Bill Haas enjoys a special link to host of Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard
Bill Haas doesn't remember quite the details of where and when his father, Jay, introduced him to Arnold Palmer, but he certainly remembers that it was an occasion worth savoring.
"I met him when I was pretty young, and I remember thinking as I was meeting him that this guy is different than my dad," said Haas, whose father, Jay, was a nine-time winner on the PGA TOUR and now competes on the Champions Tour. "You know, they were both pro golfers and very good, but Arnold was clearly in another frame of reference, another category. And it was neat."
Haas, who like his father shares a special link with Palmer as a product of Wake Forest University, would enjoy getting reacquainted with the King. He could do that by winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard. Haas, 29, said he intends to be back for the 34th edition of Palmer's tournament scheduled for March 19-25 at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge. "I haven't missed it yet," said Haas, who has competed at Bay Hill four previous times (2008-11), with a tie for 17th in 2010 his best showing. "It's a tough one to skip. There's Arnold, of course, but then what he's done to the golf course, the changes that were made are real good."
Haas' father competed in the first edition of the tournament at Bay Hill in 1979, finishing tied for sixth (three years before Bill was born). The elder Haas competed 23 times but posted only one other top-10 finish, in 1995 when he tied for fifth.
Bill is coming off a career year that included seven top-10 finishes and a victory in the season-ending TOUR Championship. It just so happens that his playoff win over Hunter Mahan also gave him the FedExCup title and a $10 million bonus.
On the way to his huge payday - $11.44 million total including the first-place check - Haas hit one of the most celebrated shots of the year, chipping out of the edge of a water hazard on the par-4 17th hole, the second playoff hole. Haas tried what he called "an all-or-nothing shot," managed to blast the ball out to within three feet of the hole and save par to extend the playoff. He won on the following hole, the par-3 18th, by getting up and down again for a par.
"I like looking back on it, and I've tried to learn from it, obviously the recovery shot, but I try to take it all into the learning process," Haas said. "I didn't learn that I can hit out of the water every playoff... I got fortunate to get it up-and-down, but you know, I learned that next time if I'm in that position, what am I going to do differently and hopefully I'll get to draw on that experience."
Haas said that getting back to the TOUR Championship is among his top goals for the year. He happened to win the only event on the schedule where you are not guaranteed a return to defend the title. "That is a goal. Start of the year, the goal is to be consistent and try to get back to THE TOUR Championship to give myself that chance to defend," he said.
Winning at Bay Hill, a course he likes, would go a long way towards not only returning to the FedExCup finale but perhaps also winning the playoff title again. He's off to a great start with his playoff win over Phil Mickelson and reigning PGA champion Keegan Bradley in the Northern Trust Open, his third career PGA TOUR title and second in a row via playoff. Accepting a trophy from Arnold Palmer also would represent a significant victory given the connection the Haas family has with the tournament host.
"There's a reason the tournament is an invitational. It's special, and to be there is special," Haas says. "You see whose name is on the tournament and then you look at the names who have won the tournament, it's a list that you can really identify with as far as some big names that have won, and you wouldn't mind joining that group."
For tickets to the 2012 Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard or for more information, visit the tournament website, www.arnoldpalmerinvitational.com, or call the Bay Hill Club ticket office at 407-876-7774 or toll free at 1-866-764-4843. Tournament proceeds benefit Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies.