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June 2, 2004

Jay Haas


TODD BUDNICK: Welcome, Jay Haas, to the 2004 Memorial tournament. Coming off your first appearance on the Champions Tour and you were runner-up last week. Let's start talking a little bit about your first tournament out there.

JAY HAAS: It was quite a bit different than the regular Tour, I guess, just seeing the people that I haven't seen in a long time, competing against them. Being the so-called favorite or one of the favorites is a little disconcerting early in the week. I was picked to do well, and that put a little extra pressure on me, but as it turned out, it was a wonderful week for me. Obviously I would have loved to have taken home the top prize but got beat by their best player by far in many years. You know, I played very well.

I think that there are a number of players out there who are very capable of doing exactly what I've been doing out here on the regular Tour. I don't think it's any shame to have not gone out there or to have gone out there and not won, but overall it was a great week for me. I couldn't have asked for much more other than having my name on the trophy.

Q. You've got big things in store this year. You played very well last year, hoping to continue that this year. You're looking for a spot in the Ryder Cup this year. Talk about that.

JAY HAAS: Since the early part of the year I've said that's been my goal, is to try to qualify for that team. I've been lurking from 8 to 12 most of the year, and right now on the outside looking in and obviously would like to qualify in the Top 10 and not have to rely on being a pick. You know, I'm going to play enough events on the regular Tour. I'm going to play the three majors between now and the time the team is picked. I feel if I play well enough -- I'm going to play four events on the regular Tour, and if I play well enough, I'll make the team, and if I don't, I won't. I won't say that I'm obsessed with making the team, I'd sure love to do it, but I'm not so obsessed with it that it's consuming me or anything, but I'm definitely driven by the fact that if I work hard at it, I've got a chance to do it.

It's not so much being 50 saying that I would be one of the oldest players on the team or anything like that, that's not what it's about for me. It's just about making the team.

Q. How hard is it for this weekend, Jay, playing here while your son is competing in the NCAA?

JAY HAAS: Yeah, that was definitely a decision for me. It's Bill's last event as a college player. He was voted Player of the Year a few weeks ago, Ben Hogan Award, and he's had an outstanding year and career and everything, so to miss his last event, that was a tough decision. But I've had good luck here in the past, and I think had I not played here and gone there to watch him, I think it maybe would have put extra pressure on him. And knowing that I'm skipping one of my favorite events, he might feel bad about that or something like that.

I just felt like I needed to do the same as I've always done and let him do his thing, and we'll play in tournaments together and I'll watch him play for a long time in the future. But it is difficult. I was on the computer last night looking at his score, and this morning I see he's 1-under through 6, so he's making a little move. That would cap off a great career for him and I'd love to see him get that one.

Q. Could you talk a little bit more about the Ryder Cup, what makes it so special, and did you talk to Hal at all this weekend?

JAY HAAS: I did. I talked to Hal on the range the other day. No specifics other than just, hey, how are you doing. He was just talking about how much time he's spending on it, and I think it's a little bit of a surprise to him. I know a few years ago when Curtis was the captain and we played practice rounds together, I just talked to him and he said every day he was answering emails, phone calls, a lot more to it than just being the captain and showing up and putting teams together. Hal was mentioning that fact, that he's been very busy and he really hasn't had time to concentrate on his game. When he's played, he's played pretty well, we were talking about that, but no specifics on the team or players or anything like that.

I guess the fact that to be on a team consisting of 12 players from this Tour, from the United States, to be in that elite group is something that's very special to me. I've done it twice, and to just be in that room and listen to those players and to watch them play and realize that I'm one of them is something that I really look forward to and strive to achieve. I don't think anyone would wish on the intensity or the pressure that you face. And if you're not playing well during that week, it can be an unbelievable trying experience, that's for sure, and I've done both. I've played well and I've played poorly, so I don't know that any of us want to go there and fall on our faces, and there's always that risk.

