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Haas: I had to sack my brother

Gene Wojciechowski
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Bill Haas holds the 18-hole lead after following an opening-round 68 © Getty Images
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This is how you maybe win a Masters:

You go liquid nitrogen cold. You make a business decision that Frank and Claire Underwood could admire. You decide the possibility of a green jacket is thicker than blood.

You fire your brother.

That's what your first-round Masters leader did not long ago. Bill Haas pink-slipped Jay Haas Jr as his caddie. Bill was so upset by the change that he shot a 4-under-par 68 on a sun-smooched Thursday at Augusta National.

"I needed to switch it up," Bill Haas said. "My brother has been on the bag a bunch for a few years and I think I needed a change."

He got it on Thursday. This was his 17th Masters round, but only his first in the 60s. His highest first-round finish had been a 23rd in 2013. Now he leads the Masters.

So, yeah, Haas isn't stressing about much of anything right now, including his former caddie.

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"It's just nothing - no certain reason why my brother is not working and why Scotty is working," Haas said. "It's just the way it is right now."

"Scotty" is Scott Gneiser, the same guy who held David Toms' hand when Toms won the 2001 PGA Championship. He's the guy who convinced Toms to lay up on his second shot from the rough on the 72nd hole at Atlanta Athletic Club rather than try to parachute a 5-wood onto the green. Toms took his advice, made par, and won his only major.

Caddies have the job security of Knicks coach Mike Woodson these days. But you would have thought brother would have a hard time firing brother.

Nope. According to Gneiser, he was chatting with Jay Haas and mentioned that he was on the brink of getting dismissed by John Peterson.

"I think I'm about to get canned too," Jay said. "Here's [Bill's] number. I think you'd be perfect for him. If I get fired, send him a text."

Sure enough, Jay got canned. Gneiser texted and eventually got a call.

"Want to try it and see how it goes?" Bill Haas said to Gneiser.

It's going well. And before you think Haas has dry ice for a heart, here's what he told Gneiser on why he's okay with Jay no longer on the bag: "I just wanted him to be my brother again."

The Haas family and the Masters haven't always gotten along. Bill's dad, Jay Sr., led the tournament in 1995 after the second round. Then he went 72-70 and finished in third place, 3 strokes behind Ben Crenshaw. On the flip side, Bill's great uncle, Bob Goalby, won the 1968 Masters.

"He's the person I looked up to the most," Bill said of his old man. "He's the person I idolized golf-wise. It was great, loved watching him compete, loved watching him play. I got such a rise seeing him on the leaderboard."

And when asked if what it was like to watch his dad contend in 1995, Bill said, "I never remember thinking, 'Man, I wish I could hit this shot for my dad.' But I do know now that there's some times I'm like, I wish my dad could hit this shot for me."

Bill is doing fine on his own. But he does have to overcome some so-so majors history. His Thursday 68 is only the fourth time in 18 major starts that he has broken par in the first round. Before that, he was a combined 31-over-par. Not good.

Experience helps, especially here. Haas' knees no longer knock while standing on the No. 1 tee box at Augusta National.

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"Not nervous," he said. "Anxious now."

There's a difference.

There's also a difference in caddies. And in Gneiser's experience.

"I do know that deep down, he's been under the gun a bunch of times with [Toms] and [caddied] in some Ryder Cups and Presidents Cups," Haas said. "He's seen a lot more pressure-packed situations than a lot of caddies. I don't think he can do anything but help me and I just like him."

Haas led after the first round of the Houston Open last week - where he and Gneiser first worked together - and finished T-37. He has two top 10 finishes this season, but that's about it for magic moments. In other words, his one-stroke lead after 18 holes on Thursday over Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen and Bubba Watson - all of whom have won majors - is written in pencil, not ink.

"I know there's tons of golf left," Haas said. "And maybe understanding that, I know that I can't expect too much."

So far, this is the father-son Masters. Two shots behind Haas is Kevin Stadler, whose father, Craig, won the 1982 Masters. Kevin shot 70, 12 strokes better than his dad.

Meanwhile, the Family Haas roots for Bill. Jay Sr. is spending time with Bill on the range. As for Jay Jr., well, here's guessing blood is thicker than pink slips.

Gene Wojciechowski is a senior columnist for ESPN.com

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