Bill Haas leaves field in his Wake with a 64

"A lot can go wrong in a quick second out here," he said.

Haas was so four-iron, five-iron, red-iron hot he shot 64 despite starting with a five on the easiest hole — the par-five first.

He described himself as "just plugging along" at two under when he birdied the par-four ninth with a 28-foot putt.

Haas followed with a ho-hum, chip-in eagle on the par-four 10th and then made birdie on the par-five 11th.

He played a seven-hole stretch, from the fifth to the 11th, in six under par. His card looked more like miniature golf: 3-3-3-4-3-2-4.

After "slumming" to five straight pars, Haas added a birdie at No. 17 and had a good birdie look at No. 18 but slid his 11-foot putt just right of the hole.

"Certainly would have like to make that putt on 18 after a nice drive and a nice second shot," Haas said. "But, overall, very pleased."

Not very pleased was Bae, who seized his first PGA Tour lead Friday before sinking to a tie for 13th after a five-over 76.

Also fading — although you suspected this might happen — was fan favorite Fred Couples. It's tough, at age 53, to string magic together on prime PGA Tour real estate, and Couples stands at even par, 12 shots back, after descending rounds of 68-72-73.

Sunday's focus is squarely on Haas, 30, who has won four times on tour but is still looking for the breakthrough consistency that can raise him to golf's concierge level.

Haas got very rich two years ago by winning the FedEx Cup grand prize, but he wasn't happy with his 2012 season, in which the Northern Trust was his only win. He had only three top-10 finishes and missed five cuts in 23 starts.

Haas was an afterthought in the majors, missing the U.S. Open cut, and finishing tied for 37th at the Masters, tied for 32nd at the PGA and tied for 19th at the British Open.

Simpson, his younger colleague, has already bagged his major.

"Had a very disappointed, sour taste in my mouth after the way I finished it off," Haas said of last year. "I know I'm 30 and I should be mature but I think sometimes out there I'm immature."

Sunday allows Haas some breathing room with another chance to grow up. He has a three-shot lead on a world-class track with conditions expected to be as tough, or tougher.

Of course he has doubts.

"You know," Haas said, "it's very difficult in this game to just pull away from the rest of the field. You've only seen a few guys ever really do that. And those guys are like Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson."

Haas is only 30, so it's not too late to join the club.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

 

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