I guess when everything is said and done, just the fact that you're on that team, you've accomplished that goal, is pretty -- a feather in our caps, I guess.

Q. Is there any more pressure on a captain's pick in the Ryder Cup?

JAY HAAS: You know, I was a captain's choice at the Presidents Cup, and none of the guys made me feel that way, none of them had any comments of -- I was just a member of the team. I don't know, I was not a pick on the two Ryder Cup teams, so I don't know if it's any different in that situation, but I didn't feel -- once I got there, I didn't feel any extra pressure. I don't know how I could feel any extra pressure, just the fact that you're playing for the country and all that. I think all that is self-inflicted.

If I was a pick, say I went there knowing I was a pick, I'm going to try to just -- I'm a member of the team. That's the way I think any of the two guys that get picked should look at it. They're not any more or less than any of the 1 through 10.

Q. You played exceptionally well the last year and a half. Does it get frustrating still that you've come so close to winning on a number of occasions but haven't been able to win one?

JAY HAAS: In a way it does, but I look at it positive, that I've played well and I've been in contention, and I've been on the other side of it where I haven't played well for a long period of time and been frustrated. I'm much more frustrated when I'm playing poorly than when I'm playing well and not getting the top prize.

I see some of the guys winning, some of the older guys who have won, and they all claim that I'm their spur, that it's because of what I've done. It's kind of a backhanded compliment, I guess. They're saying if he can do it, I can do it (laughter). I'm just very appreciative and blessed to be able to do it this long and play as well as I have at this stage of my career. I guess I'm looking at it as a positive and not really as frustration.

Q. In Louisville you talked about how much better your short game is in the last few years. Maybe that's one of the big reasons why you've improved. How did that come about? What did you do? Did you sit back and say this is what I need to work on?

JAY HAAS: I think so. Maybe five or six years ago I started watching a little Champions Tour golf on TV. The guys who win tournaments, PGA, Nationwide, LPGA, Senior PGA, that make putts, the hole is still four and a half inches round, I don't care if the greens are running 8 or 12, you still have to score. I felt my game was lacking. I felt I was a good putter, not a great putter. I wasn't consistent. When it mattered I couldn't handle the pressure, and I felt like I needed to make a change. And then I guess it's been about three years ago that I started working with Stan Utley and just kind of made the change.

We make changes all the time. Sometimes they're for the better, sometimes you throw them out after a few weeks, and this thing just seemed to click with me, it just seemed to work, and I think by putting better, I've relaxed the rest of my game. There's not so much pressure on my long game now. If I don't hit 15 greens a round, then I can still manage to score and stay in the tournament, whereas a few years ago, and even in my best years on the Money List, I don't think I was as good a putter or chipper as I am now.

You know, I hate to keep talking about that because I feel like I'm going to jinx myself, but I've been a much more consistently good putter for the last couple of years and I think it's worked its way back all the way to the tee.

Q. What were the effects of, say, advances in equipment?

JAY HAAS: I think without question you can't overlook equipment. We were talking about it on the tee yesterday. In fact, that was one thing that Hal and I were talking about, that we were steel and wood for so long, and my longest average off the tee in any one year was probably 255 with the steel 43-inch driver, and now I'm 40-something at 276 or something like that. That has allowed us, the older player, the shorter hitter, to not be overwhelmed by the length out here.

For me, I'm hitting shorter clubs into greens than I've ever hit before, so that makes me think that I'm better than I really am. Hal said that he talked to Jack, and he said that he's hitting it longer than he ever has and he's in his 60s, and he was the longest hitter of his time.

So that I think has allowed us to remain competitive. I look back, I started here 25-plus year ago, and hitting driver, 5-iron into 18, and I hit a 3-wood and 8-iron. Now, the wind was helping a little bit, but I would have never considered that 20-plus years ago.

