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Busy day for co-leader Haas

Jay Haas fires 66, good for a tie with Shigeki Maruyama, then watches his son play.

Published June 18, 2004

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. - Playing the part of good father, Jay Haas was among the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club gallery on Thursday afternoon, trying to get a glimpse of his 22-year-old son, Bill, who is playing in the 104th U.S. Open as an amateur, his last tournament before turning pro.

Earlier, Haas had played the part of good golfer.

Make that very good golfer.

Haas, 50, shot 4-under-par 66 to share the first-round lead of the weather-delayed U.S. Open with Japan's Shigeki Maruyama.

Though Haas would become the oldest player to win a major championship should he win, nobody was too surprised to see his name atop the leaderboard. Haas has been making a habit of contending at PGA Tour events and is ranked 20th in the world.

"It's impressive, but you look at the way he's been playing, it's just the norm, isn't it?" said Tiger Woods, who shot 72. "He's been playing great golf for a year and a half now. It's just a continuation. He's hitting the ball further than he ever has, but I think more than anything he's putting great. He's rolling the ball better now than when he was in his prime."

Haas rolled in five birdie putts, including a 40-footer at the 17th hole that moved him into a tie with Maruyama, 34, a three-time PGA Tour winner who broke 70 for just the second time in nine U.S. Open rounds.

Play was suspended at 4:43 p.m. due to a dangerous weather situation and did not resume until 6:55. It was again suspended at 7:40 due to fog, and 57 from the 156-player field had not finished. They will resume at 7 this morning, with second-round tee times scheduled to begin on time.

Argentina's Angel Cabrera is tied with Haas and Maruyama at 4 under through 12 holes.

Nine are tied for fourth at 2 under par, including Masters champion Phil Mickelson, who completed 15 holes, and Vijay Singh, who completed 14. Jeff Maggert and British Open champion Ben Curtis were among six who finished with 68. Dade City's Tim Petrovic is among a large group at 1 under after 69.

On a course that saw just a single player complete 72 holes under par in two previous U.S. Opens here, it was surprising to see so many red numbers. So far, there are 22 players under par.

"The weather is as passive as we're going to see it here, ever," said Raymond Floyd, 61, who finished at 1 under in 1986 to win the U.S. Open at age 43. He has been a member at Shinnecock for more than 10 years and spends his summers in the Hamptons. "So the golf course would yield if you played well."

Woods seemingly didn't take advantage of the conditions, hitting just five of 14 fairways and only nine of 18 greens. He made just one birdie. Another pretournament favorite, Ernie Els, overcame a bogey and double-bogey in his first three holes to shoot par-70.

Then there is Haas, who for the second year in a row is competing in the same U.S. Open field as his son, Bill, who recently tied for second at the NCAA Championships for Wake Forest. They are the sixth known father-son combination to play in the same U.S. Open.

By now, the elder Haas was supposed to happily make the transition to the Champions Tour. Instead, he has played just one senior event, finishing second last month to Hale Irwin at the Senior PGA Championship.

"The more I play on the regular tour, the more I want to play on the regular tour," said Haas, who qualified for the tour in 1976 - the year after Woods was born. "I enjoyed the heck out of the PGA Seniors, and I'm sure in the future I'll enjoy all the senior events. But right now I feel I want do to this, and the better I play here, the more I want to play here."

"Some people are young at 50 or older at 50," said Floyd, who played with Haas and 1992 U.S. Open champion Tom Kite. "I think in U.S. Open conditions, experience is paramount. People know how to play. And Jay played well. He drove it in the fairway, hit the greens, putted beautifully. When you play like that, you're going to get a score. It doesn't matter what the number is on the years."

In 13 PGA Tour events, Haas has missed just one cut and has five top-10 finishes. A nine-time PGA Tour winner, Haas is 10th in the U.S. Ryder Cup team standings and would become the oldest player to qualify for the team.

Haas needed just 28 putts and had no three-putt greens, a huge part of his success. Some three years ago, he went to another tour player, Stan Utley, for help with his short game.

"I used to try something the first few holes, and if I didn't make a couple, I tried something else," Haas said. "And under pressure I didn't really know what to stick with. Now I have one idea, one theory in my putting and I stick with that, whether I make them or I don't. I putted very nicely."

[Last modified June 18, 2004, 01:13:22]


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