Peter Jacobsen going wire to wire at the Greater Hartford Open is part Jerry Lewis Telethon and part Muhammad Ali comeback. Jacobsen can make us a laugh. He can win with style. And, at age 49, he can defy the notion that players of that vintage should be tidying their resumes for the Champions Tour.
Welcome to the roaring 40s. Jacobsen, Kenny Perry, Fred Couples, Jay Haas, Nick Price, Scott Hoch, Beth Daniel, Juli Inkster. Even Vijay Singh. For that matter, Davis Love III will turn 40 next April.
'You know, I got to be honest with you, I never think of my age,' Jacobsen said late Sunday after beating Chris Riley by two shots and winning on the PGA Tour for the first time since 1995. 'When I tee it up out here. I joke about it because people ask about it.
'I crawled up the hill on 17 there and people were yelling, 'Go Jake.' And I went like this (deep sigh), and I said, let me catch my breath. I said I got a little winded coming up the hill. In fact, I got light-headed screaming at you. I joke about it. Today when I am playing Chris Riley, or Aaron Baddeley or Tiger Woods, I'm not thinking about age.'
The Champions Tour gets Jacobsen's breaths of fresh air next March. Haas turns 50 in December. Craig Stadler, exempt on the PGA Tour through the end of 2005 thanks to his recent win at the B.C. Open, is already 50..
Maybe Jacobsen isn't thinking about age. But it's hard not to. And then there's always the advantage of experience. Forty-somethings have plenty of that.
'Yes,' Jacobsen said, 'I felt the last nine holes, if I was near the lead I would have a good chance, because a victory is not going to change my life. A victory is going to change Craig Barlow's life, or a victory is going to change --Chris Riley already won. If you could win your first or second tournament, it will change your life, especially if you are in your 20's.
'But me, I'm in my 60s now (pause, insert laugh track). It's just not going to change my life. I still got my beautiful daughter who is going to be going to medical school. Are you still going to go to medical school, Kristen? She is going to study--what's your field of study, honey? '
Kristen Jacobsen, seated in interview room: 'Neuroscience.'
'She is going to start on me,' Jacobsen said putting his hands on his head. 'You can saw off the top, pull it off and look inside.'
Peter doing more schtick.
But don't let the humor fool you. This was Jacobsen's seventh career PGA Tour victory in his 27th season (624th start). He is the fifth player to win this event twice, waiting 19 years between those victories. His first place check was worth $720,000 and improved his season earnings to $1,030,495. That check is exactly 10 times more than he earned for his first victory in 1984.
The Hartford win made him the seventh-oldest winner in tour history (49 years, 4 months, 23 days). He is the sixth winner over 40 this year. He has now exceeded $7 million in career earnings, moving into the top 65 on the all-time money list.
'It feels great,' Jacobsen said, fresh in the flush of victory. 'I was thinking out there today, this is the first tournament back, two-year anniversary from when I had hip surgery. I had hip surgery back in 2001 and I came back to this tournament after being on crutches for eight weeks, two months, and I remember only being able to play nine holes and I just ran out of gas each day and I missed the cut.
'But it's kind of the finish line for me of a long road back from a quite a few years of playing hurt through the late '90s and into the early 2000.'
Ok, 40-somethings suffer wear and tear. They are human. But they appreciate
what golf gives them.
'It's very, very special,' Peter Jacobsen said.