On The Green recently sat down with Bill Haas, champion of the 2012 Northern Trust Open, to discuss his exciting victory last year and to get his perspective on the 2013 Northern Trust Open. Haas was in a three-way playoff against Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley when he birdied the second playoff hole – the 10th hole – with a 43-foot putt to win the tournament. It was one of the most exciting finishes of the season and one of the most memorable in recent history at Riviera. Phil and Keegan charged hard but Haas, the 2011 FedExCup Champion, never wavered.
Last year, both Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley sank birdie putts on the 18th hole to force a playoff. How did you feel when you heard the crowd roar when they each sank their putts?
To prepare myself, I had to expect them to make birdie, so in that sense I was anticipating the roar. A playoff can be stressful, but whether you win or finish second, either way you’ve had a great week. So you just have to try to hit golf shots. Unfortunately, I didn’t hit a very nice tee ball on 10. Luckily they didn’t hit great shots either, so it all just happened to work out for me.
What do you like about the Northern Trust Open and Riviera Country Club?
I think it’s one of the best courses on TOUR. I really like the fairways at Riviera. The ball seems to sit up. There are a lot of tournaments that feel like work, but Northern Trust Open week is a fun week to play.
What is your favorite hole at Riviera Country Club?
I think 16 is one of the best par-3s on the course, and 10 is a great short hole. But the entire course is demanding. It’s all right there in front of you. It’s a hard course.
Do you have a specific goal or a part of your game that you’re working to improve?
I’m working on everything: Ball striking, putting, physical fitness. All around I’m just trying to be a better player.
In a couple of weeks you will be trying to defend your title. Do you approach the week any differently as the 2012 champion?
I don’t think so. It’s a new year. I’ve set expectations for myself, and after playing only a few events so far, obviously I haven’t reached them. Each day I try to get a little better and hopefully when I get to L.A. I’ll be pretty sharp.