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Haas Exults in Win at Riviera
Bill Haas has even more reasons to like Riviera Country Club. Already a big fan of the classic George Thomas-designed course in Pacific Palisades, Calif., Haas has developed a larger affinity after winning the 2012 Northern Trust Open.
Haas closed with a 2-under 69 to end up tied in regulation with Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley at 7-under 277. On the second sudden-death playoff hole, the short par-4 10th, Haas sank an improbable 45-foot birdie putt to secure his fourth PGA Tour victory and the $1.88 million winner's check.
The 29-year-old said later that he bypassed a friend's wedding in order to play Riviera, even though he hasn't had much prior success in the tournament. "I've always loved coming back to this - I'm actually missing a really good friend's wedding right now to be here, so I feel a lot better about that, the fact that I played well. This is one I don't like to miss ever, and this is not one I'll miss in the future."
Here's what else the son of longtime touring pro Jay Haas had to tell reporters after the awards ceremony.
MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome and congratulate our 2012 Northern Trust Open champion. It's been quite a wild ride today, and you haven't been in the pressroom yet, so maybe just give us some comments on winning here at Riviera and the fashion you did it in.
BILL HAAS: Yeah, surprised if you would have told me 7 under at the beginning of the day, I didn't think that would be enough. But it was playing tough. The wind - I wouldn't say it was up. I think that's a pretty common wind here, but it was enough that when you were into the wind it made a big difference. It was a cool breeze. It made it difficult to get balls close today. The greens are somewhat firm. I don't know if y'all saw that, but the balls were really bouncing and it was difficult to get balls close, so par was a good score most of the day.
Q. Talk about what it was like being on the range listening to what was going on up at 18, and then if you could just talk about 10.
BILL HAAS: Yeah, you know, you have to expect, unlike in a match-play scenario, you expect them to make birdie. I said that in my head, they're going to birdie, you're going to be in a playoff, and then it would have been that much better to not have to do that. So I prepared myself mentally, I thought, to be in a playoff. They both hit beautiful drives right in front of me in the playoff and then I hit a pretty decent one. I thought I hit a better 8 iron than what I did; I hit it maybe a hair heavy but not bad. I still thought it was enough to carry the front and get to the middle of the green.
It wasn't looking good at that point, but I had similar chip in regulation, hit another nice chip up there, not quite tap in range but close enough to where I thought I could make it. Then you guys saw the second playoff hole. I never expected to make a 40 footer, and especially in that situation. That was a little bit of luck involved, but felt like I put a good roll on it, and it was meant to be, I guess.
Q. A couple of things. First of all, what's going through your mind and your body when you're out there on the driving range just waiting to find out what's going on with these guys on 18 and then hearing the crowd roar, and then second, what is it about Southern California?
BILL HAAS: No, I love California. I always said if I could, LA, San Diego, Palm Springs, this area down here, I love it here. I feel comfortable, have a lot of family and friends. I stay in houses out here that I've gotten to know people over the years, and I feel very comfortable on the West Coast. I don't know what it is, but I really enjoy this golf course. I've never had this kind of success here, but I've always loved coming back to this - I'm actually missing a really good friend's wedding right now to be here, so I feel a lot better about that, the fact that I played well. This is one I don't like to miss ever, and this is not one I'll miss in the future.
Q. Can you follow up on what your thoughts were on the driving range?
BILL HAAS: Yeah, I'm sorry. I remember saying to my brother, I said, no matter what happens from here on, while they were playing 18, this is pretty cool, we're on the range warming up to maybe go into a playoff. We're doing a lot of good things just to be in this situation. So I think maybe I had that attitude. I've done a lot of good to be in this position on this good of a golf course, and I felt like I had a good frame of mind. But you know, you hear the cheers, they make birdies. I don't say this in a negative way, but everybody is cheering for Phil. He just won this last week, he's the man, and if I'm at home, I'm cheering for Phil. Everybody is saying, "go Phil, go Phil." Keegan has a big fan base. I think they were easily more popular than I was in that group, not in a bad way. I'm not saying like fans did anything wrong. I just was somewhat under the radar, I guess. I wasn't in the final group with them. They both birdie 18, they certainly had the fans on their side, which if that's the way it is, that's fine, flying under the radar. It was unexpected for me and for the fans maybe the way it ended up.
Q. Did you feel a little bit like the guy who told everybody there was no Santa Claus when you made that putt, taking it away from Phil kind of?
