Bill Haas might have to leave Northern Trust Open in a hurry — for baby

Bill Haas, a favorite at Riviera, will have to leave Northern Trust Open if his wife goes into labor

The best chance to beat Bill Haas at the Northern Trust Open this week may be to get him away from the course.

The 2012 tournament champion will be one of the favorites at Riviera Country Club this week unless his cellphone beeps between now and Sunday.

Haas' wife is expecting a baby soon — how soon may affect the roll-out of the event.

Haas isn't sweating it. The baby isn't due until a week from Friday. "I certainly showed up here thinking I could compete," he said Tuesday.

Haas is in a heavyweight, 12:02 p.m. Thursday grouping with defending champion Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson.

"I'll have my phone and probably be checking it every couple of holes," Haas said.

He said his wife encouraged him to play this week and told him to focus 100% on the tournament. She also provided him with some instructions.

"She said, 'Don't unpack your suitcase,'" Haas joked. "'Just keep it packed up ready to go just in case.' Yeah, I'll certainly make the family decision if I have to."

Steady hand

It's hard to believe Sergio Garcia is 35 and that it's been 16 years since the Spaniard known as "El Nino" burst onto the tour in 1999.

That was the year he finished second to Tiger Woods at the PGA Championship at Medinah Country Club.

Garcia, who makes his 2015 U.S. swing debut at Riviera this week, didn't have the career many people predicted. However, Garcia's staying power can't be denied.

Is it possible Sergio is ready for a late-career surge?

While the transcendent careers of Woods and Phil Mickelson seem to be fading, Garcia's game has been rock steady. He enters this week's tournament ranked No. 7 in the latest Official World Golf Ranking.

Garcia is making his ninth appearance at Riviera. He finished fourth behind Haas in 2012. And while he is still seeking his first major tournament victory, he finished second twice in the British Open and PGA championship, and has 19 top-10 finishes in the four majors.

He owns 27 professional wins (worldwide) to his credit and has played on seven Ryder Cup teams.

"I'm obviously very happy with the career I had," Garcia said. "We could sit here and talk about things that could have gone better and obviously things that could have gone worse."

Garcia said he thinks he's made a significant contribution to golf, but in the end no player is bigger than the game.

"At some point there will be no Tiger," Garcia said. "There will be no Mickelson. There will be no Sergio Garcia. There will be no Rory McIlroy, but more people will come out. At the end of the day, the game will still be there."

Future forecast

Wake Forest freshman Will Zalatoris won a sponsor's exemption into this week's field by winning Monday's inaugural Northern Trust Open Collegiate Showcase.

The event featured 14 collegiate golfers playing alongside PGA pros from their respective schools.

Zalatoris, 18, played with former Wake Forest player Haas. Zalatoris, the reigning U.S. Junior champion, shot a four-under 67.

He said it was the first time he had played Riviera. He earned an 8:35 a.m. Thursday tee time with Alex Prugh and Carlos Sainz Jr.

Zalatoris will make his PGA debut on the hallowed No.1, a downhill par-five next to Riviera's historic clubhouse.

Zalatoris said he doesn't think he'll be nervous.

"I know a lot of guys talk about that first tee shot," he said. "But if anything, this is what I've been working toward. I've already hit that first tee shot in my mind a thousand times."

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