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Knoxville Open winner Haas did it ‘his way’

For 2006 Knoxville Open champion Hunter Haas, there are only two ways to play Fox Den Country Club. “I don’t play aggressive on this golf course,” said Haas, who finished the final round with a 3-under-par 69, 19-under par for the tournament. “There is a couple ways to play this golf course and it’s either stupid or my way.”

Haas also won the Knoxville Open in 2004, making him the first two-time winner in the event’s 17-tournament history.

“I didn’t want to jinx myself and talk about confidence and how I felt I was going to win this week,” Haas said. “I’ve been playing good. I have won here before, so the confidence and to know that I can do it helps.”

When asked what his secret is to performing so well at Fox Den, Haas said it has a lot to do with club selection. Distance has become a premium in professional golf as of late, but not this week according to the champion.

In all, Haas only pulled the driver from his bag eight times over the course of the tournament. On the par-five 18th for instance, the Texas native from Fort Worth used a 4-iron and hybrid club twice each in the four rounds.

“The fairways are rock hard. It’s hot. The balls are flying far and I can hit a four iron and I can tumble it down there as far as anybody can,” Haas said. “That’s the position on this golf course, and there is some trouble if you take a driver on every hole.”

Haas, who hit 13-of-14 fairways Sunday, said precautions Fox Den officials have taken to ensure that a player must utilize his accuracy was lost on some of those competing in this year’s tournament.

“A lot of these guys out here are beating balls all day long, and all they do is hit mechanical shots,” he said. “There is nothing about a straight shot out here. It’s all drawing or fading or cutting. This course is nothing about hitting high mechanical shots.”

Despite starting the day 16-under-par, Haas only had a two stroke lead over surging Brenden Pappas — his final round playing partner — who after the second hole moved within one stroke of the lead.

But a collapse on the following two holes prevented a lead change as Pappas struggled all day -— finishing in a tie for fourth at 13-under-par. Gary Christian and Parker McLachlin ended their rounds one better at 14-under.

“I played with Hunter, and he had the same game plan all week. He obviously just performed better than I did today,” Pappas said. “I had a good chance early when I was one-under through two, and I hit two poor tee shots in a row and ended up three down after four. I never really put pressure on him. It was his to win today.”

Even with a growing lead, Haas did not allow himself to relax until the back nine on the final day.

“I wasn’t really relaxed until I birdied twelve and thirteen,” Haas said. “My nine-iron was my saving grace all week. It seemed like I had a lot of perfect nine-iron numbers, and I hit a lot of great nine iron shots. On twelve and thirteen, I was two feet and four-and-a-half feet, and it put me from eighteen to twenty [under par].”

But for Haas, the biggest shot of the day came on No. 9 after a horrendous second shot came to rest against a sand trap rake. After a ruling from an official enabled him to replace a drop that had rolled once hitting the ground, Haas drained a 10-foot putt to save par.

“It was an awful shot, the worst shot I hit all week,” Haas said. “The putt on nine was the turning moment of the day, it was downhill and broke about a foot. I hadn’t really hit a good putt the whole front nine.”

While Haas’ game did most of his talking over the course of the week, he credits a fair share of his success this week to his comfort level, made possible by the hospitality of Doug and Patty Lumpkin, a local Farragut family living in Fox Den. Nationwide Tour players often rely on families like the Lumpkins for a place to stay due to the financial strain attempting to get a start in professional golf places on the individual.

“I stayed with them when I was on the PGA Tour at Greensboro (North Carolina), and then they moved here on the course a month after the tournament I won [in 2004],” Haas said. “I called them up and said I needed a tent to sleep in.”

From the greens to the sleeping arrangements, all seemed to go right for Haas at the 2006 Knoxville Open.


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