BILL HAAS pulled off a stunning come from behind victory today holing a 40 foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to win the 2012 Northern Trust Open.
With nerves perhaps reflecting the fact he doesn’t really need the money – he’s the guy who five months ago won the US$10 million FedEx Cup with a magical greenside shot with his ball partially submerged in a lake – Haas snatched the title from fellow Americans Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley.
“A part of me was saying, ‘I’ve done this once, let’s do it again,'” Haas said. “Another part of me was saying, ‘Don’t screw this up.'”
Haas, who closed with a 2-under 69, was on the practice range with a one stroke lead on 7-under as he warmed up for a playoff only he thought might happen. He had already predicted on camera that the overnighted leaders Mickelson and Bradley, who he had already passed coming down the home stretch, would bounce back with birdies on the 18th hole, even though it had yielded only six birdies all day.
No-one else expected either to birdie the hole but Mickelson bought the house down when he rammed in a difficult 25 foot birdie putt and his protégé Bradley followed with one half that distance.
When they replayed the 18th as the first playoff hole, Haas was the only one to miss the green but his clutch par matched two missed birdie putts, including a very makeable one from the usually very deadly Bradley.
The second playoff hole was the easily drivable par four 312-yard 10th, regarded as the best short par fours in America.
While the distance isn’t a problem, landing and staying on a green they say is about the same size and shape as a school bus, is.
Haas went long into thick rough and with the back bunker in his way and only a tiny potential landing spot decided his best bet was to chip sideways onto the green. He accomplished that and left himself a long birdie putt but most probably a par and a trip to the next playoff hole.
Mickelson and Bradley each came up short and facing very difficult second shots. Mickelson played one of his favourite flop shots and though it landed near the hole it kept going and ended up in the back bunker. Bradley’s first was in a bunker and did well to blast out to 15 feet.
It looked like being three pars all round but then Haas stepped up and calmly slotted his 40 footer.
“I never expected to make a 40-footer, especially in that situation,” Haas said. “A little luck was involved. I guess it was meant to be.”
Mickelson, who had earlier seemed dead on track to make it two wins in a row, was full of praise.
“Bill hit a tremendous putt,” Mickelson said. “We’re thinking it’s a very difficult 3. It’s a defensive hole. You’re just trying to make 4, believe it or not.”
Jarrod Lyle a standout performance
Australia’s Jarrod Lyle (70) put in a sterling performance and was just a couple short of the lead at crucial stages.
He finished at 5-under tied for fourth place two behind the leaders along with a rampaging Sergio Garcia (64) and American duo Jimmy Walker (69) and Dustin Johnson (71).
Defending champion Aaron Baddeley also looked a threat at stages but ended up 3-under while season debutant Adam Scott will probably be happy finishing at 1-under in his first outing for the year. Marc Leishman also finished at 1-under while John Senden (+4) and Jason Day (+9) finished over-par.