Bill Haas ranks 24th in the FedExCup.
Editor’s note: Bill Haas, the reigning FedExCup champion, will be writing a blog for PGATOUR.COM each week leading up to, and through, the Playoffs. Here is his first installment.
AKRON, Ohio — The World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational marks the start of a busy stretch of golf for me. I took last week off, even though I really like the course where the RBC Canadian Open was played, and got away from the game a little. I wanted to be ready. I always felt like the plan was to play here, the PGA, Greensboro, and then the FedExCup Playoffs start, and those weeks become a really big deal.
All in all, taking last week off was probably a good idea. I just felt like I hadn’t been playing that great recently. This summer I didn’t play as much as I normally do, and so in that sense I earned the right — or had the reason — to focus on these last seven events, even though I’m probably going to be tired come the BMW Championship because it’s going to be six weeks in a row. I may be tired, but I think your adrenaline can overcome that. And I feel like I’m working on some good things that hopefully can help me through this.
In order for me to play well my putting is going to have to improve. It just needs to be more consistent. I’ve struggled on the greens one, two days a week, and then the other two days it feels pretty good. So I’m just looking for consistency and hopefully the practice pays off. I don’t think you can ever do too much on the greens. A 30-footer is a 30-footer, however you pull the putter back or what you do in the whole stroke. It doesn’t really matter. It’s going to be all feel and just natural ability that takes over. The more you practice, the more you hit putts, I think that’s what helps you there.
That said, I did play four or five times last week. But when you’re home you can hop in a cart and play 18 holes in two hours. Some days like that you do more good than you would if you go to the range for four hours. So overall I feel pretty comfortable with my game. It’s just come Sunday if you’re in the hunt, seeing how it holds up, and these next few weeks are going to be big.
All in all, I feel pretty good about this week. This is only the third time I’ve played in the Bridgestone Invitational. The first year I really felt like I played well. I ended up tied for 21st but I shot 66 in the second round and I remember feeling like I could win here. Last year I did not score well. I played okay but wasn’t even close. So I’ve had both feelings here. The greens seem fast this year, faster than I remember here, so again, putting is going to be a premium. But the guys that have won here, Tiger, Adam Scott, they’re long and they hit the ball really straight and consistent. So I do think ball-striking is a premium here.
I got to Akron on Tuesday and played a few holes. I am going back out today and really try to get a feel for the course. But since there’s no cut and you know you’ll be playing four days it makes it less stressful, especially Thursday morning. If you make a couple of bogeys early, you don’t get as bent out of shape — or at least I don’t get as bent out of shape as I maybe normally would. I just keep telling myself that over four rounds I feel like I can compete with these guys, and hopefully on Sunday I’ll have a chance.
Everybody here at Firestone is a world-class player. I’m excited. I still have the feeling that being here and playing in a World Golf Championships is special. I know the Phils and the Tigers of the world might not feel quite the same. But when these events were created, I remember thinking my dad, when he got into these, how big of a deal it was, and it was to him, too. I’m certainly not beyond saying how special it is just to be here. So to play well this week and hopefully next week in the PGA would be great.
The Playoffs should be interesting. Two of the courses — Bethpage and Crooked Stick — are new. I was at Bethpage for the final round in 2002 when my dad tied for 12th but otherwise, I’ve only seen it on TV. I know it’s an Open-style golf course, big and the rough can be pretty nasty. I think it’ll be good, though. I think it’ll be one thing where it’ll weed out people who are struggling, and the guys that play well I think will excel in the Playoffs.
I think 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 FedExCup again. Somebody else just has to play a little better, or through our system of recalculating points in the TOUR Championship, it can go someone else’s way. So I don’t know that I’m exactly geared up to successfully defend, or that’s my goal. I think my goal is just more to give myself the opportunity again, and in order to do that, I still have to play well.