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July 3, 2007

Jay Haas


RAND JERRIS: It's a pleasure to welcome Jay Haas to the interview room this afternoon. Jay is playing in his 4th United States Senior Open this week at Whistling Straits.
I'll actually go back to that point. Hale Irwin was in here and talked about the fact that he thinks you're playing some of the best golf ever in your career. I wonder if you could talk about that from your perspective, how you're feeling about your game as you come here this week.
JAY HAAS: I've had a lot of people ask me that, if I thought this is the best I've ever played, and I will say that I've been pretty consistent and I feel probably as confident as I've ever felt playing in my career. But I guess I'll stop short of saying it's the best golf I've ever played.
I have been very consistent, I will admit that. But I don't know, I guess I don't think so much about it. It's hard to compare eras, and you know, I was able to win tournaments on the PGA TOUR, and so I guess I would have to say that I was playing well then when I won tournaments.
Now, could I go out and win a tournament out there? I don't know if I can. I guess I won't find out. I'm having the time of my life here, and I think I'm done with that.
I guess my goal is to play in a U.S. Open, a PGA, a British Open, a PLAYERS Championship, so to get in those tournaments I'd have to win one of the senior equivalents of those. So that's my goal is to play in those events on the PGA TOUR.
Other than that, I really don't have any plans to go back out there and play. I'm enjoying myself out here, and I don't know. But if Hale says it, I'll believe it. He's the man.
RAND JERRIS: Let's ask you about Whistling Straits. You played four rounds here in the 2004 PGA. Is it the same golf course as a couple years ago?
JAY HAAS: You know, it's pretty much the same. I think the greens may be -- I was surprised how quick and how firm they are. I think it's pretty similar to what we had then. It may have been a little bit drier then. I think the ball seemed to run out just a little bit more. But we got some pretty good wind on Sunday that final round.
It's playing just a little bit shorter, but with the wind, the distance almost doesn't make a difference. If it's into you -- we played No. 17 today 225 or something like that; guys are hitting 3-woods in there. So if the wind is blowing, it almost doesn't matter how long the course is playing. It's really going to be a difficult test.
I know yesterday I did not play and I saw a bunch of guys coming in shaking their heads and saying that this might be the toughest course they've ever seen and ever played and all that. I don't know what the weather is supposed to do, but if we get a steady wind, it's going to be quite a test.

Q. Just two quick questions: A little bit more about the wind, and Hale said there really is no strategy for the wind. If you could just talk about that. And also your opinion of what is the most difficult hole on this course.
JAY HAAS: Well, I guess I'll agree with Hale. You can throw yardages out the window pretty much when you're downwind or into the wind. I had an 85-yard shot on No. 16 and I hit a gap wedge that I can hit maybe 110 and it came up on the front edge of the green, and it's not really blowing all that hard. You almost can't go by yardage; you just have to go by feel and the way it looks and things like that.
Yes, I agree that there's no game plan because it's switched now a couple times. It could blow the opposite way during the tournament. You really just have to play by experience almost, just look at the hole, try to get it in the fairway, try to put it on the green. It makes it very difficult.
I'm sorry, your second question?

Q. The most difficult hole on the golf course?
JAY HAAS: Yeah, I think that's quite a finish, both into the wind, a very difficult shot. I would probably say 18. 18 to me -- 17 requires one really good shot. If you can do that, then you can make a par on it. 18 requires two very good shots.
Once you hit that one good one into the fairway, it's not over by any means. I think 18 is probably without a doubt the most difficult.
So it's a great finish. If I was close to the lead or in the lead, I would want to have about an eight-shot lead, I wouldn't want a one-shot lead there. I guess I would, but it wouldn't be comfortable.

Q. You said you saw some guys coming off the course yesterday shaking their heads, saying it was maybe the toughest course they've ever seen. How does it set up for your game?
JAY HAAS: Well, I've been playing very well, and I'm confident. I'm hitting the ball well. I played well today, but it's Tuesday so it's kind of hard to say.
My strength has been on the greens this year; when I've played well, I've putted well. These greens are very difficult, though. There's a lot of roll, much more than I remembered them. I didn't remember them being as bumpy and undulating as they are.
But I think it sets up okay. I guess I don't think so much about that. I just -- it is what it is. If it didn't set up good for me, I wouldn't tell you because I wouldn't admit it. I'd say, oh, it's just great. I feel if I drive the ball well, get it on the green, I've been putting well, so I would say it sets up good.

