ATLANTA - Jay Haas became the second-oldest player on the Ryder Cup team. He qualified for the Tour Championship at age 50, turning down a chance to make easy money on the Champions Tour.
Haas got another treat Wednesday when he was honored with the Payne Stewart Award.
The award was started after Stewart, a two-time U.S. Open champion, died in a plane crash on his way to Houston in 1999 for the Tour Championship. It is given to players who share Stewart's respect for golf traditions and charity, and who thrive on how they present themselves in dress and conduct.
"He has always been able to find the right balance between his family and his career, something Payne embodied, " PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. "This has been a rewarding year for Jay. He has not only excelled on the golf course, but has been able to share his son Bill's pursuit of playing on the PGA Tour."
Bill Haas, who graduated from Wake Forest this year, came close to earning his tour card playing a limited schedule.
Previous winners of the Payne Stewart Award are Jack Nicklaus, Byron Nelson and Arnold Palmer in 2000; Ben Crenshaw in 2001; Nick Price in 2002; and Tom Watson last year.
TIRED LEFTY: Phil Mickelson said he was looking forward to a full schedule in the fall, especially after signing a new endorsement deal with Callaway Golf.
Now, Lefty isn't so sure that was the best move.
He poured everything into the majors this year, and it shows. Mickelson won his first Grand Slam event at the Masters; was tied for the lead at the U.S. Open until a double bogey on the 71st hole; finished one shot out of a playoff at the British Open; and tied for sixth, two shots out of the playoff, at the PGA Championship.
Since then, he is a combined 17 over par in the NEC Invitational, the Canadian Open and the Chrysler Championship. And he doesn't have high expectations for the Tour Championship.
"I probably played more this year after the PGA than I should have," Mickelson said. "I just need time off to get excited about playing and working hard and practicing. The tour year is not like the NFL or baseball. It's a yearlong deal, and it just seems like the last couple of months after the PGA, it's hard for me to get motivated to play."
Mickelson said he might change his schedule after the majors are over next year.
"It just seems like after the PGA, the year kind of ends," he said.
RYDER CUP MUSING: Paul Azinger turned down the Ryder Cup captaincy and lobbied for Larry Nelson. He was surprised that Tom Lehman was selected captain, but thinks he'll do well.
But Azinger says Americans needs more than a good captain - they need a better selection process.
Several players have said Europe has the advantage by picking its team over one year, instead of the two-year process created by the PGA of America.
"What America needs to do is not get the right captain, but get the right points system to get the hottest players - not the best, because they're all great - but the hottest players," he said.
Azinger was sitting next to 10-time Ryder Cup star Nick Faldo, who found this all amusing.
"You had your 'B' team, did you?'" Faldo said.
"We had a great team," Azinger replied. "But we didn't have our hottest team."
Faldo couldn't resist another dig.
"You're going to need it to get close this time," the Englishman said.
Europe won, 18½-9½, two months ago at Oakland Hills. Europe won, 15½-12½, two years ago at The Belfry.
FLORIDA SWING: PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said the Florida swing might go through some adjustments, but the Bay Hill Invitational likely will stay put.
There have been suggestions in recent weeks that Finchem was looking at rotating Doral, Honda and Bay Hill to help those tournaments attract stronger field. The West Coast Swing is getting strong fields because of increased prize money, culminating with a World Golf Championship at La Costa.
"That's not where we are," Finchem said. "As it relates specifically to Bay Hill, I don't think we would even contemplate that. But how the West Coast ends with the Match Play and how it begins is something we might look at after '06. But we're just in the preliminary stages. It would be highly speculative to suggest that any switcheroo was in the offing."
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