Bill Haas has known Arnold Palmer longer than he can remember. That's not a clichÃ© but the literal truth. Haas was just a kid when his father, veteran PGA TOUR and Champions Tour player Jay Haas, introduced him to the golf legend. The circumstances are blurry, but the significance of the moment remains vivid.
"I knew right away that Mr. Palmer was clearly somebody special," recalled Haas, who has a link to the King, as does his dad, via their shared matriculation from Wake Forest University.
It's too early to talk about winning the 35th edition of the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard, but Haas is excited to be in contention. A second-round six-under-par 66 on the Championship Course lifted Haas into second place. He completed 36 holes in nine-under 135.
When he walked off the course, Haas held the clubhouse lead. When Justin Rose bogeyed the 18th hole, Haas was still in the lead, tied with Rose.
"Just to play well here [is nice]," said Haas, 30, who is playing through a nagging neck injury. "I've always said Mr. Palmer's there when you walk off the 18th green. He's there early when I finished, and he's always saying, â€˜Thanks for coming, and I'm glad you're here.' I'm always saying, â€˜I really would like to play better and see you later.' It just feels nice to do well. No matter what happens this weekend, to shoot two good rounds and hopefully get to speak with him about it would be pretty special."
Haas would have a lot of things to say about a bogey-free round in which he missed just three greens. "It was pretty stress-free, for the most part," he said after beating his personal best at Bay Hill by three shots.
He couldn't say the same about his first round, when he reached six under par only to bogey three of his last six holes for a 69. Haas admitted being annoyed, especially after feeling like he gave away the last two holes by missing the green at 17 and then three-putting the 18th.
But instead of staying mad, the 2011 FedExCup champion vowed to get even.
"Yesterday, I had it really going well... so to leave, basically giving two away, I think, then basically that was my goal today was to try to get those two back and
go from there," said the four-time TOUR winner. "That was kind of my mindset today and then was able to keep it going."