An Interview with: PETER JACOBSEN
KELLY ELBIN: We're joined by Peter Jacobsen here at the Senior PGA Championship, winner of the 2004 U.S. Senior Open when it was played here at Bellerive.
Peter won that title in 2004 by one shot over Hale Irwin. Must be a lot of fun to come back to a place that holds such special memory for you.
PETER JACOBSEN: I know that any player that comes back to a golf course where they have had success before, whether it's you're the defending champ or in this situation it's been nine years, but the feelings come flooding back.
You remember where you drove it, you remember where you made a putt, you remember where you made a key up and down. So, yeah, I've been looking forward to coming back to Bellerive for quite a few years.
KELLY ELBIN: I bet. What were the keys to your success that week? Why did you end up holding the trophy?
PETER JACOBSEN: I think the one thing that works here at Bellerive is you've got put the ball in position off the tee. It's a magnificent golf course. It tests just about every club in your bag.
But I think back in 2004 I was driving the ball well, put the ball in play, and I think that's going to be true this week. The rough is thick and with the rain I played in the pro am yesterday, and it was very wet and when you get wet thick rough, it makes hitting approaches to these greens very difficult.
KELLY ELBIN: Open it up for questions.
Q. When you won here you had just come off the hip surgery, as I recall. You had to play the 36 hole final. Is it possible that you're playing this week in better physical condition than you were that week?
PETER JACOBSEN: No question. No question. Since that time I think since I've been 50 I've had like 17 surgeries. I've had my hip replaced. At the time I had a labrum tear, so I was coming off of a labrum tear, I had two of them. And then I had my left hip replaced. I had knee surgeries and I had my right knee replaced. And I've had seven back surgeries. So I've been through I'm a mixed martial art participant in the winter too, so that's why I've been so beat up.
Yeah, it's a surprise. Yeah, I just, I'm golf's full of surprises today
KELLY ELBIN: We didn't know that about you.
PETER JACOBSEN: here and across the pond.
I think now, the less golf I've been playing I've been playing less golf because I've been working for NBC Golf Channel a little bit more but the less golf I play, the better my body feels.
So I have to be and my doctors have said you've got to be a little bit more cognizant of a pitch count so to speak. I can only hit so many balls at a certain, in a certain amount of time and then I need to get off my feet and stop the golf swing. Because I think we all know that once you reach the age of 50, your body doesn't always respond the way you want it to respond. The rotation and the torque of the golf swing puts a lot of stress on your knee, your hips, your back, your shoulders, your neck. So, yeah, I feel actually really good. I feel physically as good as I've felt in a long time.
Q. Does the fact that you play a little more sporadically, how does that impact your expectations this week or your chances of winning?
PETER JACOBSEN: Well expectations, I probably don't have any expectations, simply because I've learned, having gone through so many injuries and rehabs and recoveries, and having done some television through my career, it makes me realize how much I love playing golf. Whether it's playing with you and I going out and having fun, or playing in a Senior PGA Championship. I enjoy it. I really love it.
And I think that's true of all these guys playing here. They're all here because they want to be here and they just love to play golf. I was just talking to Jim Carter whose in the field, he had elbow surgery and he laughed, he said, I'm so excited to get back to play, it's in our blood. And I think that's true.
So coming into a tournament, we all hope to win, we all want to play our best. But I don't know if expectations really play a part, unless you're Tom Watson or Fred Couples or Bernhard Langer, who win all the time. So I think for most of the players in the field we are here because we want to, we love playing the game of golf and we all hope to play well.
Q. When we're young we think we're all going to be young forever and then as we get older we know that's really not the case. When you get on the Champions Tour, particularly when it comes to Majors, is there maybe a sense of urgency that if you're going to do it, you need to do it; and realistically what is the window do you think to do something special on the Champions Tour?
