BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Jay Haas has achieved much in his career in golf, not the least of which being 27 victories divided between the PGA Tour (nine) and PGA Tour Champions (18).
At 68, he now has his sights set on something even more special, becoming the oldest player to win the U.S. Senior Open.
The fifth player to shoot his age or better in a Senior Open, Haas fired a 4-under-par 67 Thursday over the wet Old course at Saucon Valley Country Club and tied Mark Hensby for the first-round lead.
“Shooting my age is great. It’s a good goal to have because that’s a nice number certainly at a USGA event,” Haas said. “Anything in the 60s is always really nice.
“But I think that just the competition part of it … the inward competition that I want to tell myself, show myself that I can still do it, and I do it occasionally and hit enough good shots to think maybe I could shoot some good rounds and hopefully string some together.”
It has been a noteworthy season for Haas. In April, teaming with his son, Bill, at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, he became the first player 68 or older to make a PGA Tour cut. He is well on his way to continuing his perfect record of making the cut in this, his 17th U.S. Senior Open.
Haas had no pars on his first five holes, playing them in 1-under, then went the final 13 with three birdies and no bogeys. He called his putting “the real key to everything.”
Much of the rain that came pouring down for most of the morning subsided by the time the afternoon wave started. Paul Goydos was the only player from the morning draw to break par, carding a 69.
Hensby birdied five of his first 10 holes to get to 3-under par and sank one more birdie putt at the 15th.
Western Pennsylvania native Rocco Mediate and Tim Petrovic each posted the only bogey-free rounds of the opening 18 holes, joining Steve Stricker and Paul Broadhurst in a 4-way tie for third place at 68.
Defending champion Jim Furyk, another Pennsylvanian, was 2-under par before bogeys at his final two holes ended his round at 71.
Dave McNabb, head professional at Applebrook Golf Club in Malvern, played in the first group off No. 1 and carded a 75.