With No Challengers, Haas Takes the Hope

Times Staff Writer

The ball stopped 12 feet short of the cup on the 18th hole Sunday, and two things were evident to Jay Haas.

If only he could two-putt, he would win $180,000.

His 6-year-old son could two-putt from 12 feet.

So Haas rolled in the putt for a birdie to win the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic by two shots at Indian Wells, which certainly got its revenge and where the leaders weren't exactly their normal par-busting selves.

Haas, 37, won the seventh tournament of his 12-year PGA career with a 2-under final round of 70 and a 90-hole total of 338.

"It was one of the longest days of my life," said Haas, who awoke at 4:30 a.m. with a bad case of the "last-day jitters," he said.

Haas phoned home to Greenville, S.C., and spoke to his family, but he said none of his four children wanted to talk to him because they were too busy watching cartoons.

"Then Jay Jr., got on the telephone and said 'Why are you nervous, dad?' I thought, 'Yeah, why are you nervous, dad?' I could just see him, worrying about the next Popsicle instead of the next putt. That sort of put everything into perspective."

Once that 12-footer disappeared into the hole, Haas' perspective changed again.

"I was in a coma," he said. "I was in a daze."

But then so were his principal challengers.

"It was fortunate for me, none of the leaders made a run at me," Haas said.

It was both fortunate and financially rewarding. Haas finished two shots ahead of David Edwards, whose final-round of 67 vaulted him ahead of both Bob Tway and Paul Azinger, the fourth-round challengers, neither of whom were able to even break par.

Haas' final round included three birdies and one bogey and while he admitted it wasn't exactly an overpowering round, it surely did not matter much.

Tway's even-par 72 dropped him to third, a shot behind Edwards, who won $108,000. Tway earned $68,000, but he didn't get a birdie from the eighth hole on and never pressured Haas.

"On this golf course, you just can't do that," Tway said.

Azinger, who putted poorly Saturday, was completely betrayed by his putter in the final round. Azinger began only two shots off the lead, but he fell all the way to a two-way tie for seventh when he five-putted the par-3 No. 4 for a triple bogey and then four-putted No. 11 for a double bogey.

Azinger wound up with a 75, which was 10 strokes more than it took him to cover Indian Wells on Friday.

But that was before the wind came up slightly and the pin placements were changed to make the course play more difficult.

There were some good scores Sunday--Leonard Thompson's 64 and Payne Stewart's 65--but they were back in the pack and played without the same pressure that affected the leaders, who found some pin locations difficult.

Tway thought the fourth-hole pin placement was unfair.

The cup was placed only about eight feet from where the green sloped to a lower elevation and that is where Azinger shot himself out of the tournament.

From 18 feet, Azinger putted too hard and the ball rolled 40 feet past the cup downhill. His next putt wasn't hard enough and the ball rolled back. His next putt stopped on the lip, from where Azinger tapped the ball in for a triple-bogey.

"After watching that, I just wanted to pick up right there," said Haas.

Both Haas and Tway got their pars, but Tway still wasn't happy about where the pin had been placed.

"There was no reason to have a pin there," he said. "There just wasn't a flat space there where the pin was. It was just kind of a mistake to have a pin there."

After Haas dropped a 20-footer for a birdie on No. 1, he gave it right back when he two-putted from 3 1/2 feet on No. 3. Tway caught him on the sixth hole when he made a 10-footer for a birdie.

But Haas went into the lead for good on the very next hole and stayed there. He birdied from five feet after a wedge got him close while Tway bogeyed when his wedge went long.

With Azinger dropping out, new would-be challengers showed up for Haas. Mark O'Meara got to 19 under par and at one point trailed by just two shots, but that is as close as he got.

The only ones who had any kind of chances to catch Haas were Tway and Edwards. A three-putt green on No. 14 pretty much finished Tway. That left Edwards.

Trailing Haas by two shots and playing one hole ahead of the final group, Edwards missed tying when his 80-foot chip eagle attempt rolled three feet past the hole.

Edwards said he wasn't expecting to challenge anyway.

"I really didn't expect any of the rest of us to have much of a chance," he said. "I just kind of snuck in there."

Tway said he might have done better except that he was never able to put enough of his wedge shots close enough to the hole.

"I kept knocking them to 30 feet," he said. "You can't make birdies from 30 feet away."

In fact, said Tway, neither Haas nor Azinger nor himself had the type of final round that is going to show up on a lot of highlight films.

"All three of us weren't too spectacular," Tway said. "It wasn't that good golf. But Jay, he played a good, solid round."

But to win with a final round of 70?

"I'll believe anything in golf," Tway said. "(Haas) could have shot a lot less than he did, but it's tough to play with the lead. He did exactly what he had to do to win."

Haas played the 18th conservatively with a one-shot lead. He used a 2-iron from the tee for more control while Tway tried to outdistance him with a driver.

Tway's ball landed in some rocks off the fairway and he hit out left-handed, turning the club face down. Azinger's drive was also in the rocks, which meant Haas had to stand and wait for them to figure out what to do.

"I kept moving," Haas said. "I didn't want to stand in one spot."

He chose a 4-iron and knocked it 107 yards to the left rough from where he used a pitching wedge to roll within 12 feet. While Haas sized up the putt, his caddy told him that little Jay Jr. could two putt from that distance and Jay Sr. smiled.

"When that last putt was rolling toward the hole, I knew it was going to be within a foot," he said. "When it went in, I wanted to scream. I did a little bit."

Haas had momentary trouble remembering the length of his putt.

"Twelve feet? Eighteen feet? A hundred-eighteen feet?

"I felt like I was walking in a daze out there."

And how long will he remember that putt. For days and days, probably.

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