Senior PGA Championship

Interview with John Jacobs

June 8, 2003

Note: This news conference was moderated by Julius Mason, the Director of Public Relations and Media Relations for the PGA of America.

JULIUS MASON: John Jacobs, ladies and gentlemen, after 31 holes today is your 64th Senior PGA Champion. John, congratulations.

JOHN JACOBS: Thank you very much.

JULIUS MASON: Some opening thoughts.

JOHN JACOBS: My opening thoughts, geez, I kept looking at the board and there was a new guy every few holes. Bruce Lietzke I didn't even know he was in the hunt and all of a sudden he was in. Then I look up and Vicente Fernandez was 2- or 3-under. God, come on, I thought I am just trying to beat the guys I am playing and another guy pops up here and there. But I was happy. I had it in my mind when we went to the back nine, I know the course is playing very, very difficult because if you hit it in the rough you are going to make a bogey. And I had in my mind that 3-under was going to win the tournament. And lucky, that's about what it turned out. Fortunately, I made a couple of birdies at the end to win.

Man, I had a hard time keeping it together going up 18 because I got tears in my eyes, I was thinking my brother (longtime tour player Tommy Jacobs) finished -- he had had a couple of chances to win the PGA. (Jack) Nicklaus beat him in a playoff and (Ken) Venturi beat him in the Open, which he should have won. Venturi I think 1-putted 14 of the last 18 holes to win it the last day. I was thinking to have one of these majors with a Jacobs name behind it, my brother would be very happy. I almost lost it out there. I had a hard time getting up 18.

JULIUS MASON: Questions.

Q. John, you are a little lighter since we saw you earlier in the week. You lost some facial hair.

JOHN JACOBS: (Laughs). No, I was -- actually, I was -- I have seen Gary McCord pull this little comb out and go like this, comb his -- so now that I have one, I went like this and I looked at the comb I saw some of my breakfast in it. I thought man, I am getting rid of this thing quick. So that thing went zoop (sic). I will tell you what, can you believe they got this tournament done. Actually with all this rain, today it was the driest the course has been. I was shocked today, shocked that it was as dry as it was. I mean, the greens were magnificent, the greens actually got faster with the more rain.

Q. To listen to the TV guys talk and some of the people who know you pretty well they talk about all the talent you have had all the years, and how maybe golf wasn't the No. 1 thing for a long time. Can you talk about your career over the long haul and what this means to you to win a major championship after all that time?

JOHN JACOBS: Well, I mean, yeah, it's wonderful. I was never like a John Daly type of guy. I didn't have demons or anything else, but my friends were horse track people and my friends were some football players, Fred Biletnikoff (of the Oakland Raiders) used to run together, my friends weren't golf coaches that they have today and they are not club pro guys and I just had other friends and I thought you know, you get caught up in it. You think well, hell, I will wait until I am 30 to play good; then I will wait 'til I'm 35. Oh, no, I will wait 'til I am 40; pretty as soon it's gone.

Everybody I have ever been around in my life I never lost them as a friend. I can I mean, I don't know if that's good or bad some of the guys I know, but I am sure that if I would have done a little different I would have won probably a lot of majors, I don't know. I was as good as anybody-- was as good as anybody when I was 13; was as good as anybody when I was 18. When I went on the Tour I was as good as anybody that went on the Tour. It just didn't work out. I am 58 years old and I am still hanging in there. I have got a wonderful wife and I have got a helluva life. I got money in the bank and I am doing good. So I don't -- I am not -- and I might have had some regrets when I was 40 but I have no regrets when I am 58.

I really think that -- I don't think I am going to lose it out here. I think I will play good, keep playing good. Trevino put that stuff out that you hit a wall at 55. That may be true if you drive the ball 240 but I don't think if you drive it 300 you are going to hit a wall. I think Dana Quigley showed that. There's a bunch of guys out here that showed you. (Hale) Irwin, he will hit way into his 60s because he stays in shape. But getting back to me, yes, I could have been a better player. What the hell, I got to hang around the guys that won all the majors. It wasn't that bad.

