- Bob Harig, Senior Golf Writer
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You could argue that life would be simpler, and perhaps more professionally satisfying, if Jay Haas gave in to the date on his birth certificate and teed it up on the Champions Tour.
Haas, 51, is still playing phenomenal golf on the regular PGA Tour, flirting with top-20-in-the-world status. It is impressive.
But he has not won in 12 years, and maybe those days are gone. Victories would come quickly and easily on the Champions Tour.
So why isn't he playing on the senior circuit? That's simple. It's because he wants to play in the same events as his son, Bill Haas.
And that is as good a reason as any for Jay Haas resisting the urge to join his peers.
For the second straight week, the older Haas will tee it up in the same tournament with Bill, this time at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.
Last week, both made the cut at the Buick Invitational. In fact, Bill, 22, missed finishing in the top 10 by three strokes, which is an important distinction at this point in his career. The younger Haas played on a sponsor's exemption, as he failed to earn his PGA Tour card last December at Q School. A top-10 finish gets you into the next tournament without needing an invite. Bill has another sponsor's exemption this week, but can only take seven for the year.
Jay wants to be there whenever possible.
"People ask me if this is a dream come true, and I tell them I couldn't even dream anything like this," the older Haas said. "When I first started, I felt if I could play 20 years and make enough money to go do something else, like go teach, that's what I would do. But to have the Champions Tour on the horizon and to be playing competitive golf on the PGA Tour at 51, it's not something I envisioned. And now it's a bonus to have Bill out here in a few tournaments.
"I would have loved for him to have gotten his card and been able to get into all these events. It will happen eventually, and if he can get out sooner before I'm gone, that will be even greater."
Jay Haas played well enough to earn an at-large selection from captain Hal Sutton for the U.S. Ryder Cup team last year. He has earned his way into all four major championships this year. And he's earned more than $4.5 million the past two seasons.
"I don't see him as a 51-year-old guy," Bill Haas said. "I see him as my dad who is playing unbelievable golf right now. When I play with him at home, he shoots 68 or 67. I see him as a professional player who is a great player and deserves to be out here."
Bill, who was an All-American at Wake Forest, where his dad also starred, knows how rare this opportunity is. And yet, it isn't that rare this week. Craig Stadler, 51, is also playing with his son, Kevin, 24, who earned exempt status on the PGA Tour by finishing 13th on the Nationwide Tour money list last season.
After this week, that is where Bill Haas is headed. Unless he finishes among the top 10, Bill will head to the season-opening Nationwide Tour event in Australia. A top-20 finish on the money list will get him on the PGA Tour in 2006. Or he could become a special temporary member by earning more money in seven PGA Tour events than the 125th finisher last year, or about $623,000.
"Golf is what I know," Bill Haas said. "I grew up watching professional golf. A lot of people go into the family business. I'm fortunate enough to have the opportunity. And I know that it's because of him I'm getting these opportunities right now. I had a good college career, but there are a lot of guys out here who have had good college careers who aren't getting sponsor exemptions into tournaments. It's because of him that I'm grateful. It's because of him that I'm here."
And it's because of Bill that Jay is here, too.
Five Things To Bank On
1. You have to go low at the Bob Hope. Way low. There were 61 rounds of 65 or better during the last year's event, including one 60, two 62s and 12 63s.
2. At just 6,478 yards, Indian Wells used to contribue to the low scoring. But after 43 years, the course has been replaced by Tamarisk Country Club. At 6,881 yards, Tamarisk won't be the second coming of Whistling Straits, but it'll play harder and longer than Indian Wells.
3. The celebrity/athlete format at the Hope begs for someone to ham it up for the television cameras at the expense of real golf. Don't be surprised to see more yuks than shots during the first few rounds of the five-day event.
5. Hale Irwin is bearing down on 60, but you can bet that won't stop him at this week's Turtle Bay Championship on the Champions Tour. Irwin has won the event four straight times. The event was played late in 2003 and skipped last year as it moved to early in the schedule.
Bob Harig covers golf for the St. Petersburg Times and is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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