PETER JACOBSEN: Well, for me everybody says when you get on the Champions Tour you really need to make hay, you really need to play well between 50 and 55. Well, I think Hale Irwin has proved that that is, he's extended that age probably to about well, for Hale, what is Hale, 67, 68? And he still plays as well as he used to.
But I think that you've got to be realistic with yourself. As many starts and stops as I've had since I turned 50, with the injuries, like I said, I just enjoy being out here. I really love the game of golf. I love being inside the ropes and the interacting with the players and I continue to work on my golf swing. I'm always working on my swing, working on different technique, and I don't care how old we are, we can always learn something.
And being involved with working in NBC and Golf Channel, when I'm out on the PGA TOUR, I love to go out and watch the young guys practice and play and work, watch them hit chip shots and bunker shots, because I'm always trying to learn something from them.
Q. Sounds like maybe that then at least for you there's not really that urgency, since this is your second career. Maybe 25 years ago where you maybe would have felt that pressure/urgency to do it?
PETER JACOBSEN: No, well, maybe so. But when I turned 50, I didn't feel an urgency, because I just thank God that at the age of 59 now I can continue to do what I love to do. And I thank the PGA of America for having a Senior PGA Championship and the PGA TOUR for having a Champions Tour. So for me, I don't feel the urgency. I just feel the enjoyment of being able to go out and compete. If that makes sense.
Q. I wondered if you had had a favorite memory it's been awhile of course but if you had a favorite memory from that we can hear, not necessarily golf related. As I recall there was a great party afterwards, which there probably always is, but I just I'm St. Louis writer, obviously, and wondered if you had a favorite memory from that week about St. Louis or Bellerive?
PETER JACOBSEN: Well do I have a favorite memory. We were playing the second round on Sunday. We were in the final round. And I was playing with Jose Maria Canizares and Craig Stadler. And it was hot and we were sweaty and I remember we finished the fifth hole and I walked off the fifth green and I remember there was a two or three group wait on the sixth tee, the really tough par 3.
And when you're, when it's that hot you want to just keep moving, you don't want to stop. I remember a gentleman was sitting under a tree and he had two beers and I remember walking right by him and he said, "Hey, you got a wait over there, you better sit down and relax." And I said, "Oh, if I sit down, I'm not sure I can get up." And he said, "Well, you look like you could use some a thirst quencher." So I reached over and I grabbed his beer and I took a couple of chugs. I said, "I'm all better now."
And I handed it back and he goes, "You can have it." And I gave, I still gave it back.
But I remember that. I've had people come up to me and say, do you remember that? And I said, oh, yeah, I remember that. Because I remember parring six, the 6th hole that day. That was train wreck city. There were fours, five, sixes and sevens. And I remember getting through, I believe I made a three and then had the rest of the day. But being here and then the party afterwards I remember we went up to, I believe it's called the Blue Room up in the clubhouse.
I think the general manager walked up to me after the party and I was still there and he handed me the keys to the clubhouse he said, "Why don't you lock up when you leave, because we're all done."
(Laughter.) I was enjoying myself, I didn't want to go.
KELLY ELBIN: You won seven times on the Regular Tour. How did that win in 2004 here compare to those seven TOUR wins on your list of accomplishments.
PETER JACOBSEN: Well, it was U.S. Senior Open and I've been a big fan of the USGA forever. I played in the U.S. Junior, the U.S. Amateur, the U.S. Open and that was my first Senior Open. And as I said, I have great respect for the USGA. I've been on a few USGA Committees.
So to win a USGA championship was very special. And also coming after hip surgery and knowing that I was 50 and maybe it went to the urgency, I don't know, but I really wanted to win that event, for a lot of reasons. And probably most importantly how much I respected the USGA and been a part of the USGA my whole life.
Q. How is your game right now and how do you like your chances this week?
PETER JACOBSEN: Pretty actually I like my chances. My short game, while I was going through all of my rehab, I couldn't hit a lot of shots, I couldn't hit a lot of balls. So I spent a lot of time with my short game. Chipping, putting, bunker play. And I think that's as strong, my short game's as strong as it's ever been. Especially my putting.