Q. There's been a lot of talk about Tiger and Butch the last few months, and I'm just curious, what's your thought about the importance of a teacher for you at the highest level and if your thoughts about that have changed or evolved during your career.

JAY HAAS: It's probably changed a little bit. I think that -- I was started in golf by my uncle, Bob Goalby. He's obviously a generation behind where I was, and there was no videotape then. He'd maybe see a swing on film once a year, if that. You just had to work things out yourselves. I'm a little more old-school where I don't necessarily -- I play more by feel than by mechanics. That's just me personally.

Over the years I think it's important -- I have Butch's brother Billy as my teacher, but I haven't seen Billy to work on my game since TPC. He caddied for me there and we worked a little bit there, but I suppose I'm a believer that when you get on the 18th tee and you have a one-shot lead and you're tied or whatever, your teacher can't hit your shot, and I think you have to believe in what you're doing. That's not to say that teachers can't help you, but I believe ultimately we have to pull the trigger, we have to believe in what we're doing.

I go back to talking about Jack. You know, he had Jack Grout as his teacher and I don't think I've ever seen the man. I played quite a bit with Jack in the later part of his career, and I never saw that guy on the practice tee checking his position out or whatever. Jack did his work at home and then came to the course and came to the tournament and obviously was the best player.

I guess I'm a little more of that school, and the teacher I think is important, but who's Vijay's teacher? I don't know. I think the guy that's spending the most time on the practice tee and figures it out himself is the guy.

Q. Do you think this generation of players relies too much on teachers?

JAY HAAS: I won't say that. I won't make that generalization, but I think that we've become maybe a little too dependent on videotape and theories and technology and all that instead of more flying by the seat of our pants. I think the best young players that I see now are kind of guys that I won't say grip it and rip it, but they're not -- their swings aren't marred by too much thought, and you look at Chad Campbell, who's been playing as one of our best players and was touted several years ago as one of the up and coming players, and he doesn't look like he has any guide at all in his swing. He just grabs it, looks at it and goes, and I think that to me is the mark of a real great player.

Q. We were getting close to U.S. Open here, which is slow rounds and slow practice rounds and all that, and Steve Flesch and the other people were talking this week about how play is so slow and it's not really being enforced and that it's particularly frustrating to him, he's a very fast player. Do they play in the faster on the Champions Tour?

JAY HAAS: They did, actually. I think we were wanting to get back to the gaming tables or something (laughter). I was a little surprised. We played lift, clean and place and that usually slows things down a little bit, but we were four and a half hours, and that was walking, too. I just don't think the guys like to hang around long or something. They've got other things to do. I don't know what it is, but that's a comment -- I played with Fuzzy, and Stads is a fast player, and he said, "You'll find that the guys play a little faster on the Champions Tour." I don't know if there's any specific reason for that.

A practice round for me, I very rarely hit two balls off of the tee, maybe if I'm thinking it's a driver shot or a 3-wood shot I'll experiment in that case, but if I hit a poor drive, generally I won't hit another ball. Chipping and putting on the greens, I just don't think you can learn that much in one or two days of every single break on the green. If you're working on your stroke, you do that on the putting green. I know when you go to Shinnecock that will be a five-hour round. Usually I try to play by 7:00 or 7:30 to get ahead of everyone and get done because it is frustrating for a player that's quick.

Q. How about just a typical PGA tournament round? Is it not being enforced?

JAY HAAS: I won't say that. That's been a hot topic for my 27 years out here. Every now and then it'll flare up and some guys get frustrated. But there's time pars and all that, I don't know all the rules, but it starts to back up on certain courses and it's worse than others. Certain courses it takes five hours to play and you never wait a shot, and other times it takes 4:40 and you wait every shot.

Certain courses have a better flow than other courses. This course I think there's very few times where you really have to wait. No. 15, guys going for the green there in certain conditions, but other than that, this course seems to have a good flow to it. I don't think it's any worse than it's ever been. Sometimes the fast players that are playing well, you hear it from him. Steve is obviously playing very well right now, but most of the guys I think are quick, there's just a few that start backing it up and that's just part of it.