Q. You led this tournament last year after a round and then you had a bad second day. What do you take away from that? Is there anything you learned from that?
JAY HAAS: You know, if you hadn't said that, I wouldn't have remembered that I led the first day or had a bad second day. I have taught myself to forget about what's happened in the past. If I hit a bad drive, there's nothing I can do about it. You can get mad or kick something, but I guess I've geared my whole career to turn the page and go on, so I don't really think about what might have been last year. I had to think for a second where we played, Prairie Dunes or whatever. But I couldn't tell you my scores.
I just remember it was -- I couldn't tell you a shot I hit in that 75. I remember it blew a little bit. It was a tough golf course, tough greens to putt, but honestly I know I have not won the Senior U.S. Open. So that's driving me, I guess.

Q. I wonder if you could speak to the popularity of the Senior Tour and why people seem to enjoy the 50-and-over set.
JAY HAAS: Well, I think a lot of the golf fans in America today have grown up with all of these guys, and maybe in the media age of golf on TV now, so much golf is on TV, and you think about Hale Irwin and the U.S. Opens that he's won and Tom Watson and just the multitude of guys who have been on TV and have played well and have been stars on the PGA TOUR, and I think that people can relate to those -- to that group of guys. There's several probably that have played in the PGA just a few years ago, quite a few grew up playing at the Milwaukee Open down the road, Brown Deer and Tuckaway.
So I think people can kind of just graduate with us to this. They see us smiling and having a good time, and there's some great stories of people who haven't had great success on the PGA TOUR having success on the Champions Tour now, things like that. I just think it's -- I won't say the guys have more fun out here. I hear that all the time, that we're a fun-loving group, and we are, but I think there's -- I'm not different than I was on the PGA TOUR, and I don't think the guys are that much different.
It may be a little bit more relaxed atmosphere here. I think the guys are a little bit more established. And the young guys, the 20-somethings, they're trying to get a foothold, make their way on the PGA TOUR, in life, get settled, get comfortable, so maybe they feel like they cannot just laugh off bogeys and things like that.
But just a combination of things that I think a lot of it has to do with just the recognizable things, the names who are out there and the people who have watched for so many years.

Q. I know you said you're really enjoying life right now, but was it a difficult decision to put the PGA TOUR behind you except for those things you talked about?
JAY HAAS: Yeah, it was for quite a while. When I was 50 I only played three events, and I was really trying to make the Ryder Cup team and ended up doing that, and then the following year I guess I played in ten events out here. I still didn't want to jump in with both feet.
I won't say that was a mistake or the right thing to do; it was just the way it was, and I felt like I would know when it was time. I won't say it was one particular incident that made me say, this is it, but I think it's a gradual --
I struggled last year on the PGA TOUR. I played seven events and I made five cuts, so it's a decent percentage. But I never really threatened in any of those events. I never really played well enough to get into the hunt. I think 25th was my best position in the end.
So I guess it just made me realize that I don't want to put in the seven-day-a-week grind like it was for 30 years. Not that I don't work at it now, but generally speaking, we have three-round events, a day extra to kind of rest or whatever.
It was a difficult decision, but I guess it just made it easier that I played well last year, leading money winner, Schwab Cup winner, and that's a goal of mine again this year. And it's given me a little bit of a boost, I guess, trying to create some new goals out here.

Q. If you were to win this tournament here this weekend, where would that compare maybe in your mind to the success you had on the PGA TOUR?
JAY HAAS: Well, obviously it would compare with the Senior PGA that I won last year. We have five majors out here, and I guess along with the Senior PGA, these are the two Opens of the senior events I would assume. It's just special, USGA, U.S. Open, U.S. Senior Open, it would mean a lot.
I've had some great thrills in my career and it's probably not as much score-related things. Playing with my son Bill in the same events, winning the CVS tournament with him, things like that, watching my kids enjoy golf, things like that. That to me is greater than any trophy I could win.
But on a personal success ratio, I would say that this would rank, you know, in the top three or four events in my career.

