Jay Haas picked the perfect time to catch fire. It happened on the back nine at Glen Oaks Country Club, in the final round of the 2008 Principal Charity Classic.
“It seemed to happen so fast,” said Haas, who was chasing second-round leader Nick Price. “I didn’t have time to get conservative, because I was chasing.”
Haas shot a final-round 6-under-par 65, the lowest round of the tournament, to become the first and only player to successfully defend his Principal Charity Classic title. He also passed Bernhard Langer for the lead in the season money list and the Schwab Cup point standings.
Haas, collecting a winning check for $258,750, also won on back-to-back weeks. He came to town after winning the Senior PGA Championship at Oak Hill in Rochester, N.Y., finishing a shot ahead of Langer.
“A month ago, I had a bunch of good finishes,” Haas said. “All of a sudden, I’ve had a great year.”
Haas finished the 54-hole championship at 10-under-par 203, one shot better than Andy Bean. Price, who had a three-putt bogey on the 18th green, was alone in third at 8 under par. He had started the final round at 6 under, one shot better than five players.
Haas and his fast finish started in unexpected fashion. His tee shot on the par-3 14th hole came to rest on the lower portion of the two-tiered green. The cup was on the upper tier, 48 feet away. He made the putt, which ignited his rally.
“That was the shot that got me over the hump, literally and figuratively,” Haas said.
He followed up that dramatic putt with birdies on the next two holes and posted a score that was unmatched.
Bean had a chance to catch him with a birdie at the par-4 18th, but he drove it in the right rough and ended up holing a downhill 27-footer for par.
“If there’s a good par, that was definitely it,” Bean said. “It was some consolation. But there’s a Jay Haas out there, and he played great.”
Price also had a chance to force a playoff with a closing birdie. But he left his uphill 26-footer four feet short.
“I’m standing there and I’m saying to myself, “I’ve got to give this a go,’ ” Price said. “And I leave it four feet short. I was so embarrassed. Everyone is waiting for you to make this putt and you leave it four feet short. I mean, it’s pitiful.”
Price then missed the four-footer for par, a stroke that cost him more than $27,000.
“I was so cross,” Price said. “Cross that I had left that first putt short. I mean, I was seething. It’s like bursting your bubble. After that, finishing second, third, 10th, it doesn’t matter. That sounds unprofessional, but that’s how I felt.”
The three-putt was Price’s only bogey in a final-round 69. Bean finished the tournament with 17 birdies over 54 holes, more than anyone else in the field. He was also the only player to shoot in the 60s all three rounds.
But Haas was just a little bit better, back-to-back better.
By Rick Brown, Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter