He also came into the year settled on his thoughts for a consistent swing and eager to try two ideas he had picked up while watching from the TV booth. After noticing how many players moved their heads when they putted, he worked overtime to keep his head still. He also realized that the best players walked down the fairway at the same tempo with which they swung and vowed to slow his own sometimes frenetic pace afoot.
After finishing 47th at the Hawaiian Open on Jan. 15 and missing the cut two weeks later at Phoenix, Jacobsen moved the ball back a few inches in his putting stance. The next week everything fell into place at Pebble Beach, where he took advantage of the lift, clean and place rule to hit 69 of 72 greens in regulation.
Last week at Torrey Pines, where