JULIUS MASON: While I see no hands up, real quick, birdies, bogey guess, final 18, ladies and gentlemen.

JOHN JACOBS: I am trying to think what I did on 3.

Q. Left of the bunker.

JOHN JACOBS: Oh. I told my caddie I says you know what, Jimmy, I am going to take one shot early to see if I am hitting it straight. (Laughs). It didn't work. And I hit it left of the bunker on the hole. I hit an unGodly shot. I had no shot. I was on the downhill and it looked like the marshal stepped on it but I mean he didn't. I hit it in the bunker, got it up-and-down, hard bunker shot. Three feet, made it for bogey.

8, I hit a nice 5-iron right of the pin and I had a ton-- was an inch of the green but only about 15, 18 feet from the hole. I had a bunch of mud on left side of my ball and I says Jimmy, this put goes a little left-to-right. And he says, yeah, I says you know, it might go a little bit more with this mud on it. I will be damned -- a foot from the hole it was going to miss left and the mud caught it and it kicked -- it went right in the edge. It was a very, very lucky.

9, I hit a good drive up in front of the green, I probably could have called for casual water, but I just didn't -- I didn't want to call and waste my time and wait, wait, wait. So just putted it. I putted it from probably six feet off the front edge of the green. It was probably on the green 20 feet, and I putted it up pretty much for a gimme, a foot from the hole.

11, I tell you this 11th hole has got to be the hardest hole I have ever played. In the morning round I hit a wedge probably past the middle of the green. It sucked back 80 feet. Came back down the hill 30 yards short of the green, from hitting in the middle of the again came back 30 yards short. I made bogey there.

So I got -- in the afternoon I told Jimmy I says, I better hit this a little harder because if that happens to me again I am going to take a bite out of your ear. I will be -- I hit it up there, the ball sucked back, came off the green again. Gil Morgan's ball hit past the pin in the afternoon and his ball came 50 feet back. Anyway, I 3-putted. I putted from off the green, 3-putted.

15, geez, 14 is the par 3. I hit a great 6-iron in there just behind the hole. I saw Gil's putt in front of me a couple of feet to the right of me and his putt went down and it was going the last four feet was going dead straight. I was almost on his line. I hit a putt I would have bet a million dollars it was going to go in. It hit -- the green is -- some of the greens are really soft because of footprints, anyway it missed. I about died. I got to the next hole -- I was really trying to make that one. Then I go to 15. I know I got 16 to play the 5 par. 15, I have got a hard putt on 15 and I told my caddie I says, I have just got to lag it around the left make a par and get the hell out of here. That putt goes in. So, you know, how do you know. You try one hole, you are trying to lag -- one doesn't go in, one goes in.

Who can figure this game out?

Next hole, I hit -- I just reared back, hit a drive as hard as I could hit it. I haven't hit anything but a wood to this -- I have been driving it in the rough, not even a wood. Little easy 5-iron to 16. You know how far I hit the drive. I was so fired up. Great 5-iron in there just under the hole about 10, 11 feet. Hit a pretty good putt, just came up short right in the hole, made birdie there.

17, I said to my caddie again I said, what is the lowest score in. He said 2-under. I says I better play this safe. I hit a terrible, terrible tee shot. Just shows you could play safe but not too much because I hit it on the right edge of the green about 80 feet from the hole and I got it up-and-down. I hit it about eight feet short of the hole and I made it for par.

Then 18 I had no clue what to hit. I didn't know -- it was into the wind a little bit. I didn't know if it was driver, 3 iron, 5-wood, 3 wood. I am just trying to get it in the fairway. I hit a 3-wood finally, pushed it right, and I didn't have all that good a lie, and I don't know, I probably had a 7-iron to the green, took out a 5-iron and I just chomped down on it got it up on the front edge about a foot off the green and hit a helluva first putt; got it up about three inches to the hole, made it for birdie. Said thank you very much. Choking like a dog. (Laughs).