And with the new greens here at Bellerive, you're going to have to be an awfully good lag putter. Because the new greens have quadrants. There's certain parts of the green, if the hole location is on that part of the green, you need to be on that quadrant or on that section of the green to have a chance to make birdie.
If you're not on that section of the green, you're looking at 3 putt. So you've got to be a great lag putter.
So anyway my short game is good. I'm hitting the ball pretty well. Again, I have pitch count issues, I can only hit so many balls and then I got to get back home and get off my feet. But overall I think my game is pretty good.
Q. How many yards have you lost since your heyday when you hit the ball the furthest and has your swing changed since then?
PETER JACOBSEN: Well, when I my hip replaced, my doctor said you're going to lose 20 yards of distance. And I said, I can handle that.
Then I had my knee replace and he said, well you're going to lose another 20 yards. And I said, I might be in trouble with 40 yards lost.
It is true, I have lost distance, simply because you lose those fast twitch muscles, for lack of a better term. But I think that, overall, I hit the ball a little bit farther than I did simply because of the equipment. Because of the advances in technology. I think we all hit the ball a little bit further than we did when we were on TOUR using persimmon headed clubs.
And back then the testing for finding out the right shaft or ball or kick point or length of club was all trying and error. We used to pull a club out of a bag, play a round with it, if you liked it, it stayed in. If you didn't like it, you put it back and grabbed something else.
Now you can go to a fitting system or a fitting center, hit 20 balls and they will tell you exactly what club, what shaft, what grip, etcetera, to use.
So I think that the knowledge is better as a result we're all better. But I definitely have lost a little distance. I know I lost speed. I know I've lost speed for probably a combination of my body deteriorating and my age.
KELLY ELBIN: Two part question: You were 12 under when you won here in 2004. Any thoughts on what might, what score might win this week and any holes that could be decisive that stand out, whether they be on the front nine or back nine.
PETER JACOBSEN: Well I think the back nine, it looks to me like they have lengthened the long holes. I think the 10th hole is going to be a pivotal hole, simply because it's a par 5 for the members and it is a forced carry second shot. You cannot leave the ball short of the green on 10 in two. The bunkers are deep. I think that front right bunker is probably eight or 10 feet below the putting surface. So that's tough up and down from that short bunker.
I also think that 16 is going to be a pivotal hole, the par 3. Back when I won, the green was sloped quite a bit from back to front. Now the green is much bigger and it's got much more undulation. And there are those quadrants that we talked about. And it's going to be, gosh, yesterday in the pro am I think it was a 237 yard shot.
So I think the back nine, you could see some swings on the back nine, simply because there aren't a lot of birdie holes. I think you look at 11, possibly 14, and then 17 as par a par 5. Those are the holes coming in that you have a chance to birdie. But the other holes are long and tough. And you've got to hit a very exact precise approach shot to get it close to any of the other holes in two on your approach.
KELLY ELBIN: How about guesstimate as to potential winning score.
PETER JACOBSEN: Hard to say simply, because it was so wet yesterday and fairly wet today. I understand we have got a change in wind condition, hopefully that will dry the course out and we'll get a little bit more roll. Golf ball sits up so beautifully on the Zoysia fairway, these fairways are perfect. Let me just say great job to John Cunningham and his staff, the superintendent here. This golf course is in immaculate shape even considering we had, what, a couple of inches of rain the other night. So I don't think you're going to have a lot of problems with shots from the fairway to the green.
So I think you're going to see these guys are pretty good, they're going to knock some balls in close. I would say probably close to the same winning score. Probably certainly double digits. Probably 12 to 14. If everything stays the same. If we don't get a more weather or anything like that.
KELLY ELBIN: Exactly. Peter Jacobsen, thank you very much.
PETER JACOBSEN: Okay. Thank you.
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