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Bill Haas' Presidents Cup predicament

LEMONT, Ill. -- He sat in the Cog Hill clubhouse a year ago, helpless. The television showed the golfers on the course and the computers flashed the projections, and Bill Haas had no shots to play, no putts to hit and no voodoo dolls at his disposal.

He certainly did not want to wish ill will on his colleagues, but that is essentially what he had to do if Haas wanted to advance to the Tour Championship.

"It's a bittersweet place to be,'' he said.

Haas' body contortions, hexes and rooting in front of the TV were not enough to get him to Atlanta. As it turned out, he missed a shot in the 30-player Tour Championship by a measly stroke.

How big is that? Aside from the prize money in Atlanta and the FedEx Cup bonus pool, a spot in the Tour Championship these days assures a place in the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open. Haas managed to qualify for those majors anyway, but he was none too pleased about the missed opportunity to play at East Lake.

This year Haas, 29, has sought to make sure that is not an issue. The son of nine-time PGA Tour winner Jay Haas, who now plays on the Champions Tour, the younger Haas has put himself in solid position to advance to next week's Tour Championship while also giving himself a shot at his third PGA Tour victory at the BMW Championship.

Haas shot a 2-under-par 69 Saturday at Cog Hill to move into a tie for third, five strokes behind leader Justin Rose. John Senden is three back, and Geoff Ogilvy is tied with Haas.

Oh, and there's that Presidents Cup thing to worry about.

"Obviously there are things to play for, but there are things to play for every day,'' Haas said. "Every shot counts and that's what I keep telling myself out there, even when it's not going well. If I can save one shot here, one shot there, it might end up helping me somewhere down the line. I'm just trying to stay patient.''

Haas was kicking himself for the double-bogey he made at the 16th hole Saturday, putting a damper on an otherwise impressive round that saw him make an eagle and four birdies. He settled for his position in the top five, and after entering the week 24th in the FedEx Cup standings, he is now projected to finish ninth.

Seeing as Jim Furyk won the overall FedEx Cup title a year ago entering the Tour Championship in 11th place, it is clear that Haas does not want to just hang on to a position in the top 30. The higher he finishes, the better his chances next week and the better he positions himself for a shot at $10 million.

Last year serves as a reminder in a different way.

"I needed a good week and just kind of hung around,'' he said. "It's just crazy how it can basically come down to one shot. One shot and I would have been in the Tour Championship last year.''

Perhaps the one-shot swing this year could be the difference between a spot on the U.S. Presidents Cup team or not.

That is another goal Haas has for Sunday, which is the last day American and International players can qualify for one of the 10 automatic spots on their respective teams.

And both races are tight. (Senden and Ogilvy are fighting for spots on the International team, along with Robert Allenby and Aaron Baddeley -- both of whom shot 75 on Saturday.)

On the American side, Haas is 12th in points but was projected to move into the top 10 if the BMW had ended Saturday. PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley, who is 20th in points, moved into sixth place to make a bid at least for one of the two at-large picks.

Furyk, who is ninth in the standings, is tied for seventh at the BMW. David Toms, 10th for the Presidents Cup, is tied for 14th but in danger of getting bumped out. So is Hunter Mahan, who is eighth in the standings but tied for 26th in the tournament. Brandt Snedeker is 11th in the standings and tied for 14th in the tournament with Toms. The U.S. Presidents Cup team is determined by a points system that uses PGA Tour prize money. This year, the points are doubled.

"It's in the back of my mind, it's weighing on me,'' said Furyk, who has played on every U.S. Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup team dating to 1997. "Obviously I want to make the team. The only thing I can really control is how I play.''

Same for Haas.

"I want to make the team,'' he said. "If I play well tomorrow, I might be able to sneak in there. I have a chance anyway. If I don't play well, then it is what it is. There are a lot of guys outside the number who have really had strong years who could easily get picked ahead of me. And I'm okay with that. There are some American players who are playing great, and I pull for the team. I obviously want to be on it, but I want to make the team points wise.''

And that, of course, is a wise and obvious approach, because Haas finds himself in a difficult spot with his dad being Couples' assistant captain -- just as he was two years ago in San Francisco.

Neither likely thought through the ramifications at the time the older Haas signed up for the duties again. Certainly it would be far better for all concerned if the younger Haas were to make the team on his own. But what if he doesn't? Haas has won two tournaments during the qualifying period, both last year. If he ends up 11th in the points, doesn't he deserve to be considered?

Then there is the issue of Couples already assuring Tiger Woods one of his two at-large spots. Woods is 29th in the standings and hasn't played since the PGA Championship. But he has a spot, leaving a bunch of players to fight for the other, which will be named Sept. 27.

"I have not heard from Freddie and I can honestly say I have not had one conversation with my dad about it, him being an assistant captain,'' Haas said. "It's just something I think they both want me to play the best I can play and try to earn a spot, and then Freddie will make the right decision.''

The good news for Haas on Sunday? He'll be in the second-to-last group, meaning he won't be fretting about any of the various outcomes afterward. Pretty much by the time he signs his scorecard, he'll know.

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.