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May 31, 2006

Jay Haas


TODD BUDNICK: We welcome Jay Haas to the 2006 Memorial Tournament. Jay, coming off your big win at the senior PGA Championship last weekend and three executive wins on the Champions Tour. You're doing quite well out there it looks like these days.

JAY HAAS: Well, it's I would say the last few tournaments out there have been really good. I putted really well. I've been in contention and fortunately managed to finish it off really well. Last week was the highlight of my career, I guess. I wasn't able to win a major on this Tour. I got possibly two more chances. I'm going to try to qualify for the U.S. Open and I'm in the PGA in August. It looked like Brad had me there for a while, like I had him, looked like he had me, back and forth. But that was just a culmination of some really good golf by me and some clutch putting. But this is a tournament that I just love to come to. I've played well here in the past. I love the setup. I love the course. And I thought I'd try to one more time.

Q. You said that the senior PGA is the highlight of your career. As distinguished a career as you've had, is this the best time of all for you these days?

JAY HAAS: Well, I don't know if I thought about it in those terms. I guess I told people on Sunday that I've always said that the highlights of my career have been on the Ryder Cup, playing on those Ryder Cup teams and making those teams before, and being one of those select 12 players to represent the U.S. and all that. But to win a major, I know that people say it's just a Champions Tour major and everything, but it's where I am now and that's I don't feel it's any less of an accomplishment. When you get to a major tournament, it's still that aura, the feeling that the players all have when you're on the driving range, putting green, practice rounds, whatever, that this is a major tournament. And so to do that, to hit some good shots in the last few holes and win that tournament, it is awfully sweet. And I'm not saying it's the greatest time of my career, because sometimes I wish I could go back and trade with my son, Bill, at 24 years old and all that. But it is what it is, so I'm trying to make the best of it.

Q. The idea that Bill is out and you see him on a regular basis?

JAY HAAS: I'm probably as relaxed and as comfortable in my job as I've ever been, just because not that I don't have anything to prove, but to myself I guess it's not a do or die situation every week that I go out. I think at 24, 34, and I'm still trying to establish myself, still trying to make a mark, continue to do that, do that job, and I guess if it ended tomorrow, then I'd still not that I'd be satisfied, but it's been a great run. But right now, like you said, with Jay, Jr. qualifying at Wachovia, that was an unbelievable highlight for the Haas family, and for me, permanently, as any dad could relate to imagine that, going to work with your son in a profession like this. This week Bill is here, yeah, it's a pretty special time for me, for sure.

Q. The victory now, how will you look at the Senior Open, because I've been writing for two or three years that you should have won the Senior Open. Can you do it this year?

JAY HAAS: Hopefully. I've never played Prairie Dunes. Everyone tells me that it's one of the most beautiful places, most fun places to play that we'll experience. I'm really looking forward to that. One of my goals this year was to lead the money list on the Champions Tour and win the Schwab cup points thing. I'm there right now, but there's still a lot of golf to go. Earlier in the year when Loren won three in a row, and he out distanced everyone, I still felt like I was going to have to play really well to catch him, but we hadn't even played a major yet. And we have five. I don't know if we should have five or not, but we do. But those are the PGA, senior PGA, the Senior Open and the senior British are three that I'm definitely pointing toward and would like to have an opportunity to win those.

Q. When you come to the regular events now, and you've been playing 7,100 yard course, now you're a 74,00 yard course, is it a mental hurdle to just bring your game and say it's good enough. Or do you feel I'm out of my league a little bit. Do you feel if I play my best, I'm as good?

JAY HAAS: All of the above. If I play well I can contend. At Wachovia I felt like I could play that course now. It's one of the longest we play, a different set up, tight fairways, and I know the course there a little bit. But on Sunday when it started raining, I felt out of my league, I shot 76, 7, something like that, and felt like I got run over. I wasn't so disappointed, because Bill had a good week there and I played well on Saturday, but it is a mental hurdle, I think, sometimes.

I have to have the mindset that if I do play well I can contend. But the Heritage, before I won in Savannah, I missed the cut and felt out of my league. Every time I play poorly, I guess I do feel that way. But I think I say I have to play perfectly to contend or if I would have a chance to win on the PGA TOUR anymore. And I do, I think. At a place like this, I've had really good luck here before, but people say, well, it doesn't favor the longest of hitters and everything, but golf favors the long hitters, I don't care what course you're on.

Q. Does it matter that much, now you're 52, is it that much different than it was when you were 47. Could you say you're a better golfer than you were when you were 47?

