By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- Three weeks ago, Fredrik Jacobson didn't know quite what to expect.
The bulging disks in his lower back that had sidelined the Swede for essentially five months weren't bothering him anymore. He'd been able to hit balls again and get in plenty of practice rounds.
Competition, though, was another story.
Turns out, Jacobson need not have worried. He missed the cut in Phoenix but has turned in top-10 finishes each of the last two weeks -- including Sunday's tie for third at the Northern Trust Open where he came within a 4-footer for par on the 72nd hole of making the playoff John Merrick won.
"I think I've taken good strides in the right direction over these last few weeks, and you know, apart from that last putt, the Callaway boys got me this new Odyssey putter that I started with in December, and it's been really hot coming out this year," Jacobson said. "So it's been a good base for my game."
Jacobson hit his first 12 greens in regulation on Sunday at Riviera, then pulled even with Merrick, his playing partner and local favorite, with birdies at Nos. 15 and 16 in what he called an "amazing atmosphere" on the back nine. He had another shot at the par-5 17th that actually would have put the hard-charging veteran in the lead but the 9-footer there stubbornly refused to fall.
"It was a slippery one there, but that was a good opportunity to maybe get one ahead there," Jacobson said. "18, I don't know, it was really close, my second shot ended up close to the hole I guess (before rolling through the green). Looked pretty good from where we were. Difference between putting from the fringe and all that.
"But you know, the last putt wasn't very good, but it is what it is."
Jacobson also played his way into the field for this week's World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship. He was the second alternate after tying for seventh at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am when the field was finalized and assured of a spot when Brandt Snedeker, who is nursing sore ribs, opted not to play.
Jacobson, who rose from 66th to 47th in the world thanks to his performance at Northern Trust, will play Ernie Els in a first-round match-up in the Hogan Bracket on Wednesday.
"I was just focusing on this week, obviously first I'll have to recharge, take a day off tomorrow and recharge for that when we get there," Jacobson said. "But as of now, I'm obviously very happy with the way my game has come along over these last few weeks. ...
"I wasn't expecting to be in the field coming into Pebble. It was my second week out, so I'm just excited to be a part of it. I'm looking forward to it."