Q. This is a great old course, and people have raved about it all week. How did it play for you this week?

JOHN JACOBS: This is one of the all time great courses. What do you say about this? Winning you know, you -- we play the Champions Tour on a lot of housing development courses, you come to something like this, you know, you see the first hole and you go whoa, wow, what -- how nice would it be when you were a kid to grow up on something like this and learn how to play golf. I mean, what is there, 10, 15 courses like this in the world.

Q. Talk a little bit about the -- you had a critical stretch there. 17 when you lagged that putt up, had kind of a white knuckle 8-footer that had that not gone in you had problems. Then step up --

JOHN JACOBS: I could hear (NBC analyst) Roger Maltbie over there, I could hear him mumbling something from the tower like he can give one away here, I thought I heard something over there. I ain't giving nothing away, I am getting this thing in somehow. Yeah, I was -- actually I was trying to lag the putt left of the hole more. Trying to hit it pin-high and go to the left, because then I could watch Gil come over the hill his putt so I could putt back up. I hit it hard, just didn't get up there. But I don't know, you know, you just get in there, stick your head down, put your nose in there and try to do the best you can. Sometimes it goes good and sometimes it doesn't.

Q. What was going through your mind on the 18th tee when you hit that tee shot and it's sailing towards the rough, and you don't know what is going to happen?

JOHN JACOBS: I was trying to hit it a little on the right because the pin was left and I didn't want to hit it over in the left edge of the fairway. I didn't want to hit it in the left rough. So was kind of hedging over to the right, and I thought, even if I went in the bunker as long as it just barely went in the bunker. Because at that time I figured bogey was going to win, and you know, it wasn't -- I should have really taken my driver. Christ I lived and died with the driver all week and here I am laying up like a duck. Fortunately I made par. From now on I am not playing up anymore.

Q. Your regular career is often talked about what you might have if you approached it differently. What about how you took up the game to begin with when you were a kid was it love at first swing ?

JOHN JACOBS: No, actually my father was a professional baseball player and he took a civil service -- I am going back before I was born, took a civil service exam, my brother -- my father won more letters at Denver University I think than Jim Thorpe. He was an all-around jock before I was around. He took a civil service exam and he got a head of city parks and recreation job in L.A. and the golf course was Motobello (ph) golf course, was one of the golf courses under his direction and that's where he made his office so that's -- we had a home right on the edge of the golf course. And that's where my brother and I learned how to play. You know, it was pretty nice for me to have Tommy as a brother and when I was 13, 14 years old I was, hey, Arnold (Palmer) how are you doing -- was pretty nice life for me. Maybe if I didn't have that I wouldn't have taken my golf the way I did, but Christ I played with Arnold when I was 15, 16 years old. Golf has always been in my family.

Q. Last year you got close at a major (the Tradition), went into the playoff. What effect did coming that close have?

JOHN JACOBS: I think I said it on TV, Thursday I went up in the tour after I finished I told them on TV. They asked me the same question you just did. I says look, you know, now that I am in this hunt again, I will tell you what, it was a terrible feeling. I went home with an empty stomach all my friends are at the Tradition, I live there, and I got a terrible break. I know none of you guys were out there. I got a terrible break in that tournament at the end. And I said listen, if I get a chance again I ain't losing because I don't want that same feeling in my stomach again because it was horrendous. You know, I wish I'd a had that feeling four years ago, but I didn't. But I thought about that today too. I said listen, I ain't letting this get away. Could have worked good -- it happened to work good today; might not have, but that was my mindset.

Q. Can you talk a little bit more about your driving in this tournament; how effective it was for you?

JOHN JACOBS: Driving the ball?

Q. Yes.

JOHN JACOBS: This course -- today it didn't play all that long, I don't know why. Just seemed like it played shorter. I think they put some of the tees up. I don't know if the scores were better today or not. I think they probably were, some of them. I can hit the ball a long ways but you still got -- it's really hard to win one of these damn -- this PGA or the U.S. Open because these two tournaments they put rough out there, you know, it chokes you out a little bit. When you know you are going in the rough, you know, 90 percent of the time you are going to make a bogey. It putts added pressure on you. If I hit it in the fairways, sure got an advantage. But believe me, when I swing it's like, you know, Hail Mary full of grace, please, get this son of a bitch in the fairway. It's not like I know I am going to hit that fairway.

