Colorado Springs, Colo. - As a golfer, Jay Haas is an outstanding senior. The 54-year-old has won 12 times on the Silver Circuit, dramatically improving his bank account and embellishing a career that already included nine PGA Tour victories.
But as a wide receiver, Haas the senior leaves something to be desired. Haas found that out the hard way
|In four U.S. Senior Opens, Jay Haas has recorded three top-10 finishes. (John Mummert/USGA)
two weeks back. On the morning of his daughter's wedding, he was throwing a football around with a few members of the wedding party. His future son-in-law told him to go deep.
"I tried to run faster than I'm capable of running," said Haas.
Bottom line, there's a reason Haas played golf at Wake Forest, not football. Just as the pass arrived, Haas blew a tire, crumpling to the ground with a pulled hamstring. While he was able to hobble well enough to give the bride away later that day, he was not able to compete in the 3M Championship the following week.
"It was, I don't know, just one of those things," said Haas, shaking his head. "As soon as I did it, in my mind, I knew I had really screwed it up, but in my heart I was saying, 'Maybe it's just cramping.' But it was pretty bad, and it turned all black and blue.
"I couldn't have played for three weeks. I couldn't have hit a shot, really, with any kind of (authority). I tried to play and hit it maybe 200 yards with a driver, and just awful."
Combined with recent time off due to the death of Fran Pruitt, his sister in law, Haas has not competed since the Bank of America Championship in late June. What's more, he took three weeks off prior to that after back-to-back Champions Tour wins at the Senior PGA Championship and the Principal Charity Classic.
Therefore, Hass comes to The Broadmoor as one of the heavyweights to watch at the 29th U.S. Senior Open. But he comes as a veritable stranger to the game, carrying a bit of rust and carrying it a bit gingerly.
"I'm still not 100 percent," said Haas on Wednesday. "But it's not too bad. I made 18 holes yesterday for the first time. I've been playing at home in a cart, so walking 18 holes is a little bit of an achievement."
Could this be a repeat of Tiger Woods hobbling to victory at the U.S. Open last month? Well, not exactly, Haas corrected: "It's like a hangnail compared to what he had, right?"
At the same time, a tour player is not used to so much down time. It goes against nature, messes with his golf metabolism. Playing golf regularly, competing on a weekly basis, is what separates tour players from the animals, or, at least, from the rest of us.
"You know if its the offseason, I'll take time off and all of that, but during the season, very rarely," said Haas, who said he has never had such an inactive stretch in his career. "It's been only one tournament in eight weeks and I just have never done that, never had it play out that way. I've wanted to play, I've always needed to play.
"It's different thing for me. But hopefully, I'll be fresh from now until the end of the season."
The Broadmoor is not an especially difficult course to walk, mostly side-hill rather than up and down. But with its contoured greens, mountain air and USGA championship setup, it's an especially tough place to find yourself. With his illustrious career, with two wins and nine top 10s already this season, Haas knows how to do this. But he is not exactly sure what to expect when the ball goes in the air – and stays in the air – on Thursday.
"I just think the lack of competition is where I suffer mostly," Haas said. "I need to work on everything, really. I'm not totally sharp. I'm not awful, I've been driving the ball pretty well. I'm not as long. I really don't feel like I've kind of turned it loose here.
"Last week, I was hitting balls and swung hard at a couple of them and I kind of felt my leg. So I kind of backed off a little bit. I think still in the back of my head I'm thinking I might tweak it again."
At the same time, Haas can't wait to get back in the saddle. "I think when the adrenaline starts pumping, I'll forget about it," Haas said. "They've been working on (the hamstring) in the trailer and I'm getting better each day, so I'm not so concerned about the leg.
"But there's not a lot of time. There's a cut here and all that stuff. I've got to play well, no doubt about that. This is a tough golf course. You know, I'm not concerned, but I'm not on top of my game either."
There is some good news. At the Senior Open this week, Jay Haas will not have to get open. He'll be playing golf, not football.
Phillip Howley is a freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on www.ussenioropen.com.