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Haas becoming Captain Clutch

Kevin Currie, Golf Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Bill Haas showed off his short game at the Tour Championship last fall, and he put on another display last weekend.

Haas doesn't get nearly the credit that others do, but if I needed someone to get up and down from off the green, I wouldn't hesitate to choose him to get it done for me.

On the second playoff hole last weekend at Riviera, Haas was the one that got up and down for birdie and the win on the drivable par-four 10th.

It wasn't PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley, nor was it Phil Mickelson, owner of one of the best, if not the best, short games on the PGA Tour.

Granted, Bradley and Mickelson's failure to get up and down for birdie had more to do with where they hit their drives than it did with their poor chip shots.

It was Haas who showed off not just a deft touch, but also a sense of how to play the shot that gave him the best chance of a win.

He must have learned that from his father, Jay, or his great uncle, Bob Goalby. Jay has 24 combined wins on the PGA and Champions tours, and Goalby has 13 more titles, including the 1968 Masters.

They surely schooled Bill on the art of playing the proper shot. If he didn't show that at the Tour Championship, he did last weekend at Riviera.

His blast out of the water, with spin on it, at East Lake last year was the shot of the year in many people's eyes. Saving par from in the water, not only saved him a stroke or two, but that up and down propelled him to victory in both the Tour Championship and the FedExCup.

Last weekend, instead of going for the pin, Haas played his chip to the fat part of the green. By doing that, his worst-case scenario was a two-putt par, or an unlikely three-putt bogey.

Neither came to fruition as he buried the 40-footer for birdie and the win.

In his seventh season on the PGA Tour, Haas has all but locked up a spot on his first Ryder Cup team and has climbed to 12th in the world rankings.

Not only have solid genes helped Haas' rise toward the top, but his great touch around the greens also has fueled him.

THE BATTLE FOR NO. 1

Luke Donald's first-round loss Wednesday at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship opened the door for Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood in the race for the top spot in the world rankings.

McIlroy and Westwood can take over the No. 1 spot from Donald if they win the Match Play. Donald's loss makes it seven straight years in which one of the four top seeds has lost in the first round of the Match Play.

Without a dominant lead like Yani Tseng's atop the Rolex World Rankings or Tiger Woods' cushion atop the rankings circa 2000-01, Donald's 1.45 average point lead could be wiped out because of Wednesday's loss.

Donald, McIlroy and Westwood are the only three who could be the top-ranked player in the world come Monday, but with several big events on the horizon, it's not out of the question the top spot could change hands multiple times in the next seven weeks.

Among the biggest events in the near future are another WGC event, the Cadillac Championship, the Arnold Palmer Invitational and The Masters.

Woods has won those three events a remarkable 16 times combined, but he is too far behind in the rankings to ascend back into the top spot in the world even if he wins all three.

If someone wins those three events, they would earn approximately 4.5 average ranking points. Taking into account the current rankings, that means anyone in the top in 11 in world could climb to the top of the rankings with a magical run of golf.

Though it isn't likely that someone will win all three, that doesn't mean Donald, McIlroy and Westwood won't exchange place several times in the coming weeks.

MINI-TIDBITS

- FedEx renewed its contract as sponsor of the FedExCup earlier this week. The deal runs through 2017 and is more proof that PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem continues to do wonders for the tour. With the economy far from fully recovered, Finchem has been able to maintain and, in some cases, add new sponsors despite the down economy. I'd say he's earning his $5 million salary.

- I think J.B. Holmes has already sewn up the Comeback Player of the Year award after four events, thanks in part to his share of eighth last week at Riviera. I don't care that he has missed two cuts and five of his 13 rounds this year have been over par. He's coming back from brain surgery last fall.

- Masters champion Charl Schwartzel has asked Augusta National officials if he can have a cookout for the champions dinner, with himself as the chef. That's a cool idea there, Charl, but I'd rather sit in the dinner room talking with all the legends at the dinner.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Kevin Currie at kcurrie@sportsnetwork.com.

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