Jacobsen Starts New Chapter as a Champion

By George WhiteMarch 10, 2004, 5:00 pm
Watch out, Champions Tour! Peter Jacobsen turned 50 on March 4th, and hes joining you this weekend at the SBC Classic. Jacobsen is golfs man of perpetual motion, and when he hits the over-50 circuit, he will hit the ground running.
He also will hit the ground talking. Thats been his trademark throughout his career. And that certainly hasnt changed.
A lot of the players that have cut their teeth in golf along with me, players of my age, I think we all understand the days and appreciate the days when we actually had to pay for range balls on the range, Jacobsen said. Actually, I can remember back when there were no range balls and you had to bring your own shag balls. And to get food in the locker room and the clubhouse, you had to pay.
A lot of those players that have those memories are on the Champions Tour, so I know that when I get out there, I'll probably look at a couple of them, like Morris Hatalsky and Dave Barr and Ed Fiori, D.A. Weibring, and we'll look at each other and giggle because here we were at 50 years old still playing the game that we love, and we're playing it because we love it, not because we're playing for money. We're playing for the enjoyment of the game.
Jacobsen, who underwent major surgery to repair a hip in 2001, stunned the golfing world when he won at Hartford last year at the age of 49. That victory allows him unlimited access to the regular tour for two years. The win also provides a pleasant problem for Peter ' how to plan a schedule which will include both tours.
I plan to play the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic until they have to wheel me off in a cart - simply because I think those tournaments are so very important to the future success and the ongoing success of the PGA Tour, for obvious reasons, Jacobsen says.
Winning at Hartford did turn my schedule on its head. I had planned starting at SBC to play full time on the Champions Tour, if I did not have an exempt status on the regular tour. But the win did give me an extension on my career on the tour through at least '05, so I'm going to continue.
I fought for 28 years, as every player does, to keep their card. You see players that lose their card go back to the school. I'm not going to willingly give that up just because I turned 50. I'm going to continue to fight and scrape and see how well I do against the young boys.
He says hes too fat. But he couldnt be happier about his golf game. Working back into shape following the surgery was a major undertaking, but Jacobsens win at Hartford last year is proof that it was a success.
That was a great accomplishment, a personal accomplishment for me to be able to come back from a pretty intense surgery and to win, said Jacobsen.
I don't care if you're 49 or you're 29, when you have a major surgical operation, it's great to be able to come back and win. And having that be at the age of 49 was quite a surprise to me. It didn't shock me because I have been playing well for the last year leading up to Hartford, but it was quite a surprise and quite a welcome surprise, but I'm very much looking forward to the second half of my golf career.
That would be, obviously, the transformation from the regular tour to the Champions Tour. He has lots of old pals out there waiting.
I was in Portland at the JELD-WEN Tradition (last year), so I had a chance to say hi to a lot of my friends - Mark Lye and D.A. Weibring and Sam Torrance and Bruce Fleisher. I see a lot of Champions Tour players throughout the year. PJP (Peter Jacobsen Productions) is involved in a lot of charitable outings and corporate outings, and we hire both PGA Tour and Champions Tour players to compete, so I see quite a few throughout the year.
Because the JELD-WEN is held in Portland ' and Jacobsen was raised and lived most of his life in Portland ' he does not want to miss the Champions major. But that weekend is also the time slot for Hartford, and it is traditional for the champion to defend. Caught in such a vice, Jacobsen had a very difficult choice. But he eventually chose the JELD-WEN and Portland.
When the Fred Meyer Challenge ended (which he created), we worked very hard with the PGA Tour to bring the Champions Tour to Portland, said Jacobsen. It's the first time I'm eligible to play in a major championship in my hometown and it's something that I want to take advantage of. I know I'm probably going to upset the people in Hartford by not defending my title, but I sincerely hope they understand, and I hope we can get the dates changed so that I can come back and defend my title one year removed in 2005.
Jake enters his 50th year a little like just about everyone ' concerned about his weight. His hair is graying, too. But he has a reason to keep his youth as long as possible.
I'm fortunately married to a very beautiful girl (Jan) - we've been married for 28 years - who is in fabulous shape, he says. She does yoga, she walks, she runs, she does everything possible to keep herself in shape. She is so young-looking, she looks like my third wife. I'm constantly trying to keep up with her, and that keeps me young and healthy.
So its on with the golf, as well as on with golf with the amateurs. Jake has made that a golden rule during his days on the regular tour ' never duck a tournament that is played with amateurs alongside. And the increase in playing time with amateurs on the Champions Tour is just all right with him.
I'm actually looking forward to the two pro-ams, Wednesdays and Thursdays, he said. I love playing in pro-ams. It's a chance for me and all the other players on tour to interact with the true golf fans, the corporate guests or the individuals that love the game of golf.
They simply want to walk and talk with the golf professional, and where better to do it than the Champions Tour where you have a chance to talk with somebody who has played on the PGA Tour for 20-plus years and they have victories under their belt and experiences they can share.
Jacobsen is ready. The Champions Tour is ready. And the fans are ready. Are his opponents ready?
Email your thoughts to George White
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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.

