By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Fredrik Jacobson is keeping his fingers crossed.
The bulging disks in his lower back that have sidelined Jacobson for the better part of the last five months aren't bothering him right now. The rest and rehab, ice and exercises appear to have done the trick.
"It's better at the moment, so that's good," Jacobson said. "That's the main thing."
The Swede was feeling even better after firing a 66 at Pebble Beach. The day's low round in relation to par moved Jacobson into a tie at 7 under, one stroke off the pace being set by Brandt Snedeker and Ted Potter Jr. through the first two rounds.
"I guess when you have not played for a while, you play with not really any expectations apart from just really looking forward to get going again and to try to get as many rounds under my belt as possible and as much practice as I can," Jacobson said. " That's really been my only focus this week. ... If I can play some good golf along the way, that's great."
Jacobson did just that on Pebble Beach's scenic back nine, his first of the day, as he closed with four straight birdies and five in a six-hole stretch. He started with a 10-footer at the 13th hole, then buried putts of 6 and 7 feet, 18 inches and 8 feet to shoot 31.
Jacobson has only played once since missing the cut in Las Vegas last October. That's when the pain was at its worst, and the Swede knew it was time to hang things up for awhile.
"Everybody has it after you're playing for 20 years or (so) on TOUR," Jacobson said. " But it's just a matter of whether (the bulging discs) affect you or not. I think you get irritated, it tends to come back; if you can stay fresh and healthy and strong for a while, you can keep it away. I don't think it's anything major at this stage.
"It was just aggravating for a while."
After Jacobson played the Franklin Templeton Shootout in December, the pain returned. He went to Sweden for the holidays and finally returned to the PGA TOUR last week where he shot 2 under but missed the cut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
"I might have played like six rounds in the last five months or something,," Jacobson said. "It has not been a lot. I've been trying to work on things, I worked on my putting like in the house, and I did that in Sweden indoors. I haven't been able to hit a lot of balls."
So far, so good this week at Pebble Beach, though.
"Nice to be back on TOUR again and to get some rounds under the belt and feel like I'm getting into a rhythm," Jacobson said
Try this question on your golf partners: Who was the first player on the PGA TOUR to win with a Titleist Pro V1 ball?
We’ll answer that in a bit, while offering one hint – the win was in Las Vegas in 2000. At that year’s event, now the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, Titleist changed the game with a high-performance solid construction ball. Since then, many companies have followed with their own editions, but nothing has matched the popularity of the Pro V1 among pros or amateurs.
Every few years Titleist comes out with new versions of the ball, and last week in Las Vegas – symmetry, anyone? – was time for the 2013 model.
“It’s like Christmas, what are we gonna get?” said Charley Hoffman of the unmarked white boxes that were waiting for Titleist ball loyalists at TPC Summerlin.
A total of 18 players put the new balls in play at Shriners Hospitals, with 14 playing the Pro V1x and four playing the Pro V1. Bill Lunde was the highest finisher with the new ball, taking fifth with a Pro V1x. Ryan Moore won the tournament with the present-day Pro V1 that’s available in stores.
“It’s the best-feeling ball I’ve played, ever,” said Hoffman, who missed the cut with a new Pro V1.
When the Pro V1 first hit the PGA TOUR in 2000 at Las Vegas, 47 players used it immediately (the Pro V1x arrived a couple years later). Billy Andrade won the tournament with the ball, becoming the answer to a golf equipment trivia question.
NEW FLATSTICKS: Fredrik Jacobson, surprisingly 132nd this year in strokes gained-putting (he was sixth last year), switched from an Odyssey Black Series I No. 1 to an Odyssey ProType ix No. 4 HT (high toe) at Las Vegas.
The ProType ix, with a black PVD finish and a slightly firmer White Hot insert, is only available for purchase in Japan but has proved popular over here. J.B. Holmes, Matthew Goggin and Gavin Coles all put the putter in play at Shriners Hospitals.
FRESH APPLES: Stuart Appleby got new wedges with tungsten slugs from the Callaway trailer in Las Vegas. He uses 52- and 58-degree X-Forged wedges, with personalization unique to him. Check out the photo.
