Send in the Clowns

Bill Murray highlighted the show, but Peter Jacobsen, himself a funny man, won at Pebble Beach
February 13, 1995

All right, so Johnny Miller didn't win it, and Jack Lemmon didn't make the cut, and Tom Watson's putter betrayed him again, but last week's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, that most unsinkable of tournaments, still had its share of miracles.

Start with the fact that it was played at all. After near-torrential rain on the Monterey Peninsula for 26 of the previous 31 days, golfers arrived to find the three tournament courses—Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Poppy Hills—not only unplayable, but for the first time since the tournament moved to Pebble Beach in 1947, completely closed to all practice rounds. When the mudder of all tournaments began last Thursday, it was with rubber mats on the driving range and the lift, clean and place rule in effect everywhere else.

Or consider how a field that lacked Nick Price, Greg Norman and Fred Couples could still produce a star-studded Sunday leader board that included not only Nick Faldo, Davis Love III and Payne Stewart but also Jack Nicklaus, who tied for sixth in his first tournament since turning 55, and Watson, who faded to finish 13th.

Maybe the biggest miracles were pulled off by Bill Murray and Peter Jacobsen, each of whom came to the AT&T with something to prove. The zany Murray, whose shambling co-medic persona has made him the most popular celebrity ever to play at Pebble Beach, was eager to show that the intimacy he shares with the galleries is based on a mutual love of golf as well as his ability to make people laugh. The 40-year-old Jacobsen, whose humor and skill as a mimic make him the most entertaining pro on the PGA Tour, was looking for his first win in five years.

Both accomplished their goals. After the 1993 tournament, during which he dragged an elderly but willing woman from the gallery into a bunker for a quick two-step that left her sprawled in the sand, Murray came in for sharp criticism from some quarters. His primary critic was Deane Beman, then Tour commissioner, who hinted last year that Murray might not be invited back to Pebble Beach. Murray was hurt by Beman's comments that his behavior was "inappropriate and detrimental." He called Beman "just another screwhead who's too big for his britches."

But Beman is gone now, replaced by Tim Finchem, who extended an olive branch over the summer. Finchem reassured Murray that he could continue to improvise with the galleries as long as he stayed away from sand-trap dancing. This year Murray not only stayed out of the principal's office, but he also played well enough amid a sea of irreverence to finish tied for eighth, at 29 under par, with his pro-am partner, Scott Simpson.

Jacobsen, meanwhile, simply played the most impressive golf of his 18-year career. He hit 69 of 72 greens on his way to a tournament-record 271 that gave him a two-stroke victory over David Duval. The $252,000 first prize was more than Jacobsen's winnings in any single year since 1991.

"It was a great tournament for both me and Bill," said Jacobsen, who has been bothered by nagging injuries the last two years. He was spurred on by his quest, once again unsuccessful, to help amateur partner Lemmon make the pro-am cut for the first time. "I've played some of my best tournament golf in events in which I've been paired with an amateur because I enjoy their love of the game," said Jacobsen. "I know Bill loves the game, and after this week I think more people will probably agree that Bill Murray is great for golf."

In past years the athletic, 6'1" Murray, an 18 handicapper, had undermined his play by concentrating more on his ongoing repartee with the crowds. This year he prepared for Pebble Beach by taking lessons from Simpson's teacher, Kip Putterbaugh, in San Diego. Putterbaugh actually got Murray to adopt a preshot routine in which Murray would make a practice swing and hold a full finish for a couple of seconds.

"That's made a big difference for Bill," said Simpson. "As you might imagine, he's not a big routine guy, but all during the tournament he was able to hone in on each shot."

After the shot, though, Murray went right back to making everyone around him laugh. He got a running start at the Celebrity Challenge on Wednesday, which was played on the property's nine-hole par-3 because the main course was still closed. A vision in gray cotton shorts that appeared to have been carefully slept in, Murray explained, "I just signed a very lucrative deal with Goodwill Industries."

Once the tournament started, Murray repeatedly said, "I'm all about golf right now." But between shots he was busy pulling babies' ears, throwing divots to the crowd, signing autographs, tossing Simpson's golf balls into the crowd and, at one point, moving CBS announcer Gary McCord's desk onto the 17th tee at Pebble. Still, after 36 holes Murray and Simpson were 15 under and a near lock to make the 54-hole cut.

On the chilly Saturday morning of the third round, Murray was visibly tense on the driving range, taking deep breaths and exhaling loudly. "Man, I'm nervous," he told Simpson, who answered gently, "Just have fun."

On the 1st tee at Pebble Beach, Murray got into character by breaking out an artificial-turf-topped tam-o'-shanter with a plastic golf ball and flag tied to its crown. But when it was time to hit, it was clear he hadn't forgotten Putterbaugh's lessons. By the end of the round Murray had logged more network airtime than anyone else in the tournament. And he had helped his team by 25 shots, more than anyone else in the field.

"I just love this event," said Murray. "I really do."

So does Jacobsen. The Pebble Beach pro-am was the site of his rookie debut in 1977, and he has fond memories of golf outings there as a teenager when his entire family would drive from their Portland home to spend a week playing the great courses of the Monterey Peninsula. Jacobsen's father, Erling, was always his primary inspiration, and the son admits he lost some of his love for the game and his desire to compete when his father died in 1992 after a long bout with cancer. Over the next two years Jacobsen immersed himself in other projects, including course architecture and television commentary, and it seemed that his outside interests might permanently blunt his competitive edge. But it was while working for ABC Sports last year that Jacobsen felt the fire begin to burn again.

"Putting on a coat and tie, sitting in a booth, looking at a monitor and talking about a player whom you know you could still beat, that motivated me to the nth degree," says Jacobsen.

Last year the 6'3", 200-pounder hired a personal trainer with whom he runs and lifts weights. Jacobsen believes the work has toughened him mentally, and he came to Pebble Beach as confident as he was before his last victory, which came in 1990 at another pro-am, the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. On Saturday evening he told Harry Crosby, Bing's son, that he would be collecting the winner's check the next day. Jacobsen gained more good vibes when the 69-year-old Lemmon came out to walk the first three holes on Sunday before rushing off to a business commitment in Los Angeles. Jacobsen birdied all three to take the lead from third-round leader Kenny Perry, and he was never headed.

Standing on the 18th tee with a two-stroke lead over Duval; Jacobsen paused when he noticed a lone seagull hovering above him. Calmly, he hit safely in the fairway and finished up with a birdie.

"I saw that seagull and I thought of my dad, like he was watching over me," said Jacobsen later. "It was a very peaceful feeling."

In a week of small miracles, it was a wonderful way to end.

PHOTOJACQUELINE DUVOISIN PHOTOJACQUELINE DUVOISINMurray's comic combination of good golf and goodwill drew critical raves. TWO PHOTOSJACQUELINE DUVOISINJacobsen thrived in the goofy pro-am format, but for Lemmon (above) it was another year of missing the cut. THREE PHOTOSJACQUELINE DUVOISINComedian Tom Smothers had to hustle to prevent his son, Bolyn, from making an illegal lift.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)