It was a surprise when Peter Jacobsen won the U.S. Open in the
movie Tin Cup, although he didn't think so. "All I had to do was
beat Don Johnson and Kevin Costner," Jacobsen says. But it was a
real shocker when he finally took a real major, last week's U.S.
Senior Open at Bellerive Country Club in sultry suburban St.
Louis. ¬∂ Because he had won the 2003 Greater Hartford Open on the
regular Tour at age 49, Jacobsen figured to be a force on the
Champions tour this season, but surgery in April to repair a torn
labrum in his left hip stopped him cold. At that point all
Jacobsen had to show for his rookie year was a lone top 10
finish. Struggling to get back out on the course, Jacobsen
entered the two senior majors played on consecutive weeks
before the Open but was forced to withdraw from both of them.
He had gone so far as to take his family to Ireland for the
Senior British Open two weeks ago--reuniting for the occasion
with his old caddie, Mike (Fluff) Cowan--but he had to WD after
the pro-am because the hip was still too sore. "I was very
disappointed," Jacobsen says. "I had about 19 Guinnesses one
night, and that made me feel better."
He almost didn't play last week, either, because he had told his
wife, Jan, that if he couldn't play in Ireland, he'd give the hip
a full week's rest. Coming back to the U.S. on the same flight
from Belfast as Ben Crenshaw, he had a change of heart. Practice
went O.K., and then, shockingly, Jacobsen shot a six-under-par 65
in the first round to take the lead. One of his playing partners
that day, Frank Conner, called Jacobsen's round the best he'd
There were more surprises on Friday. Heavy rain washed out play,
and the USGA declared that there would be a 36-hole finish on
Sunday, an interesting decision in that Bellerive was where the
USGA, at the 1965 U.S. Open, first abandoned the traditional
double closing round on Saturday and played 18 holes on both
weekend days instead. Many of the players complained about last
week's retro wrap-up, but the USGA would have none of it. Said
Walter Driver, the chairman of the USGA's championship committee
who gained a measure of notoriety in June by blaming Mother
Nature and a rogue greenkeeper for a course setup gone bad at the
U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, "I'm 59, and I can do it."
Replied Jacobsen, "I'm sure he can walk 36 holes, but what's he
going to shoot? This is a major championship, not an endurance
August 8, 2004
Though he told another player on Saturday evening that he didn't
think he'd make it through 36 holes the next day, Jacobsen shot a
69 in the morning round, and when he reached the 72nd tee, he
found himself tied for the lead with Tom Kite at 12 under par.
Moments later, in yet another stunner, Kite, who had looked
unbeatable after a 65 that morning, ran out of gas. He had
bogeyed the 15th and 16th holes when his drive on 18 left him
with a poor lie in a fairway bunker. Then he banged a five-iron
shot off the lip of the bunker and into the rough--wrong club,
wrong play, wrong decision. He hit his third shot short of the
green, made a poor chip and two-putted for the double bogey that
dropped him into a tie for third, a shot behind runner-up Hale
Irwin. "I know he must be sick," said Jay Haas, who tied Kite.
"We've all done what he did. I don't think there's a man in the
field who hasn't screwed up coming down the stretch. His ball was
half buried. I don't think he ever considered the lip of that
bunker. He was probably shocked."
Jacobsen was walking to his ball in the 18th fairway when he
heard from a fan that Kite had finished with a 6. That meant
Jacobsen was a par away from winning the Open. He had 170 yards
with a slight helping wind--a perfect seven-iron. "Where's your
target?" asked caddie Mike O'Connell. "Right at it," said
Jacobsen, who fired his ball directly over the flag, 25 feet from
the hole. "It was a hell of a shot," O'Connell said.
That left Jacobsen two putts for the win. He knocked the first
one, a treacherously fast downhill slider, two feet past the cup
and tapped in for the victory. Then came perhaps the biggest
surprise of the week. With emotions swirling like tornadoes,
O'Connell walked over for a celebratory embrace. "This one's for
your dad," Jacobsen quietly told him.
O'Connell's father, also named Mike, was an insurance salesman in
Quincy, Ill. He was a good amateur golfer and a close friend of
D.A. Weibring, who finished sixth at Bellerive. The young
O'Connell caddied for Weibring on the Tour for a few years, which
is how he got to know Jacobsen, who later hired him to work in
his Portland office. O'Connell was 21 when his father died in
1991. "For him to think about that five seconds after putting out
to win the Senior Open...." O'Connell said, shaking his head.
"Well, it blew me away."
So did Jacobsen's next sentence. "How's that for a wedding
present?" he asked. O'Connell will be married this Saturday in
Spokane in a ceremony that will feature readings by two old
friends--Jacobsen and Weibring. Asked what he planned to read,
Jacobsen said, "I don't know. Whatever they give me written on a
In other words, it'll be a surprise.