WINNER’S BAG: Ryan Moore at the Shriners
Hospitals for Children Open:
Driver: TaylorMade RocketBallz (Fujikura Motore, 8.5 degrees)
Fairway woods: TaylorMade RocketBallz (15, 19 degrees)
Hybrid: Adams Idea Pro a12 (20 degrees)
Irons: Ping S56 (4-PW)
Wedges: Cobra Trusty Rusty (55 degrees), Titleist Vokey Design (60 degrees)
Putter: Yes! Sandy 12
Ball: Titleist Pro V1
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
CROMWELL, Conn. -- Friday felt like Groundhog Day at the Travelers Championship.
After all, Bill Murray played in the celebrity pro-am earlier this week and Fredrik Jacobson is leading again at the halfway mark with the exact same 36-total he had a year ago.
Things worked out pretty well for the Swede then as he went on to win for the first time on the PGA TOUR.
Friday, Jacobson shot a 4-under 66 in scorching conditions with temperatures soaring near 100 degrees at TPC River Highlands.
In his last six rounds here, Jacobson is a combined 29 under with 32 birdies and an eagle.
“It's more the way I'm playing than the course,” Jacobson said. “Last year I really felt like things started to click at the U. S. Open. Similar this time.”
A year ago, Jacobson tied for 14th at the U.S. Open at Congressional. This year, he’s coming off a tie for 15th at The Olympic Club.
“It feels good to have some birdie chances,” Jacobson said. “You play U. S. Open, I like that kind of golf. But you play for four days and you grind it out. It's nice to have a couple of holes where you feel like if you hit the shot you have some good chances to make birdies.”
He made plenty of them in the second round at TPC River Highlands with two birdies in his first three holes. Jacobson followed that with an eagle on the par-5 13th, where he reached the green in two and rolled in a 40-footer.
Jacobson got to as low as 10 under after a birdie on the par-5 sixth but dropped a shot with a three-putt bogey on No. 9, his final hole of the day.
There was a time when Jacobson didn’t exactly like TPC River Highlands, or at least his outcome -- he missed the cut here in 2007 and 2009.
The U.S. Open, however, seems to have sharpened Jacobson’s game.
Now he’ll try to become the first -- and only -- player since Phil Mickelson in 2002 to successfully defend his title in the 60-year history of the Travelers.
“It's easy to start thinking about the finish line already, and I can see that,” Jacobson said. “Any tournament it's tough to win. To win two in a row is probably tougher. But you have the thing going for you that you have some good memories to draw from, so hopefully that increase your chances.”
By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM correspondent
CROMWELL, Conn. -- David Mathis got off to a tremendous start. He made a 22-foot birdie at the 10 th. He made a 49-foot birdie at the 12 th. In between, Mathis made an ace at the 159-yard 11 th. Mathis leads the tournament in Strokes Gained - Putting and in length of putts made (he sank 141 feet of putts on Thursday).
Defending champion: Fredrik Jacobson struggled with the heat. With heat index temperatures in excess of 100 degrees, he repeatedly wiped down the grips of all his clubs to maintain good contact. It worked. Jacobson hit 16 greens and notched seven birdies. His only mistake was a double bogey on the 16 th hole and that was almost an ace -- Jacobson’s pitch mark was just a foot from the cup.
Hot start: It was so hot during the opening round, play had to be halted on occasion for the greens to be syringed. Officials constantly monitored the bentgrass greens, which can’t tolerate extreme heat. This week certainly qualifies. The maintenance crew would hose down the greens to lower the surface temperature. That made greens more receptive but also kept the putting surfaces alive.
Putting problems: Kyle Stanley is a great player. He’s a tournament winner, is 17 th in FedEx Cup points and is sixth on TOUR in average driving distance. He has a weakness though and he knows what is -- putting. Stanley is ranked 180 th on TOUR in Strokes Gained - Putting. He had 34 putts in the opening round and his only birdies came from two putts after missing eagle putts when reaching the par 5s in two.
Happy birthday: Congratulations to Matt Kuchar -- he turned 34 on Thursday and celebrated by shooting a 3-under 67. His round included an eagle at the 13 th and just 24 putts.