Q. Jack said yesterday that he doesn't think this place necessarily favors the long hitters because everybody is long now, like people are talking about. There were a lot of years that you played well. I wondered if it was always dry and fast, and do you think your chances would be better this week if this place had a little run to it?

JAY HAAS: During my career -- I don't know why this course has suited me. I like the look of every hole. I get up on the tee and I feel like I'm going to hit a good shot. The years that I played well I don't think it's any faster than others. I think there's only been two or three years where the ball has really run. Keith Fergus I think one year when the greens were blue, and maybe Jim Simons' year.

To tell you the truth, I think every course is a long hitters' golf course. I laugh when I hear people say this course is made for a long hitter. You talk about Harbor Town, well, if you're a long hitter you hit a 1-iron or 2-iron off the tee as far as I hit my 3-wood or driver, so I disagree with the fact that certain courses are better suited for long hitters. I think every course is made for that.

Now, that being said, I don't ever come to a course and look at it and say I've got no chance this week because of this, that or the other. I just think that if I play well, I can compete, and I've played well on long, soft golf courses, I played well on short, fast ones.

At Bethpage, I think that's the longest course in U.S. Open history and I finished top 15 there. I didn't think I was overmatched. If I played well, I thought I could do it. I've never gone into a week thinking that the course is better or worse for me. If I play well, I think I can finish in the top.

Q. Theoretically, though, at the end of the week, would the Top 10 on the leaderboard be the same if it plays the way it's going to play versus if it played faster?

JAY HAAS: Well, you would think -- a prime example, I would think, is Augusta National last year when Mike Weir won; wet, long, probably playing as long as any golf course we've ever played, and you looked at the Top 10 there and it was about five and five of guys who you would say are long to medium hitters and then the ultra long hitters.

In theory, you would think that, but I think Jack is correct in saying that this course -- everybody does hit it pretty long now. I don't think any hole is so long that the medium hitter can't play it. You've got the fifth hole, the par 5 that's maybe out of reach for me, but I think I'm going to make just as many 4s laying up as the guys who are going to make 6s and 7s going for the green, so there's a little give and take there. Most of the 5s here, other than 15, are borderline for the guys to go for it, even the longest hitters, and I just feel like if I play my game, it's not that big of a factor.

All that being said, I would love to be 20 yards longer, and I don't think anyone wouldn't. But I don't think that anyone should consider themselves an underdog here just because they're not a long hitter.

Q. On that same topic, it's the first time the Open has gone back to Shinnecock since the real boom in technology. Do you suppose par will still be as special as it was the last two times?

JAY HAAS: I think a lot of it depends on the weather there. When Raymond won in 86, the weather was miserable the first couple of days. I think I shot 162 or something, missed the cut, and it just overwhelmed me.

The last time the weather was just normal, I think, and a little bit of wind, a pretty steady breeze. I think a lot of it depends on that. You're right, though, we won't know I don't think until we get there to see how far the ball goes now on this golf course. I don't remember it being an unbelievably long golf course, but I think the wind will dictate exactly what the winning score is going to be, because I think if you look at the first hole, I think I hit driver on the first hole, but now I see guys hitting irons off the tee there, putting them in the fairway. No. 2, I think I might have hit a wood in there, a long par 3 up the hill, and I would guess some guys will be hitting a 5-iron in there. That could make it a little more receptive and a little more susceptible to low scores, but if it blows, I don't think you have to worry about par being shattered.

Q. Did you like that course?

JAY HAAS: I did. It's a course you talk about people who have got a chance. You look at the two winners, Raymond and Corey, both beautiful shot-makers. I think it just allows anyone to be competitive there, to control the ball, not necessarily the longest hitter or the strongest guy or anything. It brings in all facets of the game. I think that's the mark of a great golf course.