JAY HAAS: I don't know about that. I remember reading when I was 47 that some of the 50 some guys were playing the best golf of their lives. I don't agree with that, because I think when I was playing some of the best golf of my life I could win a tournament out here. And at 47 well, since I was 43, I guess, I have not won younger than that, 41, 40, I have not won a tournament out here. So I disagree it seems like it. I'm hitting the ball longer than I ever have. I think that's what excuse some of the opinions of the senior players, we hit shots that we've maybe never hit before, 290 yard drives. And 30 years ago, a great drive was 260, 265.

And on the Champions Tour, I'm not the longest, but the longest is maybe only 10 or 15 yards longer than me. Out here, the longest is 45 or 50 longer than me. So I don't say I'm playing the best in my life. As I said, I'm probably the most comfortable, feel confident, especially right now.

Q. Actually yesterday Jack was talking about the 2003 Presidents Cup. And he said he thought maybe that that was a little bit of a turning point in Phil's career as opposed to maybe since he's won the majors. You were on that team, did you sense that, as well, or did you understand what he meant?

JAY HAAS: You know what, I think that what I sensed from that Presidents Cup about Phil was what a team player he is, because he never once hung his head, moped. I mean everyone outside of the team was on him. He was a total team player. And he was at the Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills, too. He got some grief there for the equipment change and he and Tiger and all that stuff. I think it probably made him stronger, I don't know. I don't really know Phil's mental outlook and certain things like that. But that's what I sensed there that aside from whether it was good or bad for him or a turning point, I felt that I was amazed at how positive he was and never hanging his head, never moping around and what am I doing and all that stuff. He was it was great, really. He handled himself with tremendous class and professionalism.

Q. When you play out here, let's say 30th, 40th, in that situation, there's a challenge to that and doing better. Do you find when you go to the Champions Tour there's almost this invisibility factor that kicks in, you go from one to the other, and suddenly you're the man?

JAY HAAS: No, I don't feel invisibility by any means. But it is different when I go to the event in the press before the tournament, I'm one of the favorites and things like that. That's different, I've never had that before in my career. I've had to adjust to that. I'm getting more comfortable with that. When I first came out two years ago and played three events, that's really something I wasn't ready for. My first event was the senior at Valhalla, I felt I could have won or should have won. But that was something that was pretty hard to deal with for me, personally. But I've gotten more comfortable with it and gotten more comfortable with the guys, being around the guys, again, and learning the courses a little bit here and there. But it is a little different mindset.

Here I'm I'm just that old guy that occasionally shows up. And out there, I don't know, that's where I belong, but, again, a tournament like this, I hate to miss it. This is probably one of my favorite events, other than a major, this is one I would want to win. But it has been a different mindset. I don't know if I'm answering your question.

Q. You talked a little bit about how special it is to have both of your sons be golfers, as well. What did your own father do to bring you into the game and how did that affect the way you mentored your own boys?

JAY HAAS: I was listening to Fred right when he was ending his time up here, and talking about his dad being a baseball player. My dad played some baseball. My uncle, Bob Goalby got me started in the game, but my dad gave me the opportunity to play. Bob kind of gave me some guidance and clubs and things like that. But my dad just was a working class guy, seven to four every day. He'd come home and we'd either try to go play nine holes in the summers after his work, or play on the weekends, things like that. And I can I could hear him telling the story that my dad thought my uncle Bob was nuts, because it would be cold outside and he'd be hitting balls into some kind of canvas tarp or something draped over some clothes line or something, just so he could practice in the wintertime. And I remember him saying to my mom, "Is your brother okay? Is he sane?" Or something like that.

But my dad taught me about respect and kindness, friendships, how to handle yourself, how to be a gentleman, it doesn't cost a nickel to be nice to people, things like that that I try to instill in my kids and everything, and let your clubs do the talking and things like that. He was a decent player, he probably got to be a six or seven handicap at his best. He died at 55, and I think that's three years from now for me. I can't imagine how young he was. At the time it didn't hit me how much life he had to live yet. But he was my biggest fan and took me to places. It wasn't the country club so much. I did play we were members at a club later on in my career. But he was instrumental in many other things, other than just teaching me how to hold the club.

Q. Talk about The Open qualifying, two parts, is it strange on the one hand to have to go out and qualify for The Open, but on the other hand, it's sort of neat that it is open to everyone?

JAY HAAS: Yes, it is not so strange, I've done it at selected times through my career. I'd love to play. I played in '74, at Winged Foot. And I want to be the only or one of the only guys to have played then and now, 32 years later. It's still, to this day, the hardest golf course I've ever played, by the way, the way it was set up there.

But it's a great thing that it is open, that Michelle can try and anyone can try. I guess to qualify you have to have a certain handicap and all that. But there's always a great story that week, some guy who made it through both stages of qualifying and is living in his car or something like that. I don't know how many more times I'll try. I'm sure Monday afternoon, evening, when I'm finished I'll be saying, "What was I thinking about? Why did I put myself through this again?" But just the thought of being able to play in the national championship is enough for me, I guess, and especially at Winged Foot.

