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Haas holds lead over Jacobsen

They each shoot 64s and are one shot apart at the Toshiba Classic, but they have plenty of company.

March 11, 2007|Chris Foster | Times Staff Writer

The paths that Jay Haas and Peter Jacobsen followed the last year could not have been more different.

Haas lived in the spotlight after being named the Champions Tour player of year in 2006. He won four events, including the Senior PGA Championship, and his success has carried over as he has finished in the top five in four of the first six events.

Jacobsen suffered through pain -- in his knee, hip and back -- last year that ended with hip replacement surgery in September. A week ago, he underwent laser surgery to relieve the stress on the disks in his back.

Yet the two start today ahead of everyone else in the Toshiba Classic at the Newport Beach Country Club. Haas had a seven-under-par 64 Saturday to sit atop the leaderboard at 13 under. Jacobsen matched that 64 and sits one shot back while still carrying three stitches each in the two incisions made during surgery.

"From the operating room to the interview room in one week," Jacobsen said. "It sounds like a sitcom on the Golf Channel."

That could lead to an amusing finish today, though neither Haas nor Jacobsen is guaranteed to be the one chuckling all the way to the bank.

While Haas and Jacobsen lead the field, their margin for error is minimal. R.W. Eaks sits two shots back of Haas, and Joe Ozaki and Ben Crenshaw are three back. But if the first two rounds are any indication, even those two have to cast an eye over their shoulder.

A year ago, seven under par was good enough to share the lead after two days in this event. A seven under after Saturday got you a share of 13th, and there are 11 within four shots of Haas. Ozaki and Craig Stadler also shot seven under Saturday and the play may get even faster today with warmer weather predicted.

"The course is dry and the greens are rolling true," said Haas, who tied the event's two-day best of 129 set by Rodger Davis in 2003. "I seem to be putting better. I felt comfortable over the ball.

"I'd love to shoot a five, six or seven under tomorrow, but that might not be enough. There are guys capable of shooting better, eight, nine, 10 under out there."

Haas scratched out a lead with steady play. He has not taken a bogey through the first two days. He had seven birdies Saturday, five on the front nine.

Jacobsen came on with eight birdies, which included chipping in shots on the 10th and 14th holes. It was a significant improvement over his play in the Toshiba a year ago, when he had to withdraw before the final round because of knee problems related to his hip condition.

Those problems persisted after his hip surgery. He was in a threesome with Haas on the second day of the Ace Group Classic in Naples three weeks ago but had to withdraw. That led to last week's back surgery, the first of two procedures.

"The doctor wanted to see how I would respond," he said. "I had two great pro-am rounds and I felt great the last two days."

That was noticeable on the course, where he had six birdies on the last 10 holes.

"You can tell he's back to his old self," Haas said of Jacobsen. "I wouldn't say he was cranky in Naples, but he definitely wasn't his old giddy self."

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chris.foster@latimes.com

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