Jacobson latest winner in growing trend of first-timers

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June 26, 2011
Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM

CROMWELL, Conn. -- Another week, another first-time winner on the PGA TOUR.

I don't know that this is the end of the Tiger Woods era -- his future prowess is still unknown as he recovers from knee and Achilles injuries -- but it sure seems like it's the beginning of some sort of era.

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Specifically, one of parity.

There was a time when the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers ruled the NFL, much the same way Woods cast a large shadow of dominance over golf for more than a decade.

Now? That shadow is from a painter's cap -- at least this week after Fredrik Jacobson, a veteran player from Sweden who'd won three times in Europe got his first career victory on this side of the Atlantic.

Next week? It might be a flat-billed hat that casts the shadow. Jacobson is the eighth first-time winner and 25th different winner on TOUR this year.

Just two weeks ago, it was Harrison Frazar who turned the trick. Between Frazar and Jacobson they have 544 career starts -- 355 of which belong to the former -- and two wins.

"Obviously it means a great deal," said Jacobson, who moves to 18th in the FedExCup standings with the win. "I came over in '03 after having won in Europe, and I had my eyes on the U.S. TOUR.

"I felt pretty good about winning, and I didn't know it was going to take this long before I won one."

Blame Tiger Woods. From 2003 to 2009, he won 37 times.

"The last 15 years have been weird," Geoff Ogilvy said. "I think it's getting back to normal now."

Ogilvy was talking more about the American dominance in golf than he was about first-time winners, but the same theory applies.

But for Jacobson it got to the point where even his own daughter, 5-year-old Emmie, wondered when her daddy was going to bring a trophy home.

At the end of last year, Jacobson was at his home in Hobe Sound, Fla., watching a highlight package on TV that featured all the winners from 2010 hoisting their hardware when Emmie asked, "Daddy, why don't you have any trophies at home?"

Jacobson told her he had a couple back in Sweden, but he also promised her he'd win one this year.

"It's been haunting me," said Jacobson, who has two other children as well. "They're all probably going to want one each now, too."

TPC River Highlands has also proved to be a pretty good place for those looking for their first win.

In 2010, Bubba Watson had his watershed moment -- literally -- when he won in a playoff before breaking down in tears afterward.

Hunter Mahan and J.J. Henry also made the Travelers Championship their first victory in 2007 and 2006, respectively.

That's not an accident, especially in the tournament's current slot the week after the U.S. Open. Par is typically at a premium at the USGA's flagship event. At TPC River Highlands birdies are in abundance.

Just ask amateur Patrick Cantlay. In just his second start on the TOUR he carded a course-record 60 in the second round of the Travelers Championship.

"The conditions are always good," Watson said. "The greens are always running pretty good. It's just a great golf course, great atmosphere here.

"I didn't play in the Open last year and then I got here mad that I wasn't in the Open and then somehow I won. So yeah, that might have some effect on it that you're energized and you're ready to go."

Or if you have a promise to uphold to your 5-year-old daughter like Jacobson did.

Now Jacobson has his first trophy to show her. Just like a lot of players before him this season and a lot more after him.

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