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Bill Haas consulted with his caddie, Scott Gneiser, before hitting from the 12th tee during the first round of the Masters. Haas brought in Gneiser to replace his brother on the bag.

Jeff Siner • Charlotte Observer,

Haas shoots 68 for first-round Masters lead

  • Article by: Jim Souhan
  • Star Tribune
  • April 11, 2014 - 1:38 AM

– The first-round leader of the Masters paid homage to his father and honored his uncles on Thursday, a few weeks after he fired his brother.

Bill Haas shot a 68 on Thursday at Augusta National to take the lead, then talked about his family. Some portions of the conversation were more comfortable than others.

His father, Jay, has 31 professional wins but never finished better than third in a major. His father’s uncle, Bob Goalby, won the Masters in 1968. His uncles, Jerry Haas and Dillard Pruitt, have played the tournament, too.

“This has been a special place for my family,” Haas said.

After a remarkably stress-free round in which he followed both of his bogeys with birdies, Haas couldn’t stop talking about his father, who played in 22 Masters and is staying with him and acting as an unofficial coach this week.

He was also forced to talk about his brother, Jay Jr. Haas fired him as his caddie a few weeks ago, replacing him with veteran Scott Gneiser. Strangely, his brother’s departure may have helped him more than his father’s experience at Augusta.

“I needed to switch it up,” Haas said. “My brother has been on the bag a bunch for a few years, and I think I needed a change.”

Craig Stadler and his son, Kevin, are both playing the Masters this week. Bill and Jay never got to play it together, but they’ve spent a lot of time together at Augusta National.

“I never remember thinking, ‘Man, I wish I could hit this shot for my dad,’ ” Bill said. “But I do know now that there’s some times I’m like, ‘I wish my dad could hit this shot for me.’ He’s the person I look up to the most. He’s the person I idolized, golfwise. … We both are each other’s biggest fans.”

Jay plays on the Champions Tour. Does Bill beat him now? “I don’t think so,” Bill said. “I don’t beat him much, honestly. He’s good.”

Why don’t more sons of tour players make their own name in golf?

“I think my answer is purely numbers,” Bill said. “The odds of getting out on tour are small. And then you take it down to how many tour players have sons, and then how many have sons that even like golf, and even then you have to earn it. Kevin Stadler and myself and other players that followed in their father’s footsteps, they didn’t get to have their father hit shots for them. So it’s the most rewarding and sometimes the most difficult part about our sport.”

Jay Haas finished in the top 10 at Augusta five times. Thursday’s round means Bill still has a chance to beat his father.

© 2014 Star Tribune