit the greens and trying to make as many birdies as I could.
And that then begged the question, what about tomorrow? How do you come into the day thinking? How do you to manage to keep yourself sort of in that same place without pressing?
And that’s something that I’ve dealt with, or try to deal with my whole career. The way I talk myself into it is that this is the position that I try to get myself into my entire career. I don’t want to be in 30th place. I want to be in first place. So if I’m in that position, why not enjoy it? I like the feeling of being nervous and uptight and a bad shot is very costly. Again, if I’m in 30th place, a bad shot, so what? It’s not going to cost me one or two places.
I guess I will have Tom Lehman tomorrow. I love playing with Tom. If he is not our best player out here he is one of the Top-3. He will be a great example for me to go out and try to hang with him tomorrow and try to shoot — my goal right now is to drive it in the fairway on the first hole and go from there. That’s the only thing I can control.
After they finished, the Golf Channel went to the booth and Lanny Wadkins was saying, “Now is the time for Jay to shift into ‘winning the tournament’ mode.” That Jay was a veteran and he would know how to do that.
But Haas had just said that the only thing he was thinking about for Saturday was getting that first drive in the fairway. So was it time to shift into the win the tournament mode and what did the winning the tournament mode mean to him?
Yes, well, maybe I have to have dinner with Lanny to find out what that is, what shifting into that gear is. Lanny was an unbelievable winner on our PGA Tour. He was just very good. He was just one of the best players out there. So it wasn’t easy for him. He won a lot of events, and when he was a front runner, and he was in the lead, he usually sealed the deal. He had his nose out in front, he was going to win. I don’t know what that is.
To me it starts with the physical part of it, hitting good shots. If I’m playing well, if I feel like I’m driving the ball in the fairway, hitting it on the green, then I’m confident. If I’m not doing that, it’s hard to say, oh, boy I’m confident, I’m going to win this tournament. It starts to me with the actual physical part of driving the ball straight, putting it on the green and making the putts.
So I think maybe I would shift into that mode if there is such a thing with a few holes left on Sunday, but not really until. I’m just going to go out, and I don’t know to play any different than I play. Just go and hit a good shot, the next one.
That’s what everybody else says too, of course:
No, but maybe I’ll have to pick Lanny’s brain. I have his cell phone number, I’ll give him a call tonight.
We will see on Saturday if Lanny still has it. But the bigger question is, does Jay?