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Golf: Chrysler Championship

Jay Haas not about to end good thing

At 50, he's still so competitive on the PGA Tour (witness his 67) he wouldn't think of giving it up and joining fellow seniors.

By KEITH NIEBUHR
Published October 29, 2004

PALM HARBOR - During the opening round Thursday at the Chrysler Championship, veteran Jay Haas was asked by playing partner Jesper Parnevik how he kept motivated after all these years on tour. "I guess as I get older I realize that this is not going to last forever," Haas responded.

Then again, maybe it will.

Haas, 50, shows no signs of slowing down. He entered the week ranked 29th on the money list with more than $1.7-million in season earnings, made the cut in three of four majors this year, has seven top-10 finishes, including a tie for ninth at the U.S. Open, and represented the United States in the recent Ryder Cup.

Not bad for a man eligible for the Champions Tour.

Haas, who looks more like 40, shot 4-under-par 67 to position himself near the top of the leaderboard.

"I played very well from tee to green and made a few putts early," he said. "I got it to 4 under after eight holes and would have liked to have gotten a few more (birdies), but it's a tough golf course. Anything under par here for me is pretty good."

Haas was being modest, of course.

Under-par rounds aren't the exception, but the norm. Haas isn't the longest hitter out here, but despite having a driving average that is 185th on tour, he's 23rd in scoring. Throughout his career he has been a steady player with uncanny scrambling ability. Thursday's round included a lone bogey at the par-3 eighth (his 17th hole because he started the round on No. 10).

If Haas keeps it up, he should earn a spot in next week's Tour Championship. Only the top 30 on the money list make it.

"If I play well, that will take care of itself," Haas said. "If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen. But it's nice to be in contention to do that."

Haas' professional career began in 1976. That year, Jack Nicklaus led the tour with $266,438 in earnings. Today, Haas owns nine career PGA Tour titles and has won more than $13.5-million.

"At 25 and 30, you can't see to 50 years old," Haas said. "You don't believe that's ever going to get to you. Now at 50, I realize even Champions Tour golf will be over soon. I had no idea it would last this long. I'm just trying to take advantage of it as much as possible. I'm playing well, trying to remain competitive."

No problem there.

Haas turned 50 in December, but has felt no need to play full time on the Champions Tour. Not yet anyway. He has competed in three Champions Tour events and placed in the top three of each, tying for third at the U.S. Senior Open.

"Fortunately in golf, it's not about being the fastest or the strongest like it is in other sports," Haas said. "The last couple of years have been really good. I've played very well and a lot of things have happened to me.

"I've done a lot of good stuff and I don't want it to end. I don't foresee myself stopping any time soon."

[Last modified October 28, 2004, 23:50:16]


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