Haas hopes dad's tips pay off
WINTER GARDEN, Fla. -- During each day at PGA Tour Qualifying School, GolfDigest.com's Brian Wacker will chronicle the efforts of Bill Haas, Notah Begay III and Boo Weekley as they compete in golf's most grueling week.
Four days into the PGA Tour's Qualifying tournament probably isn't the best time to be working on your swing, even if you're just tweaking it. Of course, when the one providing the advice is your 52-year-old father, a man who's won nine times on the PGA Tour in a career that's spanned close to three decades, you accept spending a little extra time on the range.
"If he can give me a tip, then at least I know it's not crap," Bill Haas said. "I know he's out here trying to help."
That's exactly how Jay spent the first hour after his son's round of 3-under 69 Saturday at Orange County National. It was nearly twice the amount of time Bill spent practicing after any of his previous rounds here.
"I'm just trying to figure out [my swing] a little bit with two days left," he said. "I wasn't very pleased with the way I finished today." (A bogey on the 16th erased an otherwise flawless round, though Haas did move from 48th to 39th, putting him within two strokes of this week's magic number.)
"I tend to get ahead of the ball with my hips," the younger Haas said. "I'm trying to rotate them and not slide through. A lot of my shots have been going right and been spinny. It's always been my move. I can still do it and play, but it's just not exactly what I want."
Saturday also marked the first time father and son had seen each other all week. Bill's mom Janice was the one doing the entertaining until then. "I dragged [Bill] shopping with me," she said before getting ready to head home.
With dad on site, the two fell into an old routine they've lived out time after time through the years.
"Want some M&Ms?" Bill asked Jay.
"Nah, I'm trying to cut back," he responded.
"There aren't any left anyway," Bill smiled.
With Jay already exempt on the PGA Tour for next season, maybe the two of them will be able to take this act on the road together in '06.
Notah Begay III has been training specifically for this event, but some things you just can't prepare for.
"I three-putted the 16th, which is kind of funny because I really needed to go to the bathroom on that hole," Begay said. "I lost my focus and hit just a terrible putt."
After fighting through an up-and-down round en route to a 2-under 70, Begay had reason to be, uh, relieved.
"It was nothing great, but I kind of kept up with the Joneses," he said. "If you can post a 4- or 5-under [Sunday] then you're going to be right there."
With only two days to go and six shots back of where he needs to be, now is when Begay will see if he can live up to that, putting himself to the kind of test he hasn't faced since the 2004 B.C. Open, where he finished in a tie for third.
"I haven't been under this kind of intensity in a long time," Begay said. "I don't feel any personal pressure out here, but pressure is the moment when you have to stand up and be accounted for, and you have to ask yourself if you can hit the shot when you need to and make the putt when you need to."
For the last two days, Begay has, making just two bogeys.
Sometimes the ball bounces your way, and sometimes you have a day like Boo Weekley did Saturday, when you play better than you score.
"We just couldn't get it to fall today," said Weekley after a 3-under 69. "The greens had us fooled."
Nonetheless, Weekley moved four spots up the leaderboard and into a tie for 32nd -- so close that you'd think he could almost smell the fresh-cut grass of PGA Tour fairways. But the goal never changes for Weekley. Neither does the focus, even if changing winds on the Panther Lake and Crooked Cat courses do make conditions ripe for scoring -- 14 of the top 30 players on the board shot rounds of 5-under or better.
"I know what I gotta do," Weekley drawls. "As long as you do what you gotta do, the pressure takes care of itself."
Whether he feels the pressure or not, time is running short. Four days down, two to go for Weekley and everyone else in golf's most grueling week.
Brian Wacker is an assistant editor for GolfDigest.com
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