Jacobsen Holds Steady, Lead
By Ken Klavon, USGA
Town and Country, Mo. – On the fifth fairway Saturday, Peter Jacobsen yanked at his surgically-repaired left hip. He squatted, tugged and stretched awkwardly.
While coming off No. 9 after carding a 1-under 70 in the second round of the U.S. Senior Open, Jay Haas idled by and playfully called him a wimp. Jacobsen laughed.
After the first two rounds Jacobsen, coming off surgery to repair a torn
|Gil Morgan couldn't believe this missed putt on his front nine, but stayed under par for the second round. (Steven Gibbons/USGA)
labrum three months ago, was all smiles. He had reason to be. He continued to hold the overall lead at 7-under 135. Jose Maria Canizares finished up with three straight birdies to bookend 3-under 68s through the first two rounds and stood one stroke off the pace.
Old standbys Jay Haas, Tom Kite and Fuzzy Zoeller were also in the mix at 5-under 137. Craig Stadler, who shot a 5-under 66 in the first round, went off in the afternoon.
On a gorgeous sunny but sticky day, a complete turnaround from torrential rain that flooded parts of Bellerive on Friday, the course was in tip-top shape with few troublesome areas.
It was so soft that "it was like walking in soft sand on a beach," said Kite.
"There was a few wet spots out there in the fairway, but most of them were not in the fairway," said Gil Morgan, 1-under 70 Saturday and 4-under for the championship.
Jacobsen, attempting to become the first wire-to-wire champion since Simon Hobday in 1994, was simply a model of perseverance. Making the turn at 8 under, the wily Oregonian began leaking oil just about the time his hip started stiffening.
After missing a 3-footer for birdie on the third hole, he lipped a 3-footer on the on the par-5 fourth, which led to a three-putt and bogey. He followed that up with another bogey on the par-4 fifth. He chipped on the sloping green from the back fringe rough and watched the ball slide over a shelf, finally stopping 15 feet below the hole. He couldn't save par, leaving the putt 2 feet short.
However, he plugged the dam with an important 12-footer for birdie on the robust 190-yard, par 3 sixth.
"Anytime you come back with a birdie on six, that's going to settle you down," said Jacobsen.
Jacobsen came up short on a near ace on the par-3 third hole when the spongy green grabbed his ball 4 feet short of the target. Early in the round he chipped in 40 feet left of the green on No. 13 for one of his four birdies.
With the second round being pushed to Saturday, Jacobsen enjoyed the day of rest. He recently withdrew from the Fords Senior Championship and the British Senior Open because his hip couldn't take the grinding.
All the wear and tear on the hip from torque-and-plant circumstances led to the surgery. Doctors drilled three holes in the hip and reattached the labrum, a process that has been done on other athletes. Miami Dolphins quarterback Jay Fielder, NHL superstar Mario Lemieux and golfers Jonathan Byrd, Steve Elkington, Greg Norman and Jesper Parnivek have undergone the same surgery.
When he learned that the rain created a 36-hole scenario Sunday, Jacobsen said he realized that his work will be cut out for him. It didn't hurt that a little humor crept in.
"Jay [Haas] called me [Friday] morning at 10:35 a.m. on my cell phone," said Jacobsen. "He said, ‘This is Tom Meeks with the USGA. We flipped a coin and took a third of the field, and you're on the tee in five minutes, so we'll see you out here.' Jay and I call each other all the time and leave silly, stupid messages back and forth."
Haas was able to crack a smile after his 1-under 70 round. Two bogeys on his front nine left him concerned. He said he didn't panic but knew he couldn't absorb any more without any birdies. He got hot, birdieing the second, third and fourth holes. He knocked in back-to-back 15-footers on two and three before barely missing an eagle from 45 feet well below the hole on No. 4.
He knows he's in a dogfight.
"It's fun," said Haas. "A lot of these guys over the years that I've played against, competed against, I've been on the outside looking in plenty of times."
Canizares, Kite and Zoeller are also aware that with 36 holes to play, it's anyone's championship to win.
"[Sunday] I've got new legs, new head, new everything for the second 18 holes," said Canizares, who had a bogey-free round.
Kite's key was that he took just 25 putts. He started feeling as though momentum was on his side after birdieing two of his last four holes.
|Tom Kite, hitting from under a tree Saturday, put himself in position to contend for the Senior Open title. (Steven Gibbons/USGA)
"A lot of times when you play 18 holes and shoot a good round," said Kite, "you wish you could keep going. Now you get that opportunity to keep going."
Zoeller scrambled to a solid round after striking just six fairways in regulation and somehow also posting a bogey-free round.
Even par after the first round, Zoeller discovered a flaw in his swing and concentrated hard to correct it Saturday. He had found that all his clubs were bottoming out at the same position, so he moved the club up a bit through his swing. It paid dividends, despite all the missed fairways.
"I don't want to reveal my secrets," said Zoeller. "Honest to God, with me, it's just ball position, and I just moved her up."
For now, though, all eyes are on Jacobsen. Players are sympathetic to his plight, but only so much.
Haas had a plan in mind.
"I might take him down and do a little one-on-one at the hotel maybe," said Haas to laughter.
Ken Klavon is the USGA Web Editor. E-mail him with questions or comments at email@example.com.