That has always been the bottom line for Jacobsen. Despite all that he has had going on the side, Jacobsen has yearned to be regarded as a top player. In Portland he was brought up in a family filled with avid golfers. With a strong, long body, Jacobsen, at 6'3" and 200 pounds, developed a powerful, rhythmic swing. But when he joined the Tour in 1977, he had a hard time overcoming an inferiority complex that stemmed from his status as an unsung player out of the University of Oregon.
"I was still trying to learn how to play when I came out of college, and I was intimidated by the great players," he says. "I was in awe. I'm still in awe."
His friends and supporters saw through the confident persona Jacobsen projected as an entertainer and a businessman, and were frustrated by his inability to carry that attitude onto the course.
"Peter's really always had the game, but it took him a long time to believe in himself," says Mike (Fluff) Cowan, who has been Jacobsen's caddie for 19 years. "Now he does. He proved it to me on the last hole at Pebble Beach, where he had a two-shot lead. In the past he would have been indecisive. He would have come to me and said, 'What do you like? What should I hit?' Instead, he walked up to that tee, never said boo to me, pulled out a driver and hit it. He's starting to know how good he is. It's nothing but the mind."
To help guide him through that frontier, Jacobsen has long relied on the counsel of his friend Chuck Hogan, who has coached more than 60 playing professionals on the mental aspects of the game. "Peter is extroverted and very creative," says Hogan. "That endears him to a great many people, but it also makes him highly sensitive to the comments of those same people. As a result, he is very suggestible and very distractible. For example, he would constantly experiment with his golf swing, listening to teacher after teacher. I would run into all kinds of teaching pros who would tell me, 'I gave Peter Jacobsen a golf lesson.' My comment would be, 'Who hasn't?' "
Jacobsen was further distracted by two personal losses. He was deeply shaken when his younger brother, Paul, died of AIDS in September 1988 and devastated in July 1991 when his father, Erling, died of cancer after fighting off the illness for seven years. After his father's death, Peter plunged to 127th on the money list in '92, losing his exempt status for the first time since he was a rookie.
With his playing career at rock bottom and "my desire gone," Jacobsen became an ABC golf commentator in 1993, juggling those duties with appearances on the Tour. However, sitting in the announcers' booth and watching players he knew he could beat reminded Jacobsen of how important the game was to him. He made plans to play full-time in '94, but a series of injuries, including pulled rib muscles and a deep cut on his right hand, limited him to 19 tournaments, with only three top-10 finishes.
Last fall Jacobsen rededicated himself to the game and made extensive preparations for this year, hiring personal trainer Fil Pearl, the son of a former Mr. Universe, Bill Pearl. From the middle of November to Jan. 1, Jacobsen lifted weights four days a week and ran up to five miles a day on a treadmill. He came out of the program in the best physical shape of his life, and even more important, he was pumped mentally.
This new discipline—he had talked about embarking on a physical regimen for 15 years without doing so—represented an important step for Jacobsen. "He said he was going to do something," says Hogan, "and he actually did it, with no slippage. That's what counts. Wannabes have a vision. Champions are their vision. Peter was crossing that threshold."
Jacobsen had noticed the perception among his peers that he was a player whose days were numbered, and it not only angered him but also motivated him. "It made me think, I'm not done. I'm going to prove to myself, and I'm going to prove to them, that I can play," he says, "that I can still play."