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Tour's Integrity Program raises gambling questions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 17, 2018, 7:00 pm

The video begins with an eye-opening disclaimer: “Sport betting markets produce revenues of $1 trillion each year.”

For all the seemingly elementary elements of the 15-minute video PGA Tour players have been required to watch as part of the circuit’s newly created Integrity Program, it’s the enormity of the industry – $1 trillion annually – that concerns officials.

There are no glaring examples of how sport betting has impacted golf, no red flags that sent Tour officials into damage control; just a realization that with that kind of money it’s best to be proactive.

“It's important that in that world, you can operate not understanding what's happening week in and week out, or you can assume that all of our players and everybody in our ecosystem understands that that's not an acceptable activity, or you can just be proactive and clarify and educate,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan explained earlier this month. “That's what we have attempted to do not with just the video, but with all of our communication with our players and will continue to do that.”

But if clarification is the goal, a copy of the training video obtained by GolfChannel.com paints a different picture.

Although the essence of the policy is straightforward – “prohibit players from betting on professional golf” – the primary concern, at least if the training video is any indication, is on match fixing; and warns players to avoid divulging what is considered “inside information.”

“I thought the questions were laughable. They were all like first-grade-level questions,” Chez Reavie said. “I would like to think everyone out here already knows the answer to those questions. But the Tour has to protect themselves.”

Monahan explained that the creation of the integrity policy was not in reaction to a specific incident and every player asked last week at the Sony Open said they had never encountered any type of match fixing.

“No, not at all,” Reavie said. “I have friends who will text me from home after a round, ‘Oh, I bet on you playing so-and-so.’ But I make it clear I don’t want to know. I don’t gamble like that. No one has ever approached me about losing a match.”

It was a common answer, but the majority of the video focuses on how players can avoid being placed in a compromising situation that could lead to match fixing. It should be noted that gamblers can place wagers on head-to-head matchups, provided by betting outlets, during stroke-play rounds of tournaments – not just in match-play competitions.

Part of the training video included questions players must answer to avoid violating the policy. An example of this was how a player should respond when asked, “Hello, buddy! Well played today. I was following your progress. I noticed your partner pulled out of his approach on 18, looked like his back. Is he okay for tomorrow?”

The correct answer from a list of options was, “I don’t know, sorry. I’m sure he will get it looked at if it’s bothering him.”

You get the idea, but for some players the training created more questions.

How, for example, should a player respond when asked how he’s feeling by a fan?

“The part I don’t understand, let’s say a member of your club comes out and watches you on the range hitting balls, he knows you’re struggling, and he bets against you. Somehow, some way that could come back to you, according to what I saw on that video,” said one player who asked not to be identified.

Exactly what constitutes a violation is still unclear for some who took the training, which was even more concerning considering the penalties for a violation of the policy.

The first violation is a warning and a second infraction will require the player to retake the training program, but a third violation is a fine “up to $500,000” or “the amount illegally received from the betting activity.” A sixth violation is a lifetime ban from the Tour.

Players are advised to be mindful of what they post on social media and to “refrain from talking about odds or betting activity.” The latter could be an issue considering how often players discuss betting on other sports.

Just last week at the Sony Open, Kevin Kisner and Justin Thomas had a “friendly” wager on the College Football Playoff National Championship. Kisner, a Georgia fan, lost the wager and had to wear an Alabama football jersey while playing the 17th hole last Thursday.

“If I'd have got the points, he'd have been wearing [the jersey], and I was lobbying for the points the whole week, and he didn't give them to me,” Kisner said. “So I'm still not sure about this bet.”

It’s unclear to some if Kisner’s remark, which was a joke and didn’t have anything to do with golf, would be considered a violation. From a common sense standpoint, Kisner did nothing wrong, but the uncertainty is an issue.

Much like drug testing, which the Tour introduced in 2008, few, if any, think sport betting is an issue in golf; but also like the anti-doping program, there appears to be the danger of an inadvertent and entirely innocent violation.

The Tour is trying to be proactive and the circuit has a trillion reasons to get out in front of what could become an issue, but if the initial reaction to the training video is any indication they may want to try a second take.

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Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.