THE PRESIDENTS CUP
Storybook ending for Haas family
U.S. Captain Jay Haas selected his son as a Captain's Pick, and it paid off in the final match
October 11, 2015
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
- Jay Haas (left) and Bill Haas were key in helping the U.S. continue its domination in The Presidents Cup. (Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
SONGDO IBD, INCHEON, South Korea – Bill Haas has felt the pressure of the FedExCup, the pressure of playing for $10 million. He thrived in that instance. But when his dad made him the anchor for the U.S. Team in Sunday’s singles at The Presidents Cup, Haas didn’t necessarily want the entire fate of his team resting on his shoulders.
So on Saturday night, he casually mentioned to teammate Zach Johnson that he hoped the outcome wouldn’t come down to the final match of the day. “I hope you guys go out and take care of business before it comes down to me,” he said.
Johnson’s responded with a cold dose of reality – and a pep talk. “You want that,” he told Haas. “You want to be in that position. You should go get it.”
On Sunday afternoon, Haas did. He went out and got another Presidents Cup victory for the U.S., this time by the slimmest of margins in the last 12 years, as he defeated local hero Sangmoon Bae 1 up in the final match for a 15.5 to 14.5 win over a gutty – and ultimately gutted -- International Team.
It couldn’t have been more dramatic on a day that may well be the most important in Presidents Cup history.
Haas, the Captain’s son as well as a Captain’s Pick, facing off against Bae, the Korean star who has electrified his fans this week. Haas, carrying the entire weight of the U.S. Team, against Bae, carrying the entire weight of a country. Oh, and did we mention that Bae is scheduled for mandatory military service in a few weeks and may be playing his last big golf tournament for a while?
The Hollywood set-up was made possible because the International Team refused to die. Entering Sunday with a one-point deficit, it appeared early on that they might be routed again, as they have so many times in prior Presidents Cups. Before Haas and Bae even had a chance to finish their first hole, the U.S. was leading in nine of the first 11 matches.
You could feel the vibe. Here we go again.
But then something wonderful happened, at least from the International standpoint. Matches started to turn. U.S. red was replaced by International blue. Adam Scott, the veteran of the International side, posted the first win with a 6&5 rout of Rickie Fowler. That seemed to set the tone.
Fellow Aussie Steven Bowditch rallied on the back nine to beat Jimmy Walker. Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama did the same to J.B. Holmes. Marc Leishman did the same to the world’s top-ranked player, recent FedExCup champ Jordan Spieth. When Spieth conceded the 15th hole that allowed Leishman to take the lead, a bad feeling came over him.
“I thought on 15 that I may lose us The Presidents Cup with a couple of shots that I hit,” Spieth said.
More favorable signs for the Internationals. Louis Oosthuizen winning the 18th – with an eagle putt from 11-1/2 feet – to halve his match against Patrick Reed. Bubba Watson missing a 6-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole that would’ve beaten Thongchai Jaidee.
Jay Haas interview after winning The Presidents Cup
“We had a lot of red up on the board early,” U.S. Captain Jay Haas said. “Then all of a sudden, some of the matches turned a little bit different. And I thought, Bill’s match is probably going to matter in some way or another.”
But it wasn’t the only one. The Chris Kirk-Anirban Lahiri match proved to be just as vital. It went to 18 all square, but Kirk won the hole and the match when he rolled in a birdie putt from just under 16 feet, while Lahiri missed his birdie attempt from inside 4 feet.
“I have to give credit to Chris for making that putt,” Lahiri said. “These things are scripted, I guess – and I wasn’t in the script this time.”
At that point, Haas knew his match was going to matter. He had taken the lead on 12 by rolling in a 35-footer for birdie. It appeared he might get some breathing room at 16 when Bae missed the green with his approach, but the South Korean saved par with a gritty 10-footer.
Going to 18 with a 1-up advantage, Haas knew he could not lose the Presidents Cup entirely; the best the Internationals could do at that point was to share the Cup if Bae could win the hole. Considering the Internationals have been beaten in eight of the first 10 Presidents Cup, though, that would’ve been huge.
But Bae, pressing, misplayed his chip from off the green. His disappointment – bent over in disbelief as the crowd gasped – was heartbreaking, no matter which side you were rooting for. The feel-good story of the week had ended with a feel-bad moment.
“I wanted to make the winning point for our team,” Bae said, “but at the end of the day, our team lost, so I was very sad and disappointed.”
International Captain Nick Price was quick to point out that Lahiri and Bae should not shoulder the blame for the Internationals coming up a point short. Had others played well earlier, it wouldn’t have come down to them. He said he hopes they learn from it and move it, become better golfers because of the experience.
In fact, that’s the approach he hopes the entire International Team will take. Price, after two tours as the Captain, doesn’t plan to be back, but he thinks the future of the Internationals – and the Presidents Cup as a whole – took a big step forward with the down-to-the-wire drama Sunday at Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea.
He said it reminds him of the 1993 Ryder Cup when Europe lost by a point to an American team that had dominated the event to the point. Seeing his despondent teammates, Spain’s Seve Ballesteros told them to be encouraged, that they were getting closer to winning. That the tide is turning.
And it has in the Ryder Cup. Who knows, maybe this is the tide turning for The Presidents Cup.
“We feel maybe a little bit like Seve felt talking to that European Team,” said Scott. “That we are much closer.”
But they’re still one point away. Thanks to Haas.
On the 18th green, after he had shaken hands with Bae, after his teammates had congratulated him, had patted him on his back, Haas finally saw his father, who had shown so much faith in his son. Although they’ve certainly shared plenty of hugs through the years, this one meant so much more.
“Much more emotional, I think, than if it would have been anyone else on the team,” Jay said.
“It’s special for me and my dad,” Bill added. “The most emotion I’ve felt from him in a long time. The hug he gave me, I won’t forget that.”
And we won’t forget this week. The U.S. won again, but this time it’s the golf world that gets to celebrate.
Bill Haas interview after winning his Day 4 Singles match at The Presidents Cup