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Blast from the past

Haas, 50, shares lead with Maruyama

Posted: Friday, June 18, 2004

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. Jay Haas was like any other father at the U.S. Open, walking among the gallery at Shinnecock Hills as he watched his 22-year-old son take on the toughest test in golf.

And like any father, he showed the kid how to get it done. Haas showed 'em all.

Thirty years after playing his first U.S. Open, Haas took advantage of unusual calm on the links-styled course with a 4-under 66 that gave him a share of the clubhouse lead with Shigeki Maruyama when play was suspended.

''There's nothing you can say about it. He's good,'' Bill Haas, who was 3 over with one hole left, said of his dad. ''He's top 25 in the world, so it's not like he can't play. Most kids can beat their dads, but I can't.''

No one could beat the 50-year-old Haas on Thursday in an opening round filled with unexpected turns most of that because of weather that included everything but wind, the one element that sharpens the teeth at Shinnecock Hills.

''The easiest day you'll ever see out here,'' said Corey Pavin, who was 1 under with five holes to play.

Haas overcame a bogey on his second hole by sticking his irons close to the hole and making birdies at the par 3s on the back nine, including a 40-footer on the 17th.

''It was pretty fortunate with the weather,'' Haas said. ''It was just the kind of day that you had to feel you could be aggressive at a U.S. Open.''

Angel Cabrera of Argentina also was 4 under through 12 holes when the first round, delayed more than two hours by rain, was halted because fog made it impossible to see the greens.

Play will resume at 7 a.m. Friday. Among the 57 players who did not finish were Masters champion Phil Mickelson (15 holes) and Vijay Singh (14 holes), both at 2 under and without a bogey.

Still, Shinnecock was no pushover. Even without its toughest defense the wind the leading scores were about what they were in 1995 when it was blowing.

''If it blows and I think everyone saw that earlier in the week this course is brutal,'' said Pavin, who won in 1995.

Not everyone who played early had an easy time. Tiger Woods needed to save par five times from the bunker and once for his only birdie in a pedestrian round of 72. It was the fourth straight time he failed to shoot par or better in the first round of a major.Looming ominously for Woods is that he has never won any tournament when starting out over par.

''There's an awful long way to go,'' Woods said. ''We haven't seen the wind up yet. If that ever happens, this golf course is pretty tough.''

Ernie Els took a double bogey at No. 11 (his second hole), but recovered with some terrific wedge play and a few timely putts to salvage a 70. Davis Love III made two triple bogeys and shot 76.

The worst score belonged to David Duval. Playing for the first time in seven months, Duval was tied for the lead at one point the first hole but eventually unraveled off the tee and shot 83, matching his worst score as a professional. But he had a good time and realized he wasn't tournament tested.

''I would call it an enormous victory for me today,'' Duval said. ''I can't wait for tomorrow.''

Some guys wish Thursday would never end.

David Roesch, who plays on the Hooters Tour, qualified for his first U.S. Open and then birdied four of his first six holes in shooting 68.

''I don't know if it's hit me yet,'' Roesch said. ''I don't know if I want to wake up or not.''

Kris Cox, a PGA Tour rookie making his Open debut, also had a 68.

''A year ago this time I was playing the Gateway Tour in Scottsdale, Arizona,'' Cox said. ''Actually, I was hurrying to get done to watch the Open.''

Joining them was Kevin Stadler son of 1982 Masters champion Craig Stadler along with Jeff Maggert, Skip Kendall and British Open champion Ben Curtis.

The U.S. Open has a history of treating the old folks kindly in the first round. Tom Watson was 53 when he shot 65 in the first round at Olympia Fields last year. Hale Irwin shot a 67 at Southern Hills in the first round in the 2001 U.S. Open.

No one was all that surprised to see Haas in the lead. Even though he turned 50 last December, he has remained a regular on the PGA Tour and has played well enough to blend right in with guys young enough to be his son.

''I'll watch him tomorrow afternoon after I get done,'' said son Bill, playing his final tournament as an amateur.

Even so, Haas hasn't won in more than 10 years on the PGA Tour, and he has never won a major.

''People ask me if this is the best I've played and I can't say it is, because in the early '80s I went a couple of years where I won two tournaments,'' Haas said. ''Until I win, I won't say it's the best I've played.''

It was his best start ever at the U.S. Open, and only the fourth time he has broken par in the first round in 25 appearances.

Maruyama put together a great round before a large crowd he played with Woods and Chad Campbell (72). The Japanese star has said the U.S. Open intimidates him with its rock-hard greens and high rough.

''I just tried to get even par today,'' Maruyama said. ''Through the practice round, I never hit under par here. I wasn't very aggressive.''

That proved to be a smart plan, as Maruyama never made bogey and surged to the top of the leaderboard with a 60-foot birdie on No. 10 and a tee shot on the 11th that stopped 3 feet from the hole.

Maruyama usually takes a hot shower after his round to control neck and back injuries.

Haas might have been expected to take a nap at his age, but he's playing like he has energy to burn.

''Some people are young at 50 or older at 50,'' said Raymond Floyd, who won at Shinnecock in 1986 at age 41. ''I think U.S. Open conditions, experience is paramount. People know how to play. And Jay played very well.''



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