Monday, June 28, 2004

Bill Haas looked primed for a run at a top-10 finish and an exemption into next week’s Western Open early yesterday afternoon during the final round of the Booz Allen Classic at TPC at Avenel.

He was 9 under for the tournament after the front nine but was done in, perhaps, by his own aggressiveness. He stumbled to a 40 on the back nine and a 73 for the day, finishing in a 33rd-place tie to earn $23,280 in his pro debut.

Haas said his goal was to reach 11-under par but made two bogeys and two double bogeys coming in after he found two bunkers and a creek.

“I just wanted to make birdies and be aggressive,” said Haas, son of 50-year-old tour player Jay Haas. “Maybe I hit some bad shots.”

On the 10th hole, his second shot spun off the green and into a creek, and his fourth shot stopped 18 feet from the pin. He missed the bogey putt. He had a birdie putt lip out on 13 but made up a stroke on the 14th after driving onto the fringe and chipping to kick-in distance.

But things fell apart for Haas on 15 when he took two shots to get out of a bunker and made double bogey. He also bogeyed the 16th and 18th holes after missing the fairway at each.

Haas has six more sponsor’s exemptions on the PGA Tour — the John Deere Classic (July8-11), B.C. Open (July15-18), International (Aug.5-8), Reno-Tahoe Open (Aug.19-22), Buick Championship (Aug.26-29) and Chrysler Classic of Greensboro (Oct.14-17).

He hopes to earn enough money in those events to finish the season in the top 125 on the money list and earn his PGA Tour card for 2005. If at any point this season he equals the earnings of last season’s 150th finisher on the money list ($348,976), he would earn unlimited starts on tour this season.

Sabbatini makes move

Lost in the duel between Adam Scott and Charles Howell III was defending champion Rory Sabbatini, who moved from a tie for fifth to third with a 66 yesterday.

Sabbatini moved within five shots of Scott with a birdie on the 13th hole but never got closer to defending his title successfully. However, he did move into some good company in the tournament record book.

His third-place finish was the best by a defending champion since Tom Kite finished second in 1988. Sabbatini joined Kite, Greg Norman and Andy Bean as the only defending champions to finish in the top five.

“I feel like I really did a good job in defending my title, and that’s all I could do,” Sabbatini said. “If more putts had dropped, it could have been a complete turnaround.”

The South African’s 539 shots over the last two tournaments are the fewest in a two-year span at TPC at Avenel. He is the first player in tournament history to shoot eight straight rounds in the 60s.

Expensive Sunday drive

After leading for most of the day Thursday and sitting in second place for much of his round Saturday, Rich Beem blew up to a 79.

He started the day tied for fifth but ended it in a share of 51st. Fifth place paid $192,000, which would have been Beem’s biggest check of the year. Instead, he banked $11,296 and still hasn’t picked up a check for more than $35,000 this season.

The tournament’s 1999 champion missed five fairways and made three double bogeys yesterday.

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