The two-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion, who led the U.S. Senior Open through two rounds this summer, shot a 2-under 68 on Monday to take the lead after the first round of the U.S. Amateur Championship.
Jackson, 50, made three birdies against one bogey at Southern Hills Country Club. He was the lone golfer in the field of 156 at Southern Hills to best par, while four golfers managed to shoot 1-under at Cedar Ridge Country Club in Broken Arrow.
Jackson, of Germantown, Tenn., will move across town to the longer Cedar Ridge course Tuesday for the final qualifying round, after which the field of 312 will be cut to 64 for match play which runs Wednesday through Sunday at Southern Hills.
There were 61 golfers at 3-over or better and it will likely take a score of 147 or better to move into match play. The average score at Cedar Ridge in the opening round was 75.6 while the average at Southern Hills was 78.5.
A former multi-sport athlete who took up golf relatively late at age 16, Jackson won the USGA Mid-Amateur in 1994 and 2001 and finished tied for 11th in his first U.S. Senior Open earlier this year after leading at the halfway point.
Shooting 1-under at Cedar Ridge were Matthew Broome of Barrington, R.I., John Peterson of Fort Worth, Texas, Will Strickler of Gainesville, Fla. And Cameron Tringale of Laguna Niguel, Calif. Patrick Duncan of Rancho Santa Fe., Calif., was the lone player to post an even-par 70 at Southern Hills, while five players shot 70 at Cedar Ridge.
Among those at 71 was Rickie Fowler, the top-ranked amateur in the U.S.
Some of the pre-tournament favorites struggled. Canadian Matt Hill, who won the 2009 NCAA championship at North Carolina State, as well as seven other college tournaments and the Ontario Open, shot 75 at Cedar Ridge, stretched to 7,336 yards at par 70 by the USGA, which had several new tees installed prior to the tournament.
Its a tough course, said Hill, who has played three times on the PGA Tour this summer, including a tie for 70th at the AT&T at Congressional. If you get it in the rough, with the wind we had, it was just very hard to make pars. And there are very few birdie holes out there.
Matt Benjamin, of Rockford, Ill., who upset Canadian Nick Taylor in the finals of the U.S. Public Links Championship in Norman, Okla., struggled to a 77 at Cedar Ridge, while Taylor, also regarded as a contender, shot 80 at Southern Hills.
This is a much tougher field and a much more difficult course, Benjamin said. You have to be on top of your game and I wasnt today.
Jackson is constantly asked why he hasnt turned professional. He much prefers the amateur game.
Its all Ive known, Jackson said. I started playing golf by accident when I was 16. I was a baseball player and we got rained out and a bunch of us went to the driving range. I was a good athlete, but golf was the hardest thing Ive ever tried to do. It just got me.
In addition to the two Mid-Amateur wins, Jackson has twice been a member of the U.S. Walker Cup team and would like to captain the team in the future.