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With Riviera win, Haas moves to top tier
This was a year ago at Torrey Pines.
Among those in the gallery that day was Billy Harmon, the swing coach for Haas. The more famous Harmon is his older brother, Butch, though the family often jokes that’s only because Butch has better clients.
There was no friendly wager among them, though Billy Harmon said his brother told him, “I have more horses in the race.”
A year later, Haas is starting to show he belongs in the stable of top American golfers.
Up the California coast, on a Riviera course that played the toughest of any PGA Tour event this year, Haas steadied himself after consecutive bogeys on the back nine with a 3-wood into the par-5 17th that set up a birdie and a par save from the front of the 18th green that gave him a 2-under 69.
Haas kept his wits even after hearing the ground-shaking roar of Mickelson’s birdie on the 18th from just off the green, followed by another big cheer when Keegan Bradley made his birdie putt to force a three-man playoff.
Haas rarely gets through an interview without someone asking about his father, which he doesn’t mind, although the 29-year-old clearly is starting to come into his own.
“He’s starting to establish himself as a very, very good player,” said Billy Harmon, who doesn’t throw out compliments easily. “More than anything, he’s starting to believe. You don’t have to change anything with Bill. He just has to learn from experience, and he’s getting that now. He’s been in the hunt more often. He’s failed in the hunt, he’s succeeded in the hunt.”
What impressed Harmon about Riviera is that Haas, who fought his swing, came through with his short game. While the 45-foot birdie putt will get the attention, it was made possible by an 80-foot chip from just short of the 18th on the first playoff hole to about 3 feet. It’s one of the hardest shots to get to the hole.
“He won with his short game,” Harmon said. “And he usually wins with his long game.”
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