Greater Heartfelt Open Jacobsen and Whaley were the stars of a rousing GHO

August 03, 2003

Suzy Whaley's goals at last week's Greater Hartford Open were
simple, and profound: to inspire little girls, enhance her
fund-raising efforts for the March of Dimes and make her dad
proud. She steadfastly refused to speculate about the numbers
she'd like to shoot, explaining that there are other ways to
measure success. For the better part of the last eight years,
Peter Jacobsen, 49, has seemed similarly unconcerned with his
scores. Jacobsen has gracefully become an elder statesman and fan
favorite, using his presence on Tour to promote his rock band,
course design firm, sports marketing and management company, and,
more recently, a zany variety show on the Golf Channel. But last
week both Whaley and Jake played a little golf, too, and both
triumphed.

On Thursday, Jacobsen shot a seven-under 63 at the TPC at River
Highlands, his second-best score in 27 years on Tour, but Whaley
stole the show, displaying the best smile this side of Shigeki
Maruyama and a putting stroke that Annika Sorenstam would kill
for. After a jittery double bogey on the 1st hole, Whaley showed
remarkable poise and grit, especially given the brutal
conditions. Sorenstam handpicked the venue for her PGA Tour
cameo, Colonial Country Club, because its claustrophobic,
sun-baked fairways evened the playing field for her by taking the
driver out of longer hitters' hands and giving her some extra
roll off the tee. Whaley was stuck with River Highlands, a more
expansive ballyard that rewards aggressive play. Her 240-yard
drives were hardly long enough to reach the doglegs on some
par-4s, especially since weeks of rain had left the fairways
saturated. "I got literally no roll," Whaley said. Facing high
winds in the first round--"I felt as if I was playing the British
Open"--she hit fairway woods into all but three greens (not
counting the par-5s). Still, her five-over 75 beat 13 men in the
field and stands as one of the best rounds in recent memory.

Whaley was predictably drained, emotionally and physically, for
Friday's round, and she shot a 78, which left her 13 strokes
above the cut line. Even with Whaley gone, the GHO's magical
week continued. (Bo Jackson and Bill Murray had enlivened the
pro-am and Buick signed on as a sponsor, rescuing an event that
was facing extinction a year ago.) Jacobsen has been an adopted
son since long before his victory in 1984, when the tournament
was still named for Sammy Davis Jr., who was on hand that year to
present him with the trophy. Two decades later the galleries
cheered Jacobsen to the 54-hole lead, built on strong ball
striking and a rejuvenated short game, thanks to recent work with
Stan Utley, the hottest instructor in golf. On the eve of the
final round Jacobsen talked about being inspired by the good play
of his contemporaries Jay Haas and Craig Stadler, but that only
emphasized his age. Jacobsen came into the week with six career
wins, but none since 1995 (not counting the U.S. Open in Tin
Cup). Prodded on how he could hope to withstand the Sunday
pressure, Jacobsen got a little testy in his own defense.

"I'm a good player," said Jake, who nonetheless had finished
better than 138th on the money list only twice since '95. "I have
a bio. I have actually played out here before. I've played in a
few more tournaments than Suzy Whaley. About 800 of them."
(Actually 624, but who's counting?)

That experience was obvious on Sunday, when he shot an airtight
67 that left him two shots clear of Chris Riley. Jacobsen earned
the biggest check of his career--$720,000--but he wasn't the only
one enriched by the feel-good tournament of the year.

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY DAVID BERGMAN [INSIDE COVER] Classic ROCKS Peter Jacobsen Is a Hit in Hartford G13 GAP WEDGE Jacobsen, 49 first won in Hartford in '84 TWO COLOR PHOTOS: DAVID BERGMAN (JACOBSEN, WHALEY) SAY CHEESE Jake (left) got his first win in eight years, but Whaley stole the show. B/W PHOTO: JOHN SPRINGER/CORBIS (LAURENCE OLIVIER AS HAMLET) COLOR PHOTO: FRED VUICH (POT BUNKER) COLOR PHOTO: CHRIS O'MEARA /AP (SCOTT NORWOOD) COLOR PHOTO: MICHAEL POLE/CORBIS (KIWI) COLOR PHOTO: ANDREW REDINGTON/GETTY IMAGES (BJORN)

TRUST ME

Tiger Woods's decision to go back to his old driver reveals more
about him than his clubs. Looking increasingly mortal in the
majors, Woods is now just another player searching for
answers.

THE NEW MATH Thomas Bjorn blows it again, losing an Irish Open
playoff to Michael Campbell

(BROODING DANE x LINKS GOLF) + CHOKING + MICHAEL CAMPBELL =
[THOMAS BJORN BLOWS IT AGAIN, LOSING AN IRISH OPEN PLAYOFF TO
MICHAEL CAMPBELL]

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)