- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 26, 2004

Bill Haas’ first week as a professional golfer is getting better and better.

In his first round Thursday at the Booz Allen Classic, Haas shot a 2-under 69. He followed that with a 65 yesterday and stood at 8 under, six shots off the lead.

It has to be in the back of Haas’ mind that he essentially can set his PGA Tour schedule for the rest of the year (and possibly longer) with a strong finish this weekend.

If Haas wins, he gets a two-year exemption into all tour events. A second-place finish nets him $518,400, which is enough to give Haas a free pass into every tournament for the rest of the year. Under tour rules, Haas can enter any tournament he wants if he earns more than the 150th player on last year’s money list (Mike Grob, with $348,976).

A top-10 finish means Haas automatically can enter next week’s Western Open, which boasts one of the tour’s strongest fields and already has turned him down for a sponsor’s exemption.

Haas, who set a NCAA record with a 68.93 stroke average at Wake Forest and also won the Nicklaus and Hogan awards his senior year, can earn his PGA Tour card for next year if he ends this season on the money list’s top 125.

“I think you have to have an aggressive mind-set,” he said. “The rest of the field or most of the field is having 25 tries at it, and I get seven [sponsor’s exemptions]. I need to be aggressive in making cuts, and I don’t think I need to say I’ve got next week.”

Funk misses cut

Much to the chagrin of local fans — and perhaps Avenel’s ticket sellers — Takoma Park native Fred Funk won’t be around for the weekend.

Funk, who began yesterday tied for 33rd after an opening-round 69, carded a seven on the par-4 eighth hole on his way to a 77 and missed the cut at 4 over.

On 8, Funk hit his second shot into a steep-sloped rough short of the green. After taking three angry hacks at the ball just to advance it to the green, he two-putted for a triple bogey.

“It’s the worst missed cut I’ve ever had,” Funk said. “I was on cruise control, and everything went wrong.”

Funk also laid up short of a creek on the par-5 sixth hole, only to chip his third shot into the water. He wound up with a double-bogey seven.

Avenel greens stellar

Avenel’s greens have been the talk of the tournament this week, with more than a few players saying they are in the best shape ever. According to TPC superintendent Dennis Ingram, the reason for the improvement lies with a chemical his grounds crew is using for the second year.

The chemical, called Proxy, keeps the grass from going into its reproductive stage. As a result, the poa annua greens aren’t sprouting seed heads late in the day, and the grass stays smooth throughout the round.

“It worked well last year, too. This year, because of the lack of rain, the greens are a little bit healthier,” Ingram said. “The plant doesn’t lose all the carbohydrates and energy.”

Ingram, who is in his third season at the TPC and has done design and construction work with Pete Dye, Nick Faldo and Bernhard Langer, among others, said he would put his two cents in about the design changes likely to take place at Avenel next year. But listening to most players this week, you wouldn’t think the course needs much work.

“I’d put these greens up against anybody’s anywhere,” Ingram said. “It is a little disheartening [to think about changing the course], but some of the newer varieties [of grass] would let me sleep a little better at night. These gentleman play the best-conditioned golf courses every day of the week, and for them to come in and say these are some of the best they play on tour, it’s [a source of] satisfaction.”

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