Jacobsen pleased with return to Bellerive

Peter Jacobsen during the 2013 Senior PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club.

Peter Jacobsen during the 2013 Senior PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club.

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TOWN AND COUNTRY, Mo. — It’s an understatement to say Peter Jacobsen was thrilled at the chance to return to Bellerive Country Club for the 74th Senior PGA Championship. Lord knows it took some doing to get him to leave the last time he was here — in 2004, when he won the U.S. Senior Open, only four months after becoming eligible as a senior.

“Afterward, I remember, we went up to, I believe it’s called the Blue Room, in the clubhouse,” Jacobsen recalled. “I was enjoying myself; I didn’t want to go. I think the general manager walked up to me, I was still there and he handed me the keys to the clubhouse and said, ‘Why don’t you lock up when you leave? We’re all done.’ ”

If it was far-fetched to believe Jacobsen could win again this week at Bellerive, that’s at least partially the result of 17 surgeries he’s had since turning 50. “When I had my hip replaced, my doctor said, ‘You’re going to lose 20 yards of disance,’ and I said, ‘I can handle that.’ Then I had my knee replaced and he said, ‘Well, you’re going to lose another 20 yards,’ and I said, ‘I might be in trouble with 40 yards lost.’

“But I think I hit the ball a little bit farther than I did simply because of the equipment, because of the advances in technology.”

Though he’s had but one top-20 finish in six Champions Tour starts this year, Jacobsen, now 59, was content with the status of his game as he made his way to St. Louis.

“Actually, I like my chances,” he said. “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 my short game is as strong as it’s ever been.”

Naturally, Jacobsen was pleased this week’s venue was one that offered so many good vibes.

“I know that any player that comes back to a golf course where they have had success before, whether you’re the defending champion 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 I’ve been looking forward to coming back to Bellerive for quite a few years.”

On Saturday, Jacobsen’s second consecutive 2-under-par 69 was interrupted by a weather delay of 2 hours, 15 minutes. But he wasn’t certain that additional rain on Bellerive, soaked by a strong storm on Monday night, would increase the likelihood that co-leaders Kenny Perry and Russ Cochran would pad the gap of seven shots between them and Jacobsen.

“I don’t know,” he mused. “Having soft greens here . . . the green complexes are so big, you have to put the ball on the right quadrant. Put it this way: Having a 40-footer here is not like a 40-footer at any other golf course, because a 40-footer here is probably going to have 10 or 12 feet of break, up a hill, down a hill, breaking left, breaking right . . . it’s just hard to say.”

Though Jacobsen opened with a 3-over-par 75 on Thursday that put him behind 102 players, he hasn’t been displeased with his return to Bellerive.

“I actually played pretty good on Thursday,” he said. “I didn’t put the ball in the right spots and I had a lot of long, swinging approach putts. I think I three-putted twice, maybe three times. It was just bad placement on the approaches on the green. But, overall, I feel good about my game.”

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