BILL HAAS: Well, I don't know if I took it away from Phil. They both birdied 18 just to be in the situation.
Q. On the last 40 foot putt.
BILL HAAS: That's what I'm saying. They shouldn't have been there. (Laughter.) Not really. That's a hard putt. In my opinion I hit a really good chip just to get it to 40 feet, so I was happy about that. I thought I put myself in the best position to give myself the best case to continue the playoff. It just happened that I won right there. But Phil hit a heck of a second shot. He got unlucky to roll over and go in the bunker. And then Keegan did the same. He hit a heck of a second shot that stayed on the fringe and gave himself a putt. I think that was a well played hole. That hole proves it's a very difficult short par 4, and it made for a good scene there.
Q. Talk about them not supposed to be there. You didn't birdie 11, you got tripped up on 12 and 13, you were 8 under tied for the lead, then you're two behind, then all of a sudden you're the only one at 7 under. So hang on through there, you didn't get too down, didn't birdie 11, got tripped up?
BILL HAAS: Right. You've definitely got to fight your inner demons and not get down like you're saying. I knew 12, 13, 14, 15, that whole stretch, you can easily go bogey, bogey, bogey, bogey, and I was easily on that track. Then I felt like I hit a nice 6 iron at 14, and the wind kind of got it and it ended up way short, wasn't even close. I told myself, make a good save here, next hole is a par hole and then the last three you can maybe get 18 - I say that only because it's playing downwind and you can maybe get a short iron in there.
Q. No thoughts of it slipping away, though, through that stretch?
BILL HAAS: I don't know. In theory I don't like to say I'm going to win at any point. You're grinding the whole time, every shot. I made about a six footer for par curling down the hill on 16, which was about as big as any putt today. Yeah, I guess I didn't expect 7 under to be in the hunt. Like you said, I made 5 at 11, 5 at 12, 5 at 13, it was not looking good. But I just hung as tough as I could, and it all worked out.
Q. Where would you rank 18 at Riviera as a closing hole on the PGA Tour?
BILL HAAS: I mean, we play so many good golf courses with so many good finishing holes, but you're right, I mean, just the scene with the amphitheater, the natural amphitheater around that green. The drive is unique as you can't see the fairway. It's up there. I mean, just to win on that green or to be in the moment with all those people around on that green, we don't play many tournaments like that. So it's got to be - I'm not going to give it a number, I don't think that's fair, but top five finishing holes we play on Tour probably.
Q. How much were you kind of leaderboard watching? Were you surprised at the fluctuation, the fact that was mentioned earlier, you're two shots down? Are you kind of keeping an eye on this whole thing?
BILL HAAS: A little bit. I like to know. I've always talked to my dad about that, and he says in any sport you want to know where you are. In basketball you want to know how many points you're behind or up. But you can't analyze that too much because anything can happen in this game. I guess when I made those two bogeys I told myself you're still only two back, there's a lot that can happen these last few holes and just told myself par is a good score, and if you can sneak a birdie in there, that much better. I don't know if that's the right attitude, but basically just trying to hang in there as best as I can because this golf course is tough.
Q. On the last putt, how much analysis goes into a putt of that length, and are you thinking if it doesn't go in, here's where I want it?
BILL HAAS: A little bit. I was thinking 4 could continue. If one of these guys makes - if Phil holes out of the bunker or Keegan makes it from off the green, they earned it. They deserve it. Four for me was the goal in the sense that I didn't want to make 5, I guess. I didn't want to run it six feet or 10 feet by, and that was a tricky little pin. It's kind of on a knob. And how much analysis? Just like every putt, a lot. But you're looking at speed, you're looking at break. It was kind of in the shadows. If I hit 30 putts, I maybe make five of them. But it just so happens it did right there. I hit it just like I wanted. I hit the line. There was a ball mark about ten feet in front of me, I was trying to go just around that, and I did that. I'm not giving it all to luck. I felt like I hit a nice putt. But from that length anything can happen. The greens are bumpy late in the day. Trying to make a 4, lucky to make 3, and happy to do so.
Q. Your wins have come you've had some dramatic shots to win and put yourself in position. Could you talk about managing emotions as you're getting ready to hit some of those shots, the one at FedEx last year, the putt here, just staying in the moment and how you maintain that focus?
