Notes: Jacobson, Goosen return from back ailments

Fredrik Jacobson during the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

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PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Medical marvels they might not be, but Fredrik Jacobson and Retief Goosen have surely proven to themselves that their sore spots are so far passing the test.

And when that area of concern is the back, well, it’s nothing to take lightly.

Casual as he may sound when he talks about his back pain – “Everybody has it after you’ve played 20 years on Tour,” Jacobson said – the 39-year-old Swede was concerned enough to pretty much shut it down late in 2012. He played at The Barclays in Augusta and then sat out seven weeks before playing two rounds in Las Vegas and missing the cut.

“I’ve pretty much played five or six rounds the last five months,” Jacobson said after a 6-under 66 at Pebble got him to 7-under 137 and within a stroke of the lead shared by Brandt Snedeker and Ted Potter Jr. at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

Goosen, 43, called a halt to his 2012 season after the PGA Championship, frustrated by the continued pain. He sat down with his doctor and agreed to an extreme solution – surgery to replace a disk that had disintegrated. “Titanium with, like, a rubber-type middle,” said Goosen, who shot 68 at Pebble and is at 5-under 139.

It was more than four months before he hit a ball, and early in January he teed it up in the Volvo Champions on the European Tour.

Confident he could handle the assignment, Goosen, like Jacobson is continuing to knock off the rust in a most impressive manner here at the edge of the Pacific. Jacobson rattled off six birdies in a nine-hole stretch – Nos. 13 to 3 – to get halfway home in prime position. Goosen, meanwhile, played his last 13 holes in a bogey-free 4 under and is just three back.

Thrilled though they might be about finding themselves in the hunt, Jacobson and Goosen – both of whom tee it up at Monterey Peninsula Saturday – are most thankful to be without pain. Not that the Swede didn’t arrive at the course a bit concerned, what with rain falling and temperatures in the 40s.

“You have to be careful and wear enough clothes and warm up properly,” said Jacobson, who missed the cut last week in Scottsdale, Ariz., in his first tournament in three months. “I think with (back) muscles you can pull something.”

Goosen, playing in his first PGA Tour tournament of the season, remains upbeat. “I feel like I can do some practicing and start hitting balls. I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of things.”

Given that they’re both in the hunt, it would appear as if they very much are.

• • •

NO SURPRISE HERE: Only if you’ve been immersed in these Cuban Missile Crisis-like controversies surrounding deer-antler spray and anchoring could you be surprised to see who is sharing the lead.

It would be more of a shock if Snedeker weren’t there.

We’re talking a history-maker here, because never before had anyone finished second to Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in consecutive weeks – until Snedeker did just that. He was runner-up to Woods two weeks ago at the Farmers Insurance Open and second to Lefty at the Waste Management Phoenix Open a week ago. So who can be even mildly surprised that Snedeker put up a bogey-free, 4-under 68 at Spyglass Hill to push to 8 under, tied with Potter (67 at Monterey).

Certainly, not Snedeker.

“I take nothing but positives away from the way I’ve played the weekends the last couple events,” Snedeker said. “I know I’ll have a lot of fun this weekend, so I’m just trying to recreate that.”

Snedeker has made just two bogeys in 36 holes. He’s the reigning FedEx Cup champion and coming off of a two-win season. Oh, and his last eight tournaments, going into 2012: second, second, T-23, third, first, T-37, sixth, second.

Just don’t think you’re revealing a state secret or anything if you elbow your friends and nod toward the man called “Sneds.” He knows the landscape.

“I realize I’m playing really well,” he said.

So what does he do from here, headed toward Saturday and Sunday rounds at Pebble Beach?

“Just try not to do anything stupid this week and not wear myself out early in the week, be patient and keep doing the small stuff I did last week really well. It’s been real promising this week the way I’ve taken that momentum from last week into this one.”

• • •

STUCK IN NEUTRAL: They’ve combined to win this tournament a half-dozen times, but neither Phil Mickelson nor Dustin Johnson has been able to kick it into overdrive thus far.

For a second day in a row, Mickelson was without a finishing touch.

He played the first nine holes Thursday in 2 under at Monterey Peninsula, only to bogey two of his final five holes and settle for a 1-under 69. In Round 2 at Spyglass Hill, Lefty went out in a bogey-free, 3-under 33, then bogeyed Nos. 2, 4 and 5 coming home. What might have been a miserable taste in his mouth was averted when Mickelson birdied the par-4 eighth to salvage a 1-under 72.

At 2 under, he may be sitting well down the leaderboard (T-39), but consider that he’s only six off the lead and a year ago he came from five back through 36 to win.

If Johnson makes a rally of that type, he can thank his back nine in Round 2. Having opened Thursday with a sloppy 73 at Monterey Peninsula, Johnson played the back nine at Spyglass in 1-over 37 and was 4 over for the tournament. He then came to life, however, with birdies at the first, sixth, and an eagle at the par-5 seventh for an inward 32 and a round of 3-under 69.

From a share of 125th after Thursday, Johnson moved to level par, T-70.

• • •

GETTING INTO SHAPE: Jim Furyk’s first tournament of the year will need a solid round at Monterey Peninsula Saturday if it’s to continue into a fourth day.

At level-par 144, Furyk is in danger of missing the cut for just the third time in 17 appearances in what is one of his favorite tournaments. Furyk, 42, has missed this tournament just three times since coming on Tour in 1994.

Thursday, Furyk bogeyed three times early and struggled to a 75 at Spyglass Hill, though he brought it back with a solid 3-under 69 in Friday’s second round at Pebble Beach. The only blemish on his card was a bogey at the par-3 12th, and at 144, he sits in a share of 70th, with the low 60 and ties making the cut after Saturday’s third round.

• • •

AND YOU THOUGHT THE PROS ATE THESE HOLES UP: In a day that featured very few highlights, Paul Haley did the improbable: He made at least a bogey on each of the four par 5s at Pebble Beach.

He bogeyed the second, 14th and 18th holes and saved the worst for the sixth – hitting his second shot over the cliff right and making a nine.

With a round of 82, Haley sits dead last in the field of 156, at 16 over.

• • •

SHORT SHOTS: David Duval failed to make a birdie in an opening 79 at Spyglass, but made four going out on Pebble’s front nine on Friday. Unfortunately, he had opened with a double at the first hole and when he made two more on the back, Duval was 8 over at the 36-hole mark, tied for 144th . . . . . Kevin Sutherland backed up a 70 at Pebble Beach with a 68 at Monterey Peninusla and sits at 4 under, tied for 17th, just four off the lead. Sutherland’s 2012 season ended at this Pebble Beach affair and he returned to action just last week in Scottsdale, Ariz. It’s his 17th consecutive start in this tournament . . . . . For Day 2, the field average at Pebble was 72.269, at Spyglass it was 72.923 and for Monterey it was 70.827. That was slightly higher at all three, which can be credited to early rain, lower temperatures, and more wind . . . . . There have been 22 eagles, half of them at Pebble Beach . . . . . Some things never change: The par-5 14th at Pebble Beach continues to confound. For two days it was played to a field average of 5.269, which leaves it as third most difficult. No eagles and just 11 birdies, but most telling of all – there have been more double-bogeys there than on any other hole at Pebble Beach.

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