Haas to Win!

Posted: February 20, 2012 by Kodi in Hitting the Greens

Bill Haas sunk a long putt on the 2nd playoff hole to win the Northern Trust Open

Phil Mickelson was close to winning back-to-back tournaments but fell just short

Bill Haas beat Mickelson and Keegan Bradley in the Northern Trust Open

We are now officially almost two months into the PGA season and golf fans everywhere should be enjoying the entertaining play thus far. Phil Mickelson became just the 9th player in PGA Tour history to record at least 40 victories and Lefty came out on fire Thursday at the Northern Trust Open. Last week Phil had a big comeback on Sunday and was the 3rd Champion this year to come from behind to win the tournament. Mickelson is California born and raised and he was so close to winning back-to-back tournaments but ultimately fell just short at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California. Mickelson and Keegan Bradley were tied for the lead going into Sunday but it was Bill Haas who would pull off a big win.

Mickelson and Bradley were tied at -7 par after the 3rd round as Phil scored his 2nd 70 in a row after opening the tournament with a 66 and Keegan started off slow but jumped up the leaderboard after shooting a -5 66. The two players were the final pairing in the tournament and had many golfers nipping at their heels. The final person in their threesome was Bryce Molder who was a stroke behind them at -6 as well as Jonathan Byrd and Pat Perez. There were 3 other players 2 strokes behind at -5 including last year’s winner Aaron Baddeley, Bill Haas and Dustin Johnson.

Phil Mickelson was going after consecutive wins in back-to-back starts for the 4th time in his career and hoping to do it in back-to-back weeks for just the 3rd time. Mickelson did it last in 2006 when he won the BellSouth Classic and followed that up with a victory at Augusta National when he captured the Masters. The last person to achieve such a feat on Tour was Tiger Woods back in 2009. Phil had won 21 of the last 30 tournaments after holding at least a share of the 54-hole lead. Phil had a tremendous final round last week shooting a 64 at Pebble Beach but he struggled in the final round this week. Phil came out hot and quickly jumped out to a 3 stroke lead after recording birdie on holes 1 and 5 but closed out the front 9 bogey-bogey.  He had back-to-back three putts for bogey on 14 and 15 and missed a 21 footer just short on 17.

Mickelson was on the 18th tee knowing he needed a birdie to force a playoff and one of his playing partners, Keegan Bradley was in a similar situation. Bradley like Mickelson started the day off with a birdie at 1 but he went on to bogey 3 of the next 4. He was -1 in the next 12 holes and like Mickelson needed a birdie to force a playoff with Bill Haas. The first 73 players to play 18 on Sunday had combined for a total of just 6 birdies but Mickelson would drain a 27 foot putt from above the hole to force a playoff. After a fist bump celebration with Lefty, Bradley set up and drained a 13 foot birdie putt of his own. Both players made the 3 they needed to force a 3-way sudden death playoff with Haas.

Bill Haas shot a -2 69 on Sunday to catch up to Bradley and Mickelson who both left a lot of shots on the course while recording par 71’s. Haas was +1 after Thursday but shot 68 on Friday and Saturday bringing him just 2 strokes behind the leaders. Haas captured the world’s attention when he got up and down from the water to win the Tour Championship by Coca-Cola and the FedEx Cup. In 2011 Haas was in the money in 22 of 26 tournaments and had 7 top 10 finishes including his FedEx Cup capturing win at the Tour Championship. Haas had just that one victory last season and just 3 in his career entering Sunday but he had a chance to add to that in the sudden death playoff.

All three players teed up at the 18th for the first playoff hole, the same hole that Mickelson and Bradley had just birdied, but the entire group made par and play continued. The next playoff hole was #10 a 312 yard par 4 that is drivable but nobody hit the green. Mickelson took a 3 wood to the box but ended up hitting his shot in the rough with a lie nearly impossible for a birdie opportunity. Bradley fell short of the green and was left with a little dance floor to work with and he was eventually left with a 15 foot birdie attempt from the fringe. Mickelson had to flop one onto the green and attack the pin but his approach would end up in the trap and he would be faced with a chip-in from the bunker for birdie.

Haas meanwhile took driver off the tee and blasted one near the green and decided to just slap the ball onto the green away from the hole to at least give himself a chance. Haas would end up lassoing a 43 foot putt for birdie forcing either Bradley or Mickelson to hit their shot. Lefty was unable to make a miraculous shot from the beach and the pressure was on Keegan Bradley to sink a makeable putt. Bradley had two huge playoff victories last season winning the HP Byron Nelson Championship and the PGA Championship in his rookie season. Bradley had a good line and put nice touch on his putt but the ball tailed off just before hitting the hole and Haas had secured his 4th PGA victory.

Bradley was unable to continue his playoff magic saying that “it doesn’t feel good” explaining that it is the “first time I’ve been on the other side of one of these playoff losses.” Mickelson admitted that “these last two weeks have been good,” but also said “I’ve got some work I’ve got to do and see if I can get my game sharp.” His birdie putt on 18 put the crowd into a frenzy and Keegan Bradley, who grew up idolizing Lefty, said “Phil is too much of a gamer to not make that putt.” Although Haas was the underdog in the situation he knew that he was “doing a lot of good things just to e in this situation. So I think maybe I had that attitude. I’ve done a lot of good to be in this position on this good of a golf course, and I felt like I had a good frame of mind.”

He had confidence but he didn’t expect to drain that 43 footer for the win, rather he was saying to himself “I’ve got 40 feet thinking, don’t screw this up and three putt.” He told reporters that his putt “was kind of in the shadows, it I hit 30 putts, I maybe make five of them. I hit it just like I wanted. I hit the line. . . “ Haas said that “there’s so many thoughts running through your mind. But to beat a guy like Keegan and also Phil, guys of their caliber, in a playoff is amazing, something I’ll never forget.” Bill Haas has now ensured that he has won at least 1 tournament in the past 3 PGA Tour seasons. He had missed the cut at the Riviera CC in 2009 and 2010 tied for 12th last year and won it all this season. Bill Haas admitted that “I never expected to make a 40 footer, and especially in that situation, that was a little it of luck involved, but I felt like I put a good roll on it, and it was meant to be, I guess.” “I should have known, though, because he’s a great putter and a great player,” Bradley said about Haas’ victory “But I still had a really good look at mine, and I hit a perfect one for me, I’m happy with it. . . Hopefully I learned a lot from today, and I’ll be able to take that into the next one.”

It’s always immediately onto the next one.

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