CARMEL, Ind. (AP) – Bill Haas is in position to do something even Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh and Jim Furyk haven't – making it back to the FedEx Cup finale in Atlanta a year after winning the playoffs.
Haas dug himself out of a big hole Friday, tying the Crooked Stick record with an 8-under 64 at the BMW Championship. He will go into Saturday's third round four shots behind leader Singh, and most importantly, 27th in the points. The top 30 get to play for the $10 million prize.
Haas knows what's at stake.
“If I have a good tournament this weekend, I get to play at East Lake and if I don't, I don't,'' Haas said. “That's just the way it is and I wish I could be that relaxed on the course about it, but I have to keep telling myself to just go play the game, let it come to me, and if it works out great. If not, it's still been a good year.''
In the five years under this playoff format, no defending champ has made it back to Atlanta. Not Singh, not Furyk and not even Woods.
Furyk and Singh, the 2008 and 2010 winners, both failed to qualify.
Woods, who won in 2007 and 2009, missed the 2008 tournament because of an injury and the 2010 tourney because of personal turmoil.
On Thursday, it looked as if Haas might become the next victim of the FedEx jinx after shooting 71 on a day the rest of the field averaged 69.47.
By Friday morning, the 30-year-old player had forgotten all about his struggles and started playing the way he finished last season.
Haas birdied Nos. 1, 2 and 5 before making eagle on No. 9, a hole that set up his charge on the back side. He made four birdies on the first seven holes and finished with only one bogey, at No. 17, which cost him the outright course record.
“I knew after shooting 1 under, I was going to need a 7 or 8 under at least one day and maybe one other one just to stay with the guys in the lead,'' he said.
Occasionally, he tried to sneak a peek to see the overall standings. At one point, the scoreboard at No. 18 even showed him in the most dreaded spot of all – No. 31.
But when play ended, Haas had moved up four spots and was back in position to become the first defending champ to play in Atlanta.
“I think you can guess what it would mean,'' he said. “It's another week to play against the best players in the world, and I think it validates a good year. I won't say it's a bad year if I don't make it, but I think making it in the top 30 is everybody's goal at the beginning of the year.''
CONFUSING CALL: Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell shot 67 in the second round and was tied for ninth at 9 under, four shots behind Singh.
But with a little help, McDowell could have been two shots closer to the lead.
On Thursday, McDowell was penalized after hitting into a bunker on his final hole. When he swung, his club grazed a leaf attached to a branch behind his ball. It was determined he had touched a loose impediment in a hazard and was penalized two strokes.
He blamed himself.
“Like I say, my caddie told me not to touch it, and I thought he meant don't remove it,'' McDowell said. “But he meant don't touch it with your club either, you doughnut.''
McDowell said he wasn't aware the rule existed until the penalty was assessed.
Afterward, McDowell said, a rules official suggested the rule needed to be changed – and McDowell won't argue with that.
“It just hurts when a guy is not in any shape or form trying to gain an advantage and like me yesterday, I brushed that leaf and I get a two-shotter,'' he said. “I haven't gained an advantage, I haven't improved my lie, my ball is still in exactly the same scenario, I believe, has not moved. But yet I've got to add two shots to my scorecard.''
MOORE TO DO: Ryan Moore put himself in position to make a weekend run after shooting his second straight 66.
If he can make it through two more rounds, the Washington state native may finally produce the 72-hole score he has been craving and put himself in position for his first win of the season. He was a shot off the lead at 12-under, tied with Rory McIroy, Tiger Woods and Lee Westwood.
“I've had a lot of those tournaments this year where I've gotten myself up where I want to be and haven't necessarily done what I wanted to on the weekend,'' he said. “Last week, I started putting better. I hit the ball great in New York and really have been hitting it well for the last few months and just not putting up to my standards.''
That hasn't been a problem at Crooked Stick, where the greens were softened by heavy rain Wednesday.
“I'm to the point of actually feeling good over my putts and actually feeling a little bit of confidence,'' he said. “It's amazing what that can do.''
ACE STUDENT: Wisconsin's Steve Stricker had the first ace of this year's tournament, using a 6-iron on the 201-yard sixth hole.
The shot moved Stricker from 4 under to 6 under on a day that was terribly uneven. After shooting 68 Thursday, Stricker opened the second round by going bogey-birdie before the ace on No. 6. He gave both shots right back with a double bogey on the next hole, and finished with a 73 – leaving him 10 shots behind leader Vijay Singh.
The real winner, though, was Justin Cruz, a sophomore at Northwestern University.
BMW donated $100,000 to the Evans Scholars program for caddies. Cruz will receive the money to complete his education.
DIVOTS: Singh, who turns 50 in February, said he intends to continue competing on the PGA Tour rather than the Champions Tour next season. … Local favorite Bo Van Pelt followed Thursday's 64 with a 69 and was two shots off the lead heading into the weekend. … Saturday's tee times have been moved back because tournament officials expected severe weather in the area Friday night. The first groups will start at 11 a.m. Officials wanted the extra time for course maintenance. … There are no players in Indianapolis form the last PGA Tour event played at Crooked Stick, the 1991 PGA Championship. But there are at least two caddies back – Steve Williams, who worked with Raymond Floyd in 1991, and Tony Navarro, who caddied for Jeff Sluman in the PGA.