Planet Golf — 25 January 2015 by GW staff and news services
Haas notches Humana win by 1 shot

LA QUINTA, Ca. — Bill Haas pulled ahead with a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-4 16th and parred the final two holes for a one-stroke victory Sunday in the Humana Challenge.

Haas closed with a 5-under 67 for his sixth PGA Tour title and first since the 2013 AT&T National. He won the 2010 event for his first tour victory.

“Honestly, if you would have told me I would have done this last week, I would have laughed at you,” Haas said. “To be here is an unbelievable feeling.”

His father, Jay, won the 1998 tournament. Haas’ great uncle, 85-year-old Bob Goalby, was in the gallery at PGA West’s Arnold Palmer Private Course. Goalby won the 1968 Masters.

Haas was making his first start since November. He took the break to rest his left wrist, fractured in April when he fell down stairs.

“I played a little bit,” Haas said. “I didn’t just put the clubs up.”

Part of a six-man tie for the lead after a par save on the par-3 15th, Haas got to 22 under with the birdie on 16. He two-putted for par from 20 feet on the par-5 18th after pulling off an awkward layup with his ball perched on top of the front lip of a right fairway bunker.

“I’ve been in a tournament where I’ve been maybe one ahead or tied, but not with five or six guys right behind me knowing that if I dump one in the water, I go from winning to finishing 10th,” Haas said.

Matt Kuchar, Charley Hoffman, Brendan Steele, Steve Wheatcroft and Sung Joon Park tied for second. Hoffman and Steele shot 64, Park had a 65, and Kuchar and Wheatcroft 67.

Kuchar bogeyed three of the last four holes Saturday in the third round to fall a stroke back. He birdied No. 17 on Sunday and closed with a par.

“It was pretty disappointing to be that close and not at least birdie the 18th to make Bill try to make birdie to win,” Kuchar said.

Haas kept a share of the lead with the par save on the 131-yard 15th. Short-sided in the left bunker, he blasted to 6 feet.

“That was one of the moments where I knew if I missed that I was going from leading to maybe not even top 10,” Haas said.

After breaking the tie on 16, he missed a 10-foot birdie try on the par-3 17th with a bighorn sheep grazing nearby at the foot of the Santa Rosa Mountains.

On 18, with water on the left, his drive went right and stopped on top of the bunker. Standing in the sand with the ball in dormant grass at nearly waist level, he choked up on an 8-iron and slashed 80 yards down the fairway. That left him 170 yards to the green and he hit safely to the middle.

“I was doing everything I could to not go left. So, what do you do? You go right,” Haas said. “That second shot became pretty key, because I easily could have whiffed it, could have chunked it and moved it 5 yards.”

Haas eagled the par-5 sixth for a share of the lead, setting up his 15-foot putt with a 260-yard, 5-wood from the dormant left rough with the ball below his feet.

“That was huge,” Haas said. “Just fortunate that 5-wood came out like it did, because out of that Bermuda rough, anything can happen.”

The 32-year-old former Wake Forest player birdied the par-4 eighth, punching a low, spinning wedge from 70 yards to 8 feet, and got to 21 under with a 7-foot birdie putt on the par-5 11th.

Justin Thomas, Webb Simpson and Boo Weekley tied for seventh, two strokes back.

Thomas, playing alongside Haas and two-time heart transplant recipient Erik Compton, dropped out of the lead on 16 with a double bogey after into the All-American Canal from a fairway bunker.

“I didn’t put it far enough back in my stance,” Thomas said. “I needed to make sure I hit ball first there. … Hit fractionally behind it and in the water she went.”

The 21-year-old former Alabama player birdied 18 for a 69.

Compton shot 70 to tie for 10th, three strokes back at 19 under.

“I wasn’t pleased with the way I started the round,” Compton said. “You got to put your foot down.”

Phil Mickelson had a 68 to tie for 24th at 15 under in his first start since the Ryder Cup.

“It was a good week to get the year started,” Mickelson said. “Now we’ll see the next two weeks if I can get that fine-tuning done.”

DIVOTS: Colt Knost had a 63 — the best round of the day — to tie for 10th at 19 under. He was in the first group off the 10th tee and played his final nine holes behind Haas’ group. … Patrick Reed, the winner last year, shot 71 to finish at 15 under. He started the year with a playoff victory in the Tournament of Champions.

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