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Double Eagle : THE GRASS IS GREEN ON BOTH SIDES FOR ABC'S PETER JACOBSEN

June 13, 1993|JOHN SCHEIBE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"I've got five minutes," says Peter Jacobsen from his hotel room in Irving, Tex. "I'm in here five minutes, then I'm out."

OK, Peter, we'll make this quick. You've taken a week off recently from playing the regular PGA golf tour to do two days of color commentary for ABC Sports at the Bryon Nelson Classic. You're boning up for the same assignment this week at the U.S. Open Golf Championship at the Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J.

However, ABC says you're also going to play in the Open, similar to what John McEnroe did last year at Wimbledon. McEnroe played his tennis matches, then joined the NBC broadcast team in the announcers' booth. Can you do both?

"Playing always takes precedence," Jacobsen says. "If I qualify, I'll play, then when I'm finished, I'll go up in the booth."

Jacobsen, 39, known for his flip sense of humor and his comical impersonations of some of the game's top players--including Arnold Palmer, Tom Kite and Johnny Miller--has fun while he's playing, but takes his golf seriously. He won't be doing any stand-up routines from ABC's tower at the 18th green, at least not during the Open.

Jacobsen, who is married and has three children, signed a new contract with ABC Sports last January. After the U.S. Open, he's scheduled to do analysis at the British Open, the U.S. Senior Open, the Greater Milwaukee Open and the year-end Tour Championship.

His easy and personable delivery has worked well for him, as a commentator for both ABC's and NBC's coverage of "The Skins Game," at the Legends tournament for NBC and as a roving reporter at the Ryder Cup in 1989.

Before joining the PGA tour in 1977, Jacobsen was the then-Pacific 8 Conference champion while playing for the University of Oregon. He won his first tour event, the Buick Open, in 1980, and has four PGA wins, including the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic in 1990.

This year he is currently 66th on the money-leaders list, earning a little more than $115,000 in 10 tournaments.

"I do a lot of things," he says. "I just wrote a book ("Buried Lies: True Tales and Tall Stories From the PGA Tour," Putnam: $21.95), I'm doing some work for Nike and we still have the band, although we haven't performed in about three years."

The band is Jake Trout and the Flounders, a rock group Jacobsen founded with fellow golfers Mark Lye on guitar and Payne Stewart on harmonica.

He says switching from player to commentator is easy for him.

"I enjoy it," he says. "I've been doing TV for about eight years, off and on.

"I take a positive view of things. I like to point out the good things a player does, accentuate the positive. I'm not going to be the Rush Limbaugh of golf.

"Print journalists look for negative things because it fuels articles for their paper."

This will be the fourth time the U.S. Open has been played on the Lower Course at the Baltusrol Golf Club. Located in the countryside near Springfield, it is ranked among the top 30 in Golf Digest's list of America's 100 greatest courses.

"Baltusrol is one of the great golf courses," Jacobsen says. "The USGA (United States Golf Assn.) has a knack of picking the great course for the Open. It's a very demanding course.

"Driving is my strength. I'm very long off the tee. The No. 1 criteria is to keep the ball in play.

"In some Opens, players have to worry about the rough or keeping the ball in the fairway. At Baltusrol, players who can use the driver will have the advantage."

Baltusrol is famous for its length--7,152 yards. On the front nine, four of the seven par 4 holes are more than 460 yards long. The back nine is tougher yet, capped by two par 5s--the monstrous 630-yard 17th hole, which has never been reached in two shots in Open play, and the 542-yard No. 18, whose fairway runs downhill from the tee, then uphill to the green.

Jack Nicklaus has won two of the four U.S. Opens played at Baltusrol's Lower Course. In 1967, he beat Arnold Palmer, shooting a record score of 285, which broke Ben Hogan's old Open mark of 286.

In 1980, Nicklaus was paired with Isao Aoki in all four rounds of the Championship. He defeated the Japanese star for his fourth U.S. Open victory and set a 72-hole record of 272 in the process.

Coincidentally, the 1980 tournament was Jacobsen's first appearance in a U.S. Open and he finished a respectable 20th.

This will be the 28th consecutive year that ABC has broadcast the U.S. Open. Jacobsen will join Brent Musberger, who will describe the play along with Jim McKay, and other analysts including Peter Alliss of the BBC, Steve Melnyk, Jack Whitaker, Jerry Pate and Judy Rankin.

The interview over, Jacobsen was gone. It lasted a little longer than five minutes but not as long as it takes to play No. 17 at Baltusrol.

ABC will air the final two rounds of the U.S. Open Golf Championship Saturday and next Sunday at 10:30 a.m. , with highlights at 11:35 p.m. Thursday and Friday.

ESPN will broadcast the first two rounds Thursday and Friday beginning at 7:30 a.m.

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