The FedEx Cup playoffs wrapped up on Sunday in dramatic fashion, with Bill Haas triumphing over Hunter Mahan in a playoff at the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Ga.
72 holes proved not to be enough to determine the winner of the event — as well as the winner of the FedEx Cup and its 10 million dollar prize, so Mahan and Haas had a sudden death playoff for a pile of money that would make Scrooge McDuck jealous.
If you grab your adding machine and count up what the playoff was actually worth, you would come to a total of $11.44 million — $10 million for the winner of the FedEx Cup and $1.44 million for the winner of the Tour Championship. It was without a doubt the richest payout for a PGA Tour playoff of all time. How either player even held on to the club in that situation is impressive to me; my hands shake when I have a putt to make sure I beat my dad to keep my unbeaten streak against him alive.
The shot of the playoff came on the second playoff hole, which was the 17th at East Lake. Haas, after losing his drive into a fairway bunker, juiced his approach shot over the green and into a shallow part of the lake protecting the left side of the green. While the science of hitting a shot out of the water is similar to hitting it out of the sand, it is difficult to commit to it mentally (trust me, I have hit the shot a few times and have had less than stellar results). But Haas calmly stepped up and blasted his partially submerged projectile within a few feet of the hole. Even he said he didn’t know the shot would spin like it did. Haas rode the momentum of this shot to the 18th, where he defeated Mahan.
One of the most gratifying moments from the entire event was watching Bill’s father, Jay (a 9-time PGA Tour winner) follow and cheer him around the course. Jay is one of golf’s good guys. In fact, the Haas family in general is one of the best stories in golf.
As previously stated, I played high school golf (decently, but I was no Rory McIlroy…more like a Chris DiMarco– streaky and underachieving). Between my sophomore and junior season, I was lucky enough to attend the Wake Forest golf camp with one of my best friends and teammates. If you don’t know, Wake Forest is the unofficial home of the Haas family. Jay, and his sons Bill and Jay Jr. both played there, and Jay’s brother, Jerry, played there and is currently the head golf coach. It was at this camp that I truly began to appreciate the Haas family. Jerry was an absolutely fantastic person to be around; he was upbeat, positive and knew how to have a good time. I can’t tell you how many games of wiffle ball we played in the evenings. He was personable and encouraging at all times, and I have never forgotten much of what he taught me about golf and about life in general. That experience put the Haas family in a special place in my heart for life. I have followed Bill’s career with great interest, knowing the kind of family he comes from.
I also had the fortune of meeting Jay and chatting with him briefly. I realized that his personality was very similar to his brother’s and only solidified my positive image of the Haas family. Watching him follow his son around the course as an excited father, I couldn’t help but root for him to win. I can’t imagine what it is like seeing your son hole a putt for 11.44 million dollars, especially when for most of his life, he was watching you hole putts for victories and cash.
Of course Bill was extremely humble, as was Jay, after the win, but you could tell how much it meant to both of them. In today’s sports world where there are so many morally shady characters (Mike Vick, Tiger Woods, etc.) it is always nice to see one of the good guys come out on top. And in my opinion there isn’t a better epitome of the “nice” guy than a member of the Haas family.