Bill Haas: Not that sure on Sunday morning

Bill Haas hit an 8-iron at a low and away ball hanging on the edge of an 18th hole fairway bunker that got him back in play on the par 5 fairway. From there he hit another 8-iron off an up slope to the green and two-putted to win the Humana Challenge in La Quinta, California. It was his sixth victory and second Humana Challenge.

He finished at 22-under par and beat the fivesome a stroke back of Charlie Hoffman, Brendan Steele, Sung Joon Park, Steve Wheatcroft and Matt Kuchar.

At T7 were Webb Simpson, Boo Weekley and up and coming young star, Justin Thomas, all another stroke back.

Funny thing was — and this is so the way golf is sometimes — Haas wasn’t very confident coming into the week:

I was certainly feeling the pressure and I didn’t feel sharp coming into this week.  I came out here and worked hard, so I was doing my best to be sharp, but to have those feelings, to start the week and then there on Sunday and somewhat execute coming down the stretch is a great feeling.

But as the pressure rose on the back nine with a ton of guys right behind him waiting for any mistake, he got a big boost from a six-foot sand save on the par-3 16th:

I hit a pretty nice bunker shot to about six feet and that was one of the moments where I knew if I missed that I was leading to not, you know, maybe not even top‑10.

So that was a putt where I told myself, you need to make this one, basically.  I pumped myself up, I have talked to myself before on those putts and missed them, so it was an awesome feeling to make that putt.

But what appeared a fairly simply second shot on 18 was really quite complex…and emotionally charged:

Then, 18, to hit a bad drive, now I will say, I was doing everything I could to not go left [into the water], so what do you do, you go right.

When I saw where it ended up I thought I could see it from the tee where it ended up and I was shocked.  I thought, what a bad break.  But then I just said, well it wasn’t a good shot, so you got to deal with it.

Still knew if I made par I was going to win.  So that second shot became pretty key, because I could easily could have whiffed it, could have chunked it and moved it five yards and then I would lay up from there and then I needed to get up‑and‑down to win.

So, it felt like a train wreck all coming together there, something bad was about to happen.

So after looking over the mess he was in, he began stalking around it trying to figure out what to do. Ultimately it was an example of what a good caddie can do for you:

I’m not good left‑handed at anything, so, and definitely not a golf swing.  So, using the toe of the [upside down] club left‑handed, the water was in play, out of bounds [to the right] might have been in play, I just didn’t feel comfortable doing that.

I have done the thing before backwards where you do it one handed [with the right hand] and poke it down the fairway.  I almost did that.

And he climbed down into the bunker a couple of times to see if he could hit it with any kind of more conventional swing. Not happening, but it was close:

But was able just to kind of — my caddie, he kind of said, well, why don’t you see if you can get in there and choke up and just poke it down the fairway.  That was kind of what my decision was to do there at the end, was just somehow don’t chunk this thing and move it 10 yards, just get it down the fairway.

They settled on the 8-iron:

I needed some loft, and I was just probably aiming right of the fairway there, just trying — I knew it was going to go straight left when the ball is above your feet like that.  Very fortunate to just get it down there to have a decent iron in.  I hit 8 on my third shot as well.  So that shot I’ll remember for a long time, because that wasn’t the easiest 8‑iron I ever had.

Haas was also the guy, you will remember, that hit the ball out of the water on the 17th hole to win the Tour Championship. Is there a common thread here?

I think of myself as more of an, I mean, a painter and not a mechanic, say.  I’m more of a natural golfer than — I don’t have the perfect swing.  I wish I could swing like Adam Scott, but I just don’t have that ability.  So therefore, I think I do have the ability to make do with what I have.

Yeah, obviously the shot out of the water was an educated guess and certainly that second shot here was an educated guess.  So, I would like to come down the stretch and knock it on in two and win by two one day, but that’s just something you have to do.

I think that, unfortunately, I put myself in that situation, but when you do that, you got to come up with something. And it’s happened before, improvising, and it’s not work out as well.  So that was just fortunate.

And then he filled us in on the difficulty of what seemed an innocuous 8-iron third shot:

Yeah, it was on a pretty good up slope there and what’s, usually, up slopes, the tendency is to pull it and we all know what’s left of that pin [water].  I couldn’t go left.

I guarantee you if I look at the coverage, my feet are probably aiming at that right bunker [way right of the long, left pin] and I said, go ahead and release it, because I don’t think I can had hook it that much. So I bet if you watch the coverage, it looks like a pull hook almost to hit it where I hit it, but that was just kind of improvising and trying not to hit it left, so go ahead and aim right and go ahead and release it and draw it in there.

So that was kind of my thought process there.  And I didn’t take long, I don’t like to think too much over shots like that.

And finally, he detailed the reasons that he wasn’t feeling so confident coming into the week. It came out of an abysmal showing in China [he only hit four greens on Saturday and seven on Sunday] that caused him to just come home and put his clubs away. So he came out a week early to be with his coach, Billy Harmon and his dad, Jay, who was getting ready for the Champions Tour opener in Hawaii:

I remember Wednesday when I got there I just wasn’t hitting it very good and [Billy] said, how about one little bit of patience.  You haven’t hit a ball or played in two months, you’re already fired up.

So that, that sat with me a little bit.  And we were on one hole, one tee shot, and my dad and Billy both said, well, I think your face of your club needs to look at the ball a little longer, which in turn squares your club at the top.  Mine was open.  I would fan it open and I was just hitting some pretty awful shots.

That one tip, that Billy came up with, for the face to look at the ball a little longer, it’s something my dad does in his swing, so I think I just took a little page out of his book and certainly with Billy’s eye to watch and see if I was doing it, was huge for me this week.

I asked him to come watch me hit balls this morning, because I wasn’t sure I was doing it right.  So, he came and watched me hit a few this morning on the range and he said it looked good, so that was kind of what I went with.

I can’t even explain, this is the first time I’ve won with being that unsure going into a week.  I only won six times, so it’s not like I won that many, but it’s a great feeling to be that unsure going into a week, but have it all work out and play like this.

And so there is always hope for those of us who are lost in the wilderness. This was an instance of a Tour player with a coach, of course, put it points to what’s possible for all of us if you just stay in the process. Success can literally be right around the corner.

It was very magnanimous of him to share his plight with us. That’s why player transcripts of their media sessions are so important to understanding the mastery process…and why I do what I do.

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