After Bill Haas rolled in a four-footer on the 18th, the third hole in sudden death, beating Hunter Mahan to capture the Tour Championship, Haas was whisked through the tunnel, up the stairs — but not before Bubba Watson rushed after him to give him a congratulatory hug — and onto the veranda in the grandstands for the made-for-TV portion of the trophy presentation.
When Haas saw the Tour Championship trophy and FedExCup trophy both sitting on the table and didn’t see another player, he looked at his wife Julie and quietly asked her, “Did I win the FedExCup?”
She beamed as she recounted the anecdote, saying she laughed, nodded and told him in an equally hushed voice, “Yes!”
That was when he finally realized for certain he had captured both.
I vividly recall the bewildered, shocked expression on NBC’s Jimmy Roberts’ face when he walked down to join the slew of reporters after presenting Bill Haas with the trophies. Roberts looked like he he had been hit by a bus or seen a ghost, informing us Haas had just found out he won both. At first, I thought I had heard him incorrectly.
Every member of the Haas family, including Bill, was asked multiple times by reporters if it was true that Bill hadn’t known he had won the FedExCup — it’s not like we thought he was lying, but we wanted clarification. I mean, how did he not know? Didn’t someone tell him?
“I saw Tim Finchem, I said, ‘I didn’t know I had won this,’ and he was like, ‘Congratulations, you won both.’ That’s what he said, ‘Both are for you,’ Haas recalled during his post-victory presser Sunday evening.
“Obviously I did what I wanted to do. I wanted to win, especially going into today. I felt like I was in the position even after my finish yesterday. I felt like I was in a position to win the golf tournament, and that was all I could do in order to win the FedExCup. I mean, like I said, I don’t know how many times I can say the word fortunate, but if Webb plays a little bit better ‑‑ or all these things had to happen for me to win, and it did.”
Wait, how did you not know again?
“I knew if I won, that was the only way I could win the FedExCup,” said Haas. “If I finished second, I knew I couldn’t win the FedExCup. So in theory I knew I was playing for it. I’m not going to sit there and say, well, it’s not a million on the line here, there’s $11 million, let’s put some more pressure on it, because it’s not worth it. It’s not worth that stress. I was just trying to win that golf tournament. And actually even more than that, I was trying to hit good shots in the moment, and even though I did it some of the time, I still was trying to stay not thinking about what’s going to happen if this doesn’t come off. I was just trying to hit each shot, and now it just fell that way. It’s awesome.”
One more time, please?
“I knew $11 million was on the line somehow, whether Luke Donald won it or Webb Simpson won it or I won it, it was there, so that was in my head,” he said. “When I was putting for that 4‑footer to win, it was just to win the TOUR Championship, knowing that was all I could do.”
It was awkwardly amusing — though it was indeed exciting. Finally, the “playoff finale” turned out to be mind-blowing and exciting in a head-to-head match between two players. You know, the way it’s been advertised for the last nine months.
The Tour tries its best to provide all the possible scenarios, but the players made it clear throughout the week that it was too difficult for them to keep track and most were just focused on winning the tournament first and foremost. So turned out it worked for Haas, who entered the week No. 25 in FEC points. (You see, each of the 30 players in the field actually does have a mathematical chance of winning!)
It wasn’t until the 70th hole that Haas even had an inkling of his position the entire day.
“(Bill) said he didn’t know until No. 17 in regulation,” said his dad Jay Haas, who has notched 24 victories between the PGA and Champions Tours. “He looked over and saw that he was leading (the FEC), and with the way it was, he would win. But then he wasn’t for sure — even if he won, if Hunter finished second and Luke was in there, too.”
While this was by far the most intriguing and thrilling Tour Championship-FedExCup in its five-year existence, the guy walking off with all the spoils was blissfully unaware until after the fact.
Perhaps it was better that way.
I had started following Mahan and Baddeley on the back nine until I noticed Haas suddenly had a two-shot lead, so I made my way from 12 green to 16 green. By the time I got there, Haas had extended it to three strokes, but he had hit an errant drive into the right trees. He punched out and his third shot was almost perfect — a yard longer and it would have stayed up on the same ridge as the pin instead of rolling back to about 30 feet. Haas failed to convert par and settled with a bogey.
In the back of my mind I thought, oh great, here we go again. Haas’ bogey, double-bogey finish on Saturday was still very clear in my mind. He caught a bad break on his drive on 17. His ball landed in the right-to-left sloping fairway, but somehow bounced right and found the fairway bunker. Deja vu almost — except he was in the farthest one of the trio, but he had a tough stance on the downslope.
“I thought he shanked it,” said a very cheery and chatty Bubba during the playoff, “but it turned out alright.”
Then on the final hole in regulation Haas pushed his 4-iron into the crowd for the second day in a row. Oh no, not again. His ball bounced off a fan’s gut and ended up with a not-so-good lie in the rough, short-sided to the pin. He chipped it to about 10 feet and missed the par putt, leaving himself with a three-footer for bogey. I remembered he missed one about that length a day earlier. But this time it wasn’t a problem.
Haas was playing alongside Luke Donald in the final round at East Lake. Donald, who started the week No. 4 in the standings, drained a 12-footer for birdie on 18, so Haas thought the world No. 1 had clinched the FEC.
“Bill did scoreboard watch yesterday, but today he didn’t,” said Jay Jr., who has looped for his brother since the Greenbrier Classic. “Someone said it was a possibility, but we didn’t know. I think just playing golf is how you need to be. I don’t think you need to think about what a win means; what a second means — you just need to play golf. I think a lot of people struggle when they start thinking about too many different things instead of just the golf shot. That’s what he did in the playoff.”
Bill focused on the shot instead of a score. Which, to me, was evident — he looked more confident and comfortable from my vantage point (inside the ropes in the last three holes in regulation and by the 18th green on the first playoff hole, in the NBC-designated interview patio with a TV and clear view of the 17th green from on the other side of the pond on the second, and back by the 18th green on third).
Meanwhile, just before Haas and Mahan played the second playoff hole, Bubba said he had seen Haas’ mother Jan in player dining, where he had been watching the coverage after he finished his round.
“His mom said, ‘Wait, if (Bill) wins, he gets $10 million?’” Bubba, who finished T23, excitedly told the group that included Aaron Baddeley and their families. “She didn’t even know! She said (jokingly), ‘Well, we’re not paying for their (Bill and Julie’s) honeymoon!”
Bill kept using the word “fortunate” to describe his feelings and the outcome. And of course, there’s now a very good chance for the third prize that slipped through his fingers after a disappointing, gut-wrenching 42 on the backside at Cog Hill in the final round: the last and final spot on the Presidents Cup squad.
“I think it’s hard to overlook that (coming back from last Sunday and yesterday’s bogey-double-bogey finish),” said Jay, an assistant captain of the U.S. team, with a twinkle in his eye. “You’d think if Brandt Snedeker or Keegan Bradley or Bill wins the tournament this week, then they should get that spot, perhaps, but again, I’m going to stay out of it.”
With Bill’s gritty performance at East Lake in that last hour — to prevail against all odds and recover from errant shots and recent mistakes — it’s hard not to root for him, along with the entire Haas family.
(AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Curtis Compton)