Q. You said you had regrets at the age of 40.

JOHN JACOBS: I didn't know the Senior Tour was going to be like it is. So when I was 40 I am -- I was a little down in the dumps. I always had a way to make a living. I have owned some race horses. I have gone to the racetrack, I have done this, everything I have ever done has been around betting on this or doing that. I have had legitimate good friends in business, and you know, they have helped me a little bit. Yeah, I had a lot of regrets when I was 40, seeing guys that were doing good that I thought I could beat, knew I could beat and they were successful. Then when I was -- then -- I won the whole Asian money title when I was (inaudible) Damn, I could still play. 40, 45 Senior Tour started to kick in. I thought well, I better stay a little healthy here because I might have a second shot at this. That's what I did.

Q. Did you just start taking it more seriously?

JOHN JACOBS: Didn't take it more seriously but I took my lifestyle a little more serious. I didn't -- I got home a little earlier at night.

Q. Did fatigue play a fact for at all today playing that many holes?

JOHN JACOBS: Fatigue - no, not really. I did get a little tired but when I get tired I can cut the ball a little better. That's why I -- you will never see me cut an iron shot and I hit two cut shots. I cut a 6-iron on 14 and then 16 I hit a great, great 5-iron and I cut it at the hole. So you know, yeah, I got tired but I kind of-- went with -- thought what I could do is cut the ball. I don't think many guys that are driving a 5-iron at 16 today.

Q. Any recollections of the Saigon Country Club and maybe talk about your Vietnam experience?

JOHN JACOBS: Did you see the -- you saw -- they show you the thing.

Q. He did.

JOHN JACOBS: My name is on the Saigon -- he wanted to give it back to me. He had tears in his eyes. I said, Frank, I will sign the back of it for you. But it was pretty good, John Jacobs Saigon Country Club honorary member. Thank you, said something on the bottom like you are --

Q. First plus handicap ---

JOHN JACOBS: First plus handicap in the history of Saigon Country Club. I thought that was pretty good.

Q. How surprised were to you see it?

JOHN JACOBS: The biggest surprise I had is when I flew over to Saigon and they poisoned -- we got there at midnight they poisoned the water. I thought, you know, I group up in a country club here. They poisoned the water. Don't drink the water. Then I got up, the Air Force and somebody else got into a fight and then there was shooting; then we were in a ditch then I finally got up when the sun comes up I look out, and say, I am right smack on the 14th green, right smack, my tent was on the 14th green with a little fence between us. I thought this somebody is kidding me here. (Laughs). But anyway, Frank was a good friend of mine over there.

Q. Very quickly, No. 15, can you tell us what you hit in and how long that lag putt was that went in?

JOHN JACOBS: (Laughs). I hit a really good drive and I was trying to hit easy -- I had 181 to the hole. I tried to hit -- the wind was kind of right-to-left. Trying to hit an easy 6-iron. I pulled a little bit, got it up about 25 feet left of the hole, and it was -- believe me, the last nine holes there was a lot of footprints out there on the greens. What happens the water goes down, it starts rising back up. And I probably had two feet of break and I mean, trust me, I picked the spot out, I told my caddie right then, I said Jimmy, come here, is that where I have got to play -- there's a white mark halfway between me and the hole. It's funny how sometimes if you get a mark you hit good putts, and if you look at the left edge of the hole sometimes, you are looking all the way up the at the hole and sometimes it doesn't work. But I had this little white mark down there about halfway I putted right at that it went right over it and bump bump bump bump. I says, oh, please, thank you very much.

Q. For those of us with crappy memories, can you talk about the terrible break you got at the Tradition? You mentioned a terrible break.