Q. Where are you qualifying?

JAY HAAS: Right here, another reason it made sense to come here for the qualifier I was here for the Ryder Cup, I was exempt from the Ryder Cup team a few years ago.

Q. There's a kid from Ohio State, he's trying to make the Tour?

JAY HAAS: Kevin. His locker is next to mine.

Q. Do you root for a guy like that, can you imagine playing this game and not being able to hear?

JAY HAAS: I definitely root for him. I met him, it's been probably four years ago, at the Chris Schenkel Tournament, their team was down there. I spoke at their dinner, and he came up afterwards. We had a conversation there, through his signer, assistant, how do you say, whatever, and just since then, I've watched him and watched his progress. My son, Jay, Jr. did the first stage of Tour qualifying two years ago and Kevin was there. He just seems to pop up every now and then and we have a conversation. And, yes, definitely pull for him and quite a handicap in golf, as Fred said, the sound of the ball. We talk about, when someone hands us a new ball, what do you think of this, try this one, and the sound of it is a huge key in whether we like it or not. And I think that's a huge part of the feel of a golf ball. So to not have that is would be something difficult to overcome.

But, yes, I root for Kevin every time I see his name, I'm pulling for him.

Q. Is part of the allure also here at the Memorial, is it's 29 now with Jack not playing, you'll be the longest reigning number, and also the cuts?

JAY HAAS: Right. It's kind of neat when I come back in the past to see the stat book that they would put together and give to us every year. And go through there and look at my name and see my successes here. And it's always a good thing to think about it and reflect back on some of the good rounds that I've played here. But I have no intentions of I think Jack has played 31 straight or something like that, I have no intentions of trying to get to that point. I just really love this place. I love the way everybody treats us and everything. I don't have any it certainly doesn't help me hit any shots to be the oldest guy here, the longest running player or anything like that, I just love being here.

Q. You mentioned Winged Foot, what was it like for you there in '74, just how bad was it?

JAY HAAS: Well, I played 72 holes, I made one birdie. The cut was 13 over par. They told us on Saturday morning, I was playing with Johnny Miller, he just shot 63 the year before to win the tournament. And everybody is screaming at him, 63 73 would have been a hell of a score that year. But anyway, we teed off, and they said that they apologized but they had vandals on the first green, the night before, Friday night. There had been a car driven across the green, they had to move the pin a little bit. We got up on the green and searched and searched and could not find tire tracks on the green. That will tell you how hard they were. They were as hard and quick as I'd ever seen. And obviously with two players breaking 290, 7 over to win the tournament and all that, I felt like I was, at the time, 20 years old, I guess. And I felt like that I was way, way far away from being away from the PGA TOUR if that was the kind of courses that I was going to have to play.

Q. What were people's emotions like that week? Were they angry that it was so hard?

JAY HAAS: I don't think so. I don't remember that so much, I just remember I was having the time of my life, it was my first U.S. Open and had my little badge on my belt, and locker room amongst all the other players, to make the cut there, I ended up low amateur that week. There were no complaints from me, personally. But I'm sure there were some guys that were pretty upset by it. But I think what I learned that week and every week since then, is low score wins, no matter if it's 7 over or 27 under, they haven't changed that rule. So it's all relative what the core is, you just have to beat everyone else.

Q. Freddie said that one of the things that appeals to him about going to the Champions Tour is he likes to be in the heat of the battle, being in contention. Can you talk about that? Playing on the regular Tour, all the tumblers have to fall in place, as opposed to the Champions Tour?

JAY HAAS: For me that's exactly right, is I've had a nice career out here. I've contended every so often, but not as much as I have on the Champions Tour so far. And that's fun. I'm getting more comfortable with that. Fred, every time he tees it up, he's one of the favorites out here. And I kind of laughed when he said that Tiger is the odds on favorite. But Fred is definitely someone who, if he's on, throughout his whole career, he had a chance to win the tournament. But when he comes out is Fred 47 6 he needs to be 42, we need another five years before he gets out. But he'll be he'll love it. He will absolutely love it and he'll do great just like he's done out here. But that's something that obviously we all play to get in contention and would love to do that. Out here the field is deeper, you look at any one of these I don't know how many players on the field here 105 most of them have a pretty good opportunity to win here. On the Champions Tour there's 78 and maybe half of them could feel that they could legitimately contend. I don't know, maybe that's does respecting some of the other players there, but I think it's just a fact that 40 years ago maybe it was the same way out here, there weren't that many guys you could feel like were going to have a chance to win that week.

TODD BUDNICK: Thank you very much, Jay.

End of FastScripts.

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