Q. You played well in tournaments where the winning score has been single digits, and of course like at the Bob Hope last year. Which one do you prefer? Would you rather it be tougher with the single digits?

JAY HAAS: I guess I've been out here long enough that I've done well in both conditions, in both situations, and I've played poorly in both of those situations, so I don't really have a preference. Again, I think it goes back to how I'm playing that week. At Shinnecock, the first time I played awful. Last time when Corey won, I think I finished 6th or 7th, something like that, so I don't know how to answer that, other than if I'm playing well I don't think it should matter.

Q. Do you have a favorite memory from the U.S. Open, either something that you did during a round or one that you saw?

JAY HAAS: I don't know if it's a favorite memory, but I guess my first U.S. Open was the 74 massacre as Winged Foot, as they called it. I was an amateur, and I played 72 holes there and I made one birdie. It's funny, my caddie, Billy, who caddied for me for a long time, Billy Harmon, he says he knows what hole I birdied because he saw it. He was there, his dad was the pro at the time, and I birdied the 16th hole, one of the hardest holes on the golf course at that time, a converted par 5.

I think that week, to this day, I still think it's the hardest golf course I've ever played, and I think a lot of players that played in that event would agree, 7-over winning the tournament. I played with Johnny Miller in the third round there, and I think we were both about 11-over, and I think the cut was 13-over. We got on the first tee and one of the USGA officials said that overnight they'd had vandals who had driven a car across the first green, and they apologized, moved the pin, whatever. We got up there and we walked around the entire green and you could not see tire tracks. That's how firm they were. Again, it was the hardest course I've ever seen, and that's my vision. Every Open course from there, they say how tough it is, but there's none any tougher than that one.

Q. We were talking earlier about slow play. If there was one thing on Tour you could change, would it be the pace-of-play situation or something else?

JAY HAAS: Not really. I guess I'd have to think long and hard about what to change out here because I'm very content with the way things go around here. I have a hard time believing that people complain about anything. You know, we show up here, we get a new car, food in the locker room, great range, wonderful golf course, and people love us. I don't know, we're playing for tons of money.

Q. Sounds pretty good.

JAY HAAS: Yeah, I don't know. I'd have to -- you could bring up a point, and I'd say, Well, yeah, but....

A few years ago we were talking about -- the hot issue was being paid every week no matter if you missed the cut, and that's kind of died away now. In the spirit of the game, I don't think that's something that we should do. We earn our living I guess week to week, and what have you done for me this week doesn't matter. I guess to me, I won't say it's an absolutely perfect world, but off the top of my head, I wouldn't change a thing.

Q. Do you feel like you have an edge on the field because you have experience dealing with the cicadas?

JAY HAAS: There's probably not many guys that were here 17 years ago. Somebody asked me what's the sound like and I had to think, because after a while I don't even notice it anymore. One flew toward my ear yesterday when I was putting. That could be a factor.

On the 18th hole there are some trees right behind the tee and they were flying around quite a bit back there. I saw Vijay yesterday and he was on 3 and I was on 5, and he started laughing. He let go of the club because one hit him in the face on his down swing. He hit a 6-iron and he hit it fat, but the sound -- I grew up in the Midwest and we have them in the summertime a lot, not this loud, but it doesn't bother me.

Q. Do you have any more senior events on your schedule?

JAY HAAS: I'm entered in the British Senior Open. I'm not sure if I'm going to play. It's in the middle of a seven-week stretch when I'm finishing up the Ryder Cup, so I may not play there. The U.S. Senior Open I will play in the following week at Belle Rive. I'm definitely going to play there, but right now I'm iffy on the British.

Q. If your schedule is clear, maybe after the Ryder Cup?

JAY HAAS: Yeah, I'll probably play some events. There's one in Hickory, North Carolina, that's not too far from me, and one in Raleigh and things like that. So yeah, at the end of the year, if everything is wrapped up -- I enjoyed it. I enjoyed playing out there.