Q. Hale mentioned how your making the Ryder Cup team and leading up to that, that's where he saw the huge improvement in your game. Can you just address that and the carryover effect that that's had for you?
JAY HAAS: I guess I never really gave it a thought late in my career because the year 2000 was my worst year on Tour. I was 46 getting ready to turn 47, and I thought, well, this is it, I guess. This is the way I'm going to play now. But I was really frustrated with that year that I had and felt like I didn't want to go out on that note. I felt like I was better than that.
And I said, well, give it one last push here and see what you can do, work at it a little bit harder, and I did. I saw some success there, and about that time I made an adjustment in my putting and that seemed to click for me.
With the advent of the golf ball going so much farther now, I think it's easier for the older guys to hang in there a little bit. Obviously I can't afford to give up on a steady diet 20, 25, 30 yards to all those guys on the PGA TOUR. Certain courses I think guys out here can't compete on the PGA TOUR.
But along with just a few things, trying to get fired up for the Champions Tour, that kept my motivated, and I just saw some success early in that little push. 2003 almost won at the Bob Hope; 2004, now I'm starting to try to make the Ryder Cup team, and I really put a lot into that.
I think after that happened, I had a little bit of a letdown. I didn't play as well out here on the Champions Tour or on the PGA TOUR after I made that team. It seems like I put everything toward that, and after that it was just kind of -- the wind went out of my sails.

Q. (Inaudible.)
JAY HAAS: You know, probably in the mid-2001 when I made this adjustment in my putting and saw some results in that, and I was starting to get more consistent again, right in the middle of 2001. I had some good solid finishes, a bunch of top 20 finishes and top 10s, and then early in 2002 I played well -- probably 2002 is when I almost won the Bob Hope.
But I just think it was a steady improvement, but in 2001, it seems like just a couple years ago but it's six years ago, I just saw a steady -- I saw a light at the end of the tunnel, I guess. My putting improved, physically I got a little bit better, my swing got better, and my passion came back, returned, I guess, motivation, all those intangibles that you can't measure.

Q. It wasn't that long ago that the Champions Tour was dreaming up everything it could to get people to come back out to events. You're kind of foremost amongst a group of players who are here now or about to come that are kind of bringing a new visibility. As your 50th birthday was approaching did you have much doubt that you'd play out here full-time some day?
JAY HAAS: I honestly did not doubt that I would play out here. You know, I hear some of the younger guys -- you think, well, why would Phil Mickelson play on this Tour? Why would these guys that have made $25, $30 million in their career, why would they want to come play? They want to play because it's golf, it's competition, it's what they do.
I can remember stories of Jack Nicklaus saying that he wouldn't play past 36 or 37 years old. Well, he won The Masters at 46 and still played some Champions Tour golf into his 50s. He didn't play a lot but he still wanted to play because he wanted to compete. He wanted that feeling going up the 18th hole, winning the tournament, the crowd cheering. That's what drives a lot of these guys out here, I think.
You know, a lot of great champions that have won a heck of a lot of money in their careers are still trying to do it out here. You know, what motivates Hale Irwin, 62 years old? He doesn't need the money by any means, but his competitive nature I don't think allows him to just go through the motions or go sit at home. It's our job, it's what we do, and I feel -- I can't imagine what some of the younger guys in their 30s -- it'll be here before they know it. What would they do when they're 50 or 55 years old? You can't just go home and sit on the porch all day long.

Q. (Inaudible.)
JAY HAAS: Yeah, it's all relative. You think about the money that Jack Nicklaus won in his career, why would you play for the money? Well, his career money on the PGA TOUR list, I don't know, he's probably not in the top 100 anymore. So back when he was in his prime, people would say, well, why would he play for the money?
So maybe when Tiger is 50, somebody will be making $50 million a year instead of $10 million a year. Why would they play? I don't know, it's just a cycle that remains to be seen obviously. Everybody is a little bit different.
RAND JERRIS: Thanks very much for your time today.

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