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Inside the Ropes: Haas still has hopes of defending FedEx Cup title

The SportsXchange

Despite missing the cut in the Barclays, Bill Haas knows perhaps better than anyone else that he's not out of the FedEx Cup race because of the wild point swings possible during the PGA Tour playoffs.

Last year, Haas came from further back than any player in the first five years of the playoffs to capture the FedEx Cup when he won the Tour Championship on the third hole of a playoff with Hunter Mahan.

Haas was 15th in the FedEx Cup standings at the end of the 2011 regular season. Previous winners Tiger Woods (2007, 2009), Vijay Singh (2008) and Jim Furyk (2010) all started the playoffs in the top 10.

Until winning at East Lake, Haas did not have a top-10 finish in the playoffs and tied for 61st in the Deutsche Bank Championship, which will be contested this week at TPC Boston.

Last week, Nick Watney rose from 49th in the standings to take the lead by winning the Barclays.

"I think everybody understands that the way I did it was basically by winning that last tournament," said Haas, who obviously has more work to do this time after slipping eight spots to 29th in the standings.

"It's a yearlong race, but the way they do the points at the Tour Championship, that's the way to win it. So my goal is to get back there. If you can get to the Tour Championship, anybody can win the whole FedEx Cup.

"And that's my goal, to try to win it again."

To do that, Haas will have to become the first FedEx Cup winner to make it back to the Tour Championship. The other five failed the following year to finish in the top 30 that qualify for the tournament at East Lake, because of injuries or subpar golf.

After playing well early in the season, including a playoff victory over Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley in the Northern Trust Open, Haas went through a dry spell before some solid results lately.

He recorded top-20 finishes in the PGA Championship and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational before tying for seventh in the Wyndham Championship.

"My game feels OK," said the 30-year-old Haas, who has won four times in his career on the PGA Tour. "It feels like I'm doing a lot right. The putter needs to be a little more consistent, though. But I am just trying to stay confident in every aspect of the game. You never know what can happen. I proved that last year. So you have to keep plugging.

" ... But right now, I'm on the bubble, and if I don't play well the next few weeks, I will get bumped out of the Tour Championship. But I'm also in position that if I play well, I can have a chance to (win) it again."

On his way to taking home both trophies last year at East Lake, Haas authored the "Shot of the Year" on the PGA Tour when it appeared his was about to lose to Mahan on the second playoff hole.

With Mahan looking at a 25-foot birdie putt, Haas found his ball half-submerged in greenside lake after flying the green. But he waded into the water with one foot and blasted out to within two feet to save par.

After Mahan two-putted for par to extend the match, he hit into a greenside bunker on the third playoff hole and was unable to sink his 20-foot putt for par. Haas also had missed the green, but he chipped to within four feet and saved his winning par.

"It was all or nothing," Haas said of his escape from the lake. "I had to hit a decent shot. Definitely some luck was involved. ... I really want to get to East Lake this year and have a chance to win the FedEx Cup again.

"I realize how lucky I was in a sense for everything to work out last year. Sure, I did what I had to do and won the Tour Championship. But I could go and do what Luke Donald did last year. He never finished lower than 18th in the playoffs and was fourth or better in the other three events, and lose.

"I understand that I can play my best golf here in this stretch and still not win the FedEx Cup again."

Not only did Haas claim the $10 million FedEx Cup winner's check, he earned $1.44 million for winning the tournament and landed a spot on the United States team for the Presidents Cup.

Any extra incentive this time comes from his desire to play well enough for Davis Love III to make him one of four Captain's Picks for the U.S. team in the Ryder Cup next month at Medinah.

As far as all that cash, Haas socked most of it away, with one exception.

"I bought a '68 Mustang GT 500," he said. "That was my gift to myself."

He wouldn't mind finding an excuse to give himself another present.

COMING UP

PGA TOUR: Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston in Norton, Mass., Friday through Monday.

TV: Friday and Saturday, 3-6 p.m. EDT on the Golf Channel; Sunday, 1-3 on the Golf Channel and 3-6 p.m. EDT on NBC, and Monday, 11:30-1:30 p.m. EDT on the Golf Channel and 2-6 p.m. EDT on NBC.

LAST YEAR: Webb Simpson, who closed with a 6-under-par 65, finished with three consecutive birdies, the last from eight feet on the second playoff hole, to turn back Chez Reavie. It was the second victory in three weeks for Simpson, who had claimed his first PGA Tour victory in the Wyndham Championship. This time, Simpson holed a 30-foot birdie putt on the final hole of regulation and stayed alive by sinking another birdie putt from 15 feet on the first extra hole after Reavie chipped to tap-in range for his birdie. Reavie closed with a 66 and seemed headed for his second PGA Tour victory until he played it safe and laid up on the par-5 18th hole, overshot the green with his approach and eventually missed an 11-foot putt for par.

CHAMPIONS TOUR: Pacific Links Hawaii Championship at Kapolei Golf Course in Kapolei, Oahu, Hawaii, Sept. 14-16.

TV: Friday, Friday through Sunday, 7:30-10 p.m. EDT, on the Golf Channel each day.

LAST YEAR: Inaugural event.

LPGA TOUR: Kingsmill Championship at the Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Va., Sept. 6-9.

TV: Thursday and Friday, 12:30-2:30 p.m. EDT; Saturday, noon-3:30 p.m. EDT, and Sunday, 2-5 p.m. EDT, on the Golf Channel each day.

LAST YEAR: Inaugural event.
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