BILL HAAS: Yeah, I don't know. I'm yet to have a big lead and really hold a big lead. Even my win at the Viking Classic I had a four shot lead going to the back nine, and after 13 we were tied. I have a way of coming back to the field or never getting myself that far ahead. So I haven't really had that tap in for par kind of feeling on 18 to win. But like you say, stay in the moment. You're here, you've learned it. Enjoy the moment. I'm nervous as heck out there and don't want to screw up, but I tell myself, you wouldn't be nervous if you missed the cut or you wouldn't be nervous if you were in 40th place. Enjoy this. Who knows what can happen. And I think if anything what the FedEx Cup did for me is I've told myself that a ton of times, anything can happen. I said that a little bit on the putt there on 10. You never know, just hit a good putt and hopefully it goes.
Q. Talk a little bit about your strategy playing away from the pin, and which was the more difficult up and down, out of the water in Atlanta or today on No.10?
BILL HAAS: Out of the water in Atlanta. But the up and down here, it didn't allow me to hit it close. The putt in Atlanta was much easier than the putt here today. They were very different. I hit it pretty similar, not quite as far left in regulation, and I went at the pin, and I hit it on the back fringe, and I made it from 12 feet for birdie in regulation. So part of me was like, well, I've done this once, let's try it again. But the other part of me was you've done this once, let's not screw it up this time. Play safe, play smart. I thought they were both very difficult situations in themselves. With that being said, I said, let's just play out to the right. My brother said, my caddie, just said, I think the only place that you can get a birdie putt is if you go to the right, basically saying if you go at the pin you can't keep it on the green, and I agreed with him, and I hit a nice shot just to get it where it did. Honestly, that was not as easy a shot as you might think.
Q. Did you expect Phil and Keegan to birdie 18 as hard as birdies had been to come by there today, and how did you find out, just by the sound of the crowd, or how did you find out?
BILL HAAS: Yeah, I mean, I guess yes, I did expect them. Secretly I was hoping they didn't, but Phil has won - just won his 40th event. Keegan won a major last year and is obviously very comfortable in that situation. So yeah, I did, I expected them to make it, and I just said, gear up for a playoff here. Keep mentally staying in the focus grinding kind of mode like I did on 10, just kind of grinded it out, was going to be happy with 4 and make them beat me, I guess. And it just so happens where it went in.
Q. And in a playoff is it easier to be the guy who's been on the range do you think or the guys who are coming right off of the 18th hole?
BILL HAAS: I don't know. You know, today I'll say it was the guy on the range. But I've been on the range a couple times. At Greenbrier last year I was on the range for a couple groups actually and listened to Scott Stallings make birdie, same kind of deal. Listened to the crowd. Then he hit it three feet or four or five feet again and made birdie and beat me in a playoff. He had that kind of momentum, mojo going, that maybe played into his hands there. He hit two heck of a shots. I'm not saying that was the reason he did it. But it can go both ways, I think.
Q. What was going through your mind when you saw Phil's chip go in the bunker on the second playoff hole, and then just your thoughts, your feelings about being able to beat him to win the tournament?
BILL HAAS: Yeah, I mean, I remember watching his shot in the air going, this is Phil, this is what he does, he hits it three feet. In the air it looked like an unbelievable second shot, and he got an unfortunate bounce. The greens are really firm. You can't really hold it. It was an unlucky break for him to roll into the bunker, and it could have easily stayed just right of the bunker and been just outside, which would have been a much easier chip or putt. I don't know. I wasn't thinking too much about them. I've got 40 feet thinking, don't screw this up and three putt. I'm trying to grind on what I have to do, and after Keegan hit a nice shot, I remember thinking, he can easily make this to win, let's just make 4 and make him beat me. God, there's so many thoughts running through your mind. But to beat a guy like Keegan and also Phil, guys of their caliber, in a playoff is amazing, something I'll never forget.
Q. You talked earlier about going under the radar. How much does that play to your advantage not really having the crowd on your side, cheering for Keegan, cheering for Phil? Do you prefer that?
BILL HAAS: No, I like it when the crowd cheers. Honestly "Phil" sounds really similar to "Bill" (laughter), so you just kind of pretend that maybe they're for you. I don't think it was a disadvantage or an advantage. I think they had a lot of good momentum, a lot of good mojo going, both birdieing 18. But it's just a tough hole. You can birdie it ten times in a row, but the 11th time is going to be just as difficult. Keegan hit a heck of a putt there to win. It just missed on the high side. Things lined up, I guess whatever you say, the moon was lined up in my favor here today.