Q. Kyle, I think, is on your bag for the second straight year.

JAY HAAS: No, he is not here. He was going to, and this is the week of the NCAA. It just wasn't going to work out. He didn't qualify, but he's trying to qualify Monday for the Open, and I just felt like if he wants to do that, he needs to -- he can't be looping here all week.

Q. He did caddie for you last year?

JAY HAAS: Yes, and we had a fun time.

Q. You talked about seeing your son or not. Did you ask his opinion or did you just --

JAY HAAS: You know, I didn't really. I guess I took it on myself to not -- he would say, "Oh, yeah, come." Or he would have said, "No, you need to play." I think he would have left it up to me, so I just made that decision on my own.

Q. Do you almost prepare like somebody in the gallery is going to get attacked on your back swing or something like that?

JAY HAAS: I guess the people around here deal with it. I didn't see too many ladies or anybody running waving at their ears or hair or anything. After a while they're landing on you and everything, you reach over and pick them off and it's not that big a deal. I guess I was thinking mostly about the foreign players. I don't know if they have them all over the world, but I'm sure Padraig -- I don't know if you talked to him about it, I'm sure it's something new to him. I just think about going to Australia or Japan or China and some kind of bug flying around and not knowing if it's going to bite you or sting you, so it could be disconcerting.

Q. When they mentioned Bill, there have been father-son NCAA medalists?

JAY HAAS: I don't know that. I don't think so.

Q. Then I'm going to have to find out.


Q. Back to technology just for a minute, Jack talked yesterday about the need to do something about the golf ball, guys are just hitting it too far. Do you agree with that? It strikes me that if the short game and putting are really what it's all about, does the golf ball really matter?

JAY HAAS: I don't think necessarily we need to reduce what we have now. I know he's talked about that. I don't know that the courses are becoming obsolete. I certainly don't think this course is overmatched by the players. I don't think it's out of date, by any means.

If you look at the scoring, the Tour scoring average for the last 15 years, it's relatively flat. It has not gone down two shots on the average. There's a lot of guys averaging lower maybe, but overall, the scoring average is basically flat.

I don't know that the guys who think we should reduce the distance of a golf ball, I don't know if that's the answer. You look at a course like Torrey Pines, they've added yardage there and some of the younger players are up in arms because they have to hit more than 7-iron into a par 4 now, and that's kind of like -- driver, 5-iron to 18 here used to be -- the younger guys aren't used to doing that, but I don't think that it's that port to throttle back right now. I think where we are, I think the USGA is taking steps now to -- they've altered their testing, from what I read. They're using a metal club instead of a wooden-headed club and gone to 120-miles-per-hour swing speed as opposed to 109-miles-per-hour swing speed. Now they're being more current with what the top players do, and I think that will limit from now on -- I think we've seen probably close to a peak, and that's what the manufacturers say. I don't agree that we need to back it down.

Q. One last thing on your son. Earlier in the year we talked to some of the players, Davis specifically, he said just going out there playing with his young son just rejuvenated his game and his thoughts about practice. What have your sons done for your play over the years?

JAY HAAS: Some people have said I want to remain the best player in my family for a long time, and I don't think that's a big part of it, but I think the fact that they enjoy playing. And when I was home, instead of not playing or just practicing occasionally, they'd say or I'd say, let's go play, and we'd play and I'd stay in better golfing shape with them being more interested in the game.

To see them play and enjoy the game and do well at it, as I've said several times, even four or five years ago, they've already exceeded my expectations and what they can do in the game. I know how difficult it is, I know how committed you have to be to it, and for them to have accomplished what they've accomplished already, I'm ecstatic that they've done that.

So to watch them play is one of my greatest joys in life right now.

TODD BUDNICK: Thank you for coming in.

End of FastScripts.

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