||Since turning 50, Peter Jacobsen has battled a litany of injuries that have affected his play on the course. (John Mummert/USGA)
But Jacobsen is giving his full attention to preparations for the Senior Open at Crooked Stick Golf Club, in Carmel, Ind., July 30-Aug. 2.
“The USGA events have always been very important to me,” said Jacobsen on the eve of his third Champions Tour event of 2009 (he competed in only eight last year).
“That’s the only national championship we have and the only real major we have, in my mind. I’m going to try to play in every event I can before the Open, including the Senior British Open.”
After missing the cut at last year's Senior Open at The Broadmoor, in Colorado Springs, Colo., Jacobsen again fell victim to injury, and wasn’t able to make his 2009 debut until June because of surgery to repair a left rotator cuff.
“I’m not in any pain," said Jacobsen, "but I’m really rusty.”
Jacobsen said his game remains a work in progress as he prepares for the challenge of Crooked Stick, a Pete Dye design that will be hosting its sixth USGA championship.
“I just need to play to get ready,” the always-popular Jacobsen stressed. “I’ve been playing some good golf, but my wayward shots haven’t been exactly good. More like, ‘Where the heck did that come from?’
“I’m looking forward to it, as I always look forward to USGA events. It reminds me more of PGA Tour events, where you just have to keep moving forward. In the Senior Open, you have to pace yourself. Even par can be a good score.”
While Jacobsen never won a U.S. Open title, he has the good memory of a final-round 64 in the 1988 Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. And he memorably, and fictitiously, won a U.S. Open title in the Hollywood movie Tin Cup.
Turning 50 gave Jacobsen a renewed enthusiasm for the game he loves, and in short order, he became the second youngest winner (50 years, 4 months, 28 days) in U.S. Senior Open history. His win came at Bellerive Country Club outside of St. Louis. Playing 36 holes, due to inclement weather, on a sweltering Sunday, Jacobsen fired rounds of 69-68 for a one-stroke margin over Hale Irwin.
That victory seemed to serve notice that Jacobsen would be a force to contend with on the Champions Tour.
Yet over the last five years, Jacobsen has endured enough injuries, surgeries and setbacks to write his own medical textbook. No wonder he wears the logo of a pain-relief sponsor on his lapel.
Since his ’04 Senior Open victory, he has never played more than 15 times in a single season and has made fewer than 50 starts over the last five years.
A successful businessman and founder of the rock band "Jake Trout and the Flounders," with the late Payne Stewart, Jacobsen said the numerous injuries and time away from the game have also caused a crisis of confidence.
“I feel good now,” said Jacobsen, “but I knew I had game at one time. I still think I can get it back.
“I know I will wear out a bit on the golf course, but I wish I knew then what I know now about healing up my injuries. It’s been very frustrating trying to come back. It hasn’t been very enjoyable, to be honest.”
While Jacobsen tied for third in the 2006 U.S. Senior Open, his only other Champions Tour title has been the 2005 Senior Players Championship, where he again beat Irwin by a single stroke.
After all he's been through to get his body and his game back in shape, he is looking forward to playing Crooked Stick.
“I played the PGA Championship there [in 1991], but don’t remember much about it,” said Jacobsen. “I’ve been talking to my doctors regularly and I’m just glad to be playing and trying to get better.”
Art Stricklin is a Texas-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA championship Web sites.