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By Mark Lamport-Stokes
DUBLIN, Ohio (Reuters) - Bill Haas readily admits that changing diapers is more difficult than facing a tricky putt on a slick green but the American's game has clearly benefited from the recent birth of his first child.
A four-times winner on the PGA Tour, Haas had missed the cut on his previous two starts on the U.S. circuit this month before returning home to spend welcome time with his young family.
Despite a few sleepless nights there because of his baby son, William Harlan Haas, Jr., the 31-year-old father felt rejuvenated and it showed at the Memorial Tournament on Friday as he charged into an early two-shot lead in the second round.
"I've missed my last two cuts before this week, so certainly my expectations were a little lower than they were earlier this year," Haas told reporters after firing a five-under-par 67 in tough, windy conditions at Muirfield Village Golf Club.
"But I had a great two weeks off. I had a son and I've been having great fun with that at home with my wife. I think I'm just in a better frame of mind than I was three weeks ago after missing my second cut in a row."
Haas, who missed the cut at the Wells Fargo Championship and then the PGA Tour's flagship Players Championship, knew his mindset was in better shape when he did not react badly to his first bogey of the day on Friday, at the par-three 12th.
"I caught myself angry, but quickly I realized things are going good in my life right now," Haas smiled.
"I don't really say that to myself, but I think that there's a lot more things important going on, so maybe I'm just a little quicker to rebound from being mad."
Haas conceded he had found it extremely painful to leave home for this week's PGA Tour event after being with his wife Julie and their young son for the first two weeks of his life.
"It was very difficult," Haas said. "This is a tough week to skip. Only way I would have skipped it if he (William) was born maybe last week and I felt like I really needed to help my wife at home.
"But she's getting a bunch of help. My parents and her parents both live in town and she's getting a lot of help. And I'm getting tons of pictures and videos. I feel very informed with what's going on."
Haas bogeyed his final hole, the par-four 18th, on Friday after hitting his approach over the back of the green before failing to sink a tricky 12-footer for par.
Asked what was more difficult, that par putt or trying to change a diaper, Haas grinned: "Easiest is the putt on 18 but both are very rewarding. Changing a diaper is very rewarding.
"It's been beyond expectations, you know, raising a child for only two weeks. It's been fantastic and I look forward to the rest of the challenge."
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Frank Pingue)