Last chance? No, but in the neighborhood.
Jay Haas came to the Principal Charity Classic in 2012 knowing that the window of opportunity was starting to close on his PGA TOUR Champions career.
“My successes have been fewer as I’ve gotten older, but I still feel like I’m capable,” Haas said after a second-round 65 at Glen Oaks gave him a three-shot lead heading into the final round.
It would have been a four-shot lead had former Masters champion Larry Mize not holed a 5-iron from 177 yards for an eagle-2 on the 18th hole.
“I would have been tickled to death with a three, much less a two,” Mize said.
That shot turned out to be no factor in the final result, because Haas was more than capable. He shot a final-round 66 and collected his third Principal Charity Classic title after tying the tournament record of 16 under par established by Gil Morgan in 2006.
“The older I get, I realize this isn’t going to go on forever,” Haas said. “I realize the window of opportunity is closing quickly. I don’t know if I put more pressure on myself because of it. But victories are sweet, and this one tastes pretty good.”
This was the 16th of Haas’ 17 PGA TOUR Champions career victories.
Haas also set a Principal Charity Classic record with his five-shot margin of victory. That erased Nick Price, who won by four shots in 2010, from the record book.
Both Mize and Tom Lehman, who started the final round four shots back, made it easy for Haas to protect his lead during the final round. Mize parred his first seven holes of the final round. Lehman parred his first eight.
Mize provided the only hint of drama when he birdied three straight holes, starting at No 8, to close within two shots. But Haas birdied the 11th hole and coasted to victory.
Even a tournament-record 62 by Kirk Triplett didn’t rattle the eventual winner. Triplett had started the final round in an 11-way tie for 22nd, nine shots back of Haas. He did end up in a tie for second with Mize at 11 under.
“Every time I made a mistake, I came up with a par or a birdie,” Triplett said. “All of a sudden it felt like if I could get a couple more I’d shake those leaders up.”
Triplett’s Sunday heroics led to a $140,000 check, but didn’t make Haas blink.
Lehman shot 68 and tied with Fred Funk for fourth, six shots back.
“I didn’t put any pressure on (Haas) at all,” Lehman said. “It was very frustrating. But Jay played great. He would have been tough to beat.”
With victory pretty much a forgone conclusion, Haas put an exclamation point on his day with three straight birdies, starting at the par-3 14th hole where his tee shot landed a foot from the cup and he coaxed home a 12-foot birdie putt.
“Probably the best shot I’ve hit in weeks, months,” Lehman said.
When it was over, Haas signed his scorecard and collected his third Principal Charity Classic trophy.
“I probably played as well as I have in a long time,” Haas said. “It was a special round.”
By Rick Brown, Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter