At the end, the scene on Oak Hill's 18th green was remarkably familiar. Langer, holding his visor in one hand and his long putter in the other, greeted Haas with a warm smile and a hug. It was like the hug they shared 13 years earlier in the Ryder Cup at Oak Hill, when the Europeans upset the Americans. Haas had just lost his singles match to Philip Walton, the match that clinched the Cup for the Euros. Langer, who had missed a putt that would've earned Europe a tie in '91 at Kiawah Island, understood how Haas felt.
"The crowd was cheering, and the Euros came on the green, and there was one guy who came up and gave me a hug, not a handshake," Haas said. "I didn't really know Bernhard that well at that time, but he was the only guy who really showed compassion."
Sunday's hug was eerily appropriate. Langer came to the 72nd green trailing by a shot. He two-putted for par from 50 feet, and Haas two-putted for par from 17. When Langer came forward to offer congratulations, Haas told him, "You know, there was only one guy after the Ryder Cup who came over and said some nice words to me, and you know that guy."
Much about Haas's winning the Senior PGA had a hauntingly retro feel. In his Ryder Cup loss to Walton, Haas stormed back from three down with three to play by holing a bunker shot at the 16th and winning the 17th after an amazing recovery from the rough. Last Saturday he holed an even more improbable eight-iron shot from the rough at 17, his ball bouncing through the fringe, onto the green and into the cup for an eagle to catapult him into a tie for the lead. "That shot will definitely go down in the Hall of Jay," Haas said, laughing.
Haas popped up a weak drive on the 18th hole of that fateful Ryder Cup match and was closed out when he missed his par putt for a halve. On Sunday he found himself back on the 18th tee in a similar pressure situation, one ahead of Langer.
"I had to chuckle," Haas said. "It was like, well, you've been talking about this. It's time to put up or shut up. You talk a good game, how about getting up there and ripping it. Damn if I didn't."
What Haas did on the 18th was hit a perfect drive down the left side of the fairway, about to the spot from which Shaun Micheel played his winning seven-iron shot in the '03 PGA. Then Haas deposited an excellent six-iron shot to 17 feet. Haas needed a two-putt for the win, and he got it, along with a sense of atonement. "If I could've played those two shots in '95," he said, "maybe I wouldn't have played them today."
It was a special week for Haas. The head pro at Oak Hill is Craig Harmon, son of former Winged Foot pro Claude Harmon and the brother of Billy, Haas's former Tour caddie, and Butch, the famous swing coach. The Harmon boys are family to Haas. "Almost every day this week, if I had a chance to get lunch, I would get a plate and go up to Craig's office and sit there and talk about nothing and just laugh," Haas said. "That's a great memory to have here."
Haas will leave his mark at Oak Hill. There is a wall of champions on the front of the clubhouse, plaques for all the players who have won championships at the club. Haas will join the likes of Jack Nicklaus (1980 PGA), Lee Trevino ('68 Open), Cary Middlecoff ('56 Open), Strange and the rest. Haas noticed the plaques for the first time on Sunday morning and tried not to think about what it would be like to have one of his own. On Sunday evening, when Haas emerged from the clubhouse after signing his scorecard, he was escorted toward the 18th green for the award ceremony. Several fans on a clubhouse balcony cheered as he walked below and shouted, "Jay, you made the wall!"
Haas looked up, raised his left arm and pointed toward the plaques as he walked by. "Wall, baby!" he answered. Then again, he and everyone else had been up against it all week.