JOHN JACOBS: I hit a good drive on 18 and can drive it way past -- there's a bunker on the left side of the fairway and my drive -- my aiming should go left and go down in this flat spot and I probably have a 3- or 4-iron into the green, par 5. We're hitting from high to low. I hit a drive, I hit a perfect drive and it hits and it hits in like the green-side edge of a sprinkler head and bites you know how the water, it hits in that and then trickles right left, it goes in this bunker, it didn't even go -- I mean it went down in the bunker but didn't get in the bunker so I had to stand four, five feet below the ball. I couldn't -- I mean, I was lucky to advance the ball. I ended up making a 10, 12-foot putt for par on the hole to tie (Jim) Thorpe. Then he beat me the next time around in the playoff, missed a 3 foot putt.

Q. What was the yardage in on 16 on the 5-iron after the big drive?

JOHN JACOBS: I had 179 to the front edge.

Q. Which horse did you have yesterday in the Belmont?

JOHN JACOBS: I told everybody on TV, I said listen, I kind of hope that Funny Cide for -- I am a horserace fan, so for the good of racing I hope Funny Cide wins. Then Maltbie says well, what are you going to bet. I says I am betting Empire Maker because he's a better horse, but -- so then my friend called me, he says, we betting? You said on TV you are going to get Empire Maker. I says yeah, I bet this. He says, is that all you are going to bet, you don't like him that much. Okay, bet some more. But I really kind of felt sad. I was hoping --I didn't care if I lost if Funny Cide won.

Q. Make more yesterday or today?

JOHN JACOBS: (Laughs). I did all right. My friend John Merriweather (ph) that owns Waterville Golf Course in Ireland, he had a horse in the 8th race, Marinski (phonetic).That's where he made a nice bet. We didn't bet much on Empire, 2 to 1 is not my kind of betting race. I don't know if you guys watched it yesterday, Marinski circled the field and won going away. Terrible to be a horseracing fan, you got money one day, none the next. Need more PGA Championship wins to take care of the habit.

Q. How much do you enjoy playing to the crowd like you did after several shots when you were doing a little --

JOHN JACOBS: You get a sense for it. The crowd can fire you up. I like it. Yeah, you know, I think they were happy, I was doing good and I was happy I was doing good and waved to them, and you know, I don't know why all the guys don't when they get in the hunt on a Sunday -- I am not talking about our Tour so much, I am talking about the other Tour -- if these kids had any brains they would get out there and play to the crowd the first few holes to get that crowd behind them because you can do some pretty good things when those people are cheering for you. This crowd was wonderful, I had one guy following me all day, he said, give me a cigar, make another birdie, give me a cigar. I said what do you want a cigar or you want me to make a birdie?

Q. Talk about what is going through your mind after that long putt goes in on 15 and at that point did you think hey, I am winning this thing?

JOHN JACOBS: Actually when I made the putt on 15 I thought this is my tournament to lose. I was walking over to 16, I said now don't swing so hard here you will whiff this next drive off the tee. I got over the tee, I swung so hard I hit it absolutely right on the button, so, I don't know. What was going through my mind was it's my tournament to lose now because I thought somebody was 3-under. There was a board -- something was there, somebody told me that 2-under was --

Q. You said going down the stretch you were thinking about your brother. Will you elaborate on that a little bit?

JOHN JACOBS: I started thinking on 18. I could hardly get up 18. I had tears after I hit the second shot on 18 I started -- my caddie says, hey, come on, you have got to hold it together, you have got to at least 3-putt up for it. You know, my brother got beat by Nicklaus in The Masters, Venturi 1-putted I think 14, 18 holes at Congressional to beat him in the Open. He had had a few chances to win the PGA, and you know, I mean, I know how sad he was in those days, and I was -- you know how certain things hit you at different times. I started thinking Tommy, I am going to take this thing home somehow and there's going to be a Jacobs on one of these trophies. Not my name, his name, it's going to be Jacobs.

Q. How long was the putt on 15?

JOHN JACOBS: 25 feet. Looked about 80, but probably 25.

My head was like one of -- it was hitting these footprints going down there my head was like those little dolls in the car going like this (bobbles) watching it go down there boom, boom, boom, boom, finally, crunch. It didn't get in by much either.

JULIUS MASON: Questions, folks? Thank you very much, John.

JOHN JACOBS: Thank you, guys. Hope I see you next year.


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