Bubba time: What a strange round of golf for Bubba Watson. He is the longest hitter on TOUR and yet did not birdie any of the par 5s or the driveable par-4 15 th hole. Even with those miscues, Watson shot 66. A hole-out eagle at the 10 th helped offset his mistakes on the par 5s.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR
CROMWELL, Conn. -- The last -- and only -- player to successfully defend in the 60-year history of the Travelers Championship was Phil Mickelson in 2001 and 2002. Now Fredrik Jacobson is trying to become the second.
So far, Jacobson is off to a good start, shooting a 5-under 65 Thursday to sit one shot off the lead of David Mathis.
Last year, Jacobson made just one bogey all week. Thursday, he had just one hiccup as well, double-bogeying the par-3 16th hole after hitting his tee shot over the green and leaving his second shot short. He then missed a 4-footer for bogey.
It was the only blemish in an otherwise flawless round for the Swede, who has played his last five rounds at TPC River Highlands in a combined 25 under with 28 birdies in that span.
“Last year was last year,” Jacobson said. “This year is a different story, so just happy to be back at the place where I enjoy to play. I have some good memories and try to go out there, and today my goal was to get off to a decent start. I know it was going to be challenging in this heat, and if you start to miss a few shots, it can get to you. I was just happy to get through this day.”
With temperatures well into the 90s -- and a heat index north of 100 degrees -- Jacobson managed to handle the heat just fine. He missed just two greens and led the field in approach shot distance to the pin at just over 23 feet.
As good as the round was, it could have been even lower. Jacobson missed three putts inside 10 feet, and a couple just outside that range, including on the 18th, where his 12-footer for birdie came up just short.
Still, there was little Jacobson could be disappointed with on a course he’s clearly comfortable on.
“I was happy to strike the ball really well and not end up in too many tricky positions,” Jacobson said. “I kept it a little simpler to stay focused and just get into a nice rhythm.”
CROMWELL, Conn. -- Fredrik Jacobson is in a familiar place: Atop the leaderboard at the Travelers Championship.
Jacobson is 7 under through his first 14 holes and in the lead after his fifth birdie in his last seven holes.
Dating back to last year, Jacobson has made just one bogey over his last 86 holes at TPC River Highlands, where he’s a combined 27 under in that span.
The Swede has missed just one green so far in today’s opening round and taken just 20 putts so far with eight one-putts.
CROMWELL, Conn. -- Defending champion Fredrik Jacobson is off to a good start at 4 under through his first nine holes.
So far, Jacobson has missed just one fairway and one green on his way four birdies and no bogeys. (click here to follow his round).
The last (and only) player to successfully defend here? Phil Mickelson, who won in 2001-2002.
Jacobson, who is coming off a tie for 15th at the U.S. Open, said earlier the week he feels comfortable at TPC River Highlands. It sure looks like it.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
CROMWELL, Conn. -- A visit last week from his old physio from Sweden seemed to pay immediate dividends for Fredrik Jacobson, who tied for 15th at the U.S. Open.
The Swede, who battled a sore back early in the season, is hoping to carry that momentum to this week’s Travelers Championship, where he’s the defending champion.
With TPC River Highlands considerably easier than The Olympic Club, you’d think that wouldn’t be much of a problem. Maybe. Maybe not.
”You give a lot during a major and put a lot into it,” Jacobson said Wednesday. “It just takes a little more out of you. You kind of decompress a little bit afterwards for a day or two and that kind of builds into the next week, which feels normally a little bit more relaxed.”
Jacobson was one of the few players to describe The Olympic Club as “fun” -- a term that certainly suits this course with an abundance of birdies and drivable par-4 15th.
”I thought [Olympic Club] suited me pretty good because I have a tough time sometimes to repeat the same swing 10 times in a row anyway,” Jacobson said. “You have to see the shots and you have to hit shots that you normally don't hit. So I actually enjoyed that and thought it was maybe a little bit of an advantage for me because I do like to hit some different shots.”
Last year, Jacobson didn’t need a lot of shots at TPC River Highlands. He made 21 birdies and just one bogey all week, which included a third-round 63.
“I've got a lot of good memories from last year,” said Jacobson, who joined a long list of past champions who got their first PGA TOUR victory here. “It's always going to be a special place every time I come here.”