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Can Jacobson defend his Travelers title?

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CROMWELL, Conn. – Fredrik Jacobson stood on the ninth green at TPC-River Highlands – his last hole of the day – with only four feet separating him from a second straight score of 5-under 65, likely ensuring a tournament lead heading into the weekend at the Travelers Championship.

The little par attempt was the final cherry on top of a round that appeared easy as pie, one that already included an eagle and four birdies.

He missed it.

Most players would storm off the course in a frenzy, arguing that dinner may taste a bit more bitter after closing in such fashion. Jacobson isn’t most players.

“I think I'll be all right, but you know, obviously you want to finish in style and round it off,” he explained. “I tried my hardest on all of them, and you're going to have some hiccups during 72 holes. Just don't have too many.”

Fact is, Jacobson was still smiling after posting a 66 – and for good reason.

Just five days ago, the 37-year-old from Sweden entered the final round of the U.S. Open solidly in title contention, just two strokes off the lead and playing in the day’s penultimate pairing.

Eighteen holes and 75 strokes later, he was finishing in a share of 15th place – a precipitous tumble down the leaderboard that clinched the worst final-round total of any player in the eventual top-20.

If there’s a moral to the story, though, it’s that making bogey may be a rally-killer, but it is hardly a be-all, end-all to a tournament round.

Even with drastically different conditions at the Travelers than last week’s major championship, Jacobson understands that any bogey is a misstep, but when more birdie opportunities are available there’s always room to get them back.

“I like that kind of golf,” he confided. “But you play for four days and you grind it out. It's nice to have a couple of holes where you feel like if you hit the shot you have some good chance to make some birdies. So you know, I do enjoy that, the week after, to play a course that sets up a little bit more to give us a chance to score.”

And it’s a course on which Jacobson has done plenty of scoring in the past two years.

Last year, he opened 65-66 en route to winning his first career PGA Tour title. This year, he’s opened with the same scores – and is hoping for the same result.

“It's going to be tough to drive it the way I did the last two rounds last year where I didn't miss a fairway,” he said. “So I'm not going to try to chase that. But yeah, probably have been playing about the same as I did the first couple of days last year.”

If Jacobson can close in the same fashion, he can equal the feat of Phil Mickelson, who in 2001-02 became the first and only player to win on back-to-back occasions in the 60-year history of this event.

Asked whether he can do it, Jacobson responded with blunt honesty.

“This is the first time for me, so I mean, I don't know,” he said. “We're only at the halfway mark. You play well for a couple of days, it's easy to start thinking about the finish line already, and I can see that.

“I think a lot of guys come back and probably play well. It's obviously tough to win a tournament – any tournament it's tough to win. To win two in a row is probably tougher. But you know, you have the thing going for you that you have some good memories to draw from, so hopefully that allows a little bit to increase your chances.”

There are indeed plenty of memories flowing this week. Good vibes from his win here last year. And maybe a little hunger brewing from last week’s title contention that ended in disappointment.

In the process, Fredrik Jacobson is making some new memories, too.