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Riches to Super Riches: Haas' play-off win over Hunter Mahan resulted in golf's biggest payday

Last Man Standing Bill Haas walked away from the Tour Championship US$11 million richer thanks to one of the most miraculous saves of the year

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AFP

aas had one foot in the water and the other on dry land, his almost comical stance capturing his position perfectly as the Tour Championship reached a gripping conclusion on a muggy Sunday evening in late September. Haas was straddling a number of goals as he prepared to hit his third shot on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff with Hunter Mahan. With a strong showing, Haas could potentially secure a wildcard pick on the United States team for the Presidents Cup in November. With a victory, he could end a year-long title drought and take home the US$10 million FedEx Cup bonus, although he said later that he wasn't 100 per cent sure of his position in those particular standings at that moment. "I was just trying to win the Tour Championship," he laughed. So much was resting on the outcome as Haas hit his half-submerged ball onto the 17th green and watched it stop less than three feet from the cup. He made the putt and went on to defeat Mahan with a par on the third extra hole. “I got very fortunate and pulled off a great shot,” said Haas, who closed with a two-under 68 for a 72-hole total of eight-under 272. Mahan, playing in the last group, carded a 71. "If I don't pull it off, I'm shaking Hunter's hand," Haas added.

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HK Golfer・OCT 2011

HKGOLFER.COM

HKGOLFER.COM

HK Golfer・OCT 2011

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FedEx Cup Playoffs Points Standings 1

Bill Haas

USA

2,760

2

Webb Simpson

USA

2,745

3

Luke Donald

ENG

2,567

4

Dustin Johnson

USA

2,488

Justin Rose

ENG

2,253

Matt Kuchar

USA

1,853

7

Hunter Mahan

USA

1,800

8

Brandt Snedeker

USA

1,668

9

Nick Watney

USA

1,420

10

Chez Reavie

USA

1,220

11

KJ Choi

KOR

1,207

12

Jason Day

USA

1,058

13

John Senden

AUS

1,030

14

Aaron Baddeley

AUS

1,007

15

Phil Mickelson

USA

795

16

Adam Scott

AUS

778

17

Gary Woodland

USA

773

18

Steve Stricker

USA

740

19

Charles Howell III

USA

708

20

David Toms

USA

648

AFP

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He made another great shot, from the rough between the green on the par-three closer and the grandstand, to save par on the first extra hole. “That was equally good if not better than the one out of the water,” Haas, the son of Presidents Cup vice captain, Jay Haas, said. For most of the day, it appeared that the tournament winner would get the silverware but somebody else would take home the real prize, the FedEx Cup bonus. The leaders in the projected FedEx Cup standings were like candidates on election night, their fortunes changing as rapidly as results were posted on the leader board at Atlanta's East Lake Golf Club.

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At the beginning of the day, Mahan, the third-round co-leader with Aaron Baddeley, was the projected leader. He was supplanted by KJ Choi when the Korean chipped in for birdie on the fifth. Less than 20 minutes later, Mahan regained the lead when Choi overshot the green with his second shot on the par-four eighth, chipped short of the green and two putted for a double bogey. Such are the intricacies of the much maligned FedEx Cup Playoffs point system. “It’s one of those things where it’s like you can’t even worry about it, just because you can’t do the math that fast,” Mahan said. A few m i nutes later, Webb Si mpson leapfrogged over Mahan and Choi with his second consecutive birdie on the back nine. Simpson, who began the week atop the FedEx Cup standings, closed with a 73 to finish in 22nd place, yet remained in the running for the bonus until the end. Baddeley, who could deliver the mega-millions to Simpson with a victory, missed a long-range birdie attempt on the final hole that would have put him in the play-off. In the end, Simpson finished second in the FedEx Cup standings, directly ahead of Luke Donald, the world No. 1, who closed with a 69 to finish tied for third in the tournament. Donald himself could have bagged the riches for himself if he had finished in a tie for second. He failed to make it – by a shot. Simpson’s ragged week raises the question: should someone who beat only eight people at the season-ending championship be eligible to collect the season-ending bonus? Simpson, unsurprisingly enough, did not see why not. “I don’t think you can wipe all the points away from the first three events and start from scratch here,” he said. “I just don’t think that would accurately show who the best player in the playoffs is. I think what they do, handicapping everybody, is perfect.” It was a storybook ending for Haas, who dispatched some demons before dismissing Mahan. Haas was in contention during the final round the previous week, at the BMW Championship outside Chicago, before he shot a 42 on the back nine on his way to a 78 and a 16th-place tie. The nerves that were his undoing then paid Haas another visit down the stretch in the allimportant final round. He bogeyed two of his final three holes to lose his two-stroke lead. In the third and fourth rounds, Haas covered 17 and 18 in four over par but the holes were kinder to him in the play-off with Mahan. After curling in a 10ft putt for par on the 18th, the first extra hole, Haas hit his drive on 17 into the same fairway bunker he had found HKGOLFER.COM

All the President's Men Haas' FedEx Cup win proved to be bad news for Keegan Bradley, the winner of the US PGA Championship. A few days after the events at East Lake, Fred Couples, the United States' Presidents Cup captain, announced Haas and Tiger Woods as his wildcard picks, leaving Bradley, who also won the Byron Nelson Championship this year, out in the cold. "Congrats to bill haas / @tigerwoods. They deserve the picks. Although I am disappointed, I'm very happy to have been considered. GO USA," tweeted Bradley after hearing the news. With Couples confirming that Woods would be a wildcard some time ago, it was down to who his final pick would be. "It just felt like in this instance, Bill Haas played two years, never been outside the top 12 position [in the Presidents Cup rankings]," he said. "He's been inside the top 10 most of the time. And you know, if Keegan would have finished fourth or fifth last week and Bill would have lost to Hunter Mahan, the other assistants will tell you that Keegan would have been chosen." Couples' decision has drawn criticism from some quarters in the light of a woefully out of form Woods being his automatic first choice. But not all is lost for Bradley, however. With Steve Stricker continuing to struggle with a neck injury, the 25-year-old PGA Tour rookie would replace him on the trip to Australia if he's unable to recover in time.

less than an hour earlier. He pulled his second shot, which bounced on the green and rolled down the slope into the water fronting the left side of the putting surface. Haas was rather more solid when they returned once again to the home hole. He found the green with a 4-iron at 18, where Mahan’s tee shot ricocheted off a spectator into a greenside bunker. Mahan hit out to 15 feet and missed his par putt to open the door for Haas, who sank a four-footer for the win. “It looked like 12 feet,” said Haas, who had been playing for so much that some details escaped him. During the awards ceremony, there were two trophies, for the tournament winner and the FedEx Cup standings champion, but he was the only golfer. It all finally clicked for Haas. “That’s when I realised I had won it,” he said.

Nearly Men (clockwise from bottom): Luke Donald didn't win the FedEx Cup but still stands a chance of claiming the money titles on both sides of the Atlantic; Webb Simpson, the leader going into Atlanta, finished just 15 points behind Haas in second place in the standing; Haas' win was enough for Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples to offer him and not Bradley Keegan a wilcard HK Golfer・OCT 2011

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