Q. Who is your friend whose wedding you're missing, and is it back in the Carolinas, and have you talked with him since you've been out here?
BILL HAAS: Yeah, a good friend of mine that went to Wake Forest where I went to school. He's a little older than me, but he was kind of the assistant coach when I was there at Wake, and his name is John Hopson. Just got married a few hours ago, and I really was meaning to go there, but this is a tournament that I have a hard time skipping. You know, I think that what we do with our profession, we miss a lot of weddings and a lot of birthdays just because we're playing on weekends, and we travel a lot. But I think he understands. I'm sure I'll talk to him later and hopefully his day is even better than mine. It's pretty sweet for both of us today.
Q. I was just wondering if you could give a little more detail about the greens here at Riviera compared to other famous courses.
BILL HAAS: Well, we talked about chipping, let's say. The greens are firm, but when you chip, usually the ball does not - it doesn't bounce like a U.S. Open green maybe would where it would just continue on the same direction. It almost bounces straight up and then releases because it's almost like the top layer, the actual turf part, is kind of soft, but then underneath that it's firm, and you're chipping from an absolute perfect surface. Those zoysia fairways - kikuyu? Kikuyu. They're very similar grasses. But they're sitting up perfect, so you can get a lot of spin which creates that initial bounce and then they release a little bit. They're definitely different than most greens we play. But you practice on them, you play practice rounds, play the pro am. You kind of get a feel for them, and we play - they're the same pretty much every year. The more rain, the softer they are, the more that first bounce just doesn't want to release, if that's what you're asking. You're asking the physical aspect of it?
BILL HAAS: But they're awesome. I was talking to the greens superintendent after the awards ceremony there, and I think they're probably the smoothest I've ever seen them. They get real bumpy, the poa annua greens. The top layer is soft like that, and they can get really bumpy, but I thought they rolled pretty smooth all week.
Q. What is it about this place that you like so much, and talk about being the champ of the Northern Trust Open at unbelievable Riviera, Hogan's Alley, and have you talked to your dad yet?
BILL HAAS: I haven't talked to him yet. I'm looking forward to calling him to talk about this. This has only happened four times, but it's pretty special talking to him about these kinds of things. I don't know, the course to me is one of the best ones we play, and I just think because we're here, it is tee to green 7 under wins, and it's not - the rough isn't necessarily that deep. It's just a good, hard golf course that doesn't need any tinkering to make it different, which I think is something that we should all - people that go in and redo golf courses I don't think is necessarily always a great thing. I think this place, Hilton Head is another example, one of my favorites that it doesn't need to be changed, and it's timeless, I guess. The game will never be better than these places.
Q. I know you talked about No.18 earlier. Can you kind of be our tour guide? No.10 is not a long hole and yet you're the only guy that hit it in regulation in the playoff. Can you tell us what you see on the tee on No.10?
BILL HAAS: It's a short hole, it's drivable, but I would say out of 100 balls you'd maybe get it on the green one time. Maybe more than that, but just the left front is the only place you can knock it on that green and have it stay, and you have to get a good bounce in the rough. You'd have to get a good break, I guess. So in that sense, you basically know that you're trying to hit a good shot up by the green where you know you can maybe get up and down from. I was trying to peel cut kind of one up into the front bunker. Obviously it didn't cut, went long left, which is the reason that's a very difficult hole is because it rewards a great shot, but it penalizes anything just barely off.
Q. Even though you were only a couple of shots back starting today, it's another week where the leaders weren't able to hold the lead. Can you talk a little bit about the mentality of chasing down the people in front and why you think that's been so prevalent this first part of the season?
BILL HAAS: I don't know. I mean, it's very difficult to win on the PGA Tour. I think that's a big part of it. I don't know. My mentality all day today was just play your best, shoot a good golf score. If they beat you, they beat you. Give yourself a look on 18, they might have a chance. And I can say that, I could have shot 69 and it could have not even been close, but it just so happened that it was. I don't know. I don't know if that's a trend. I think you're going to see a guy win by six at some point. It's just that's the way things are going right now. I don't think I would have played any differently today if I was leading or if I was two back. I felt like I was close enough to the lead where just a good round would do me some good.
MODERATOR: Bill, congratulations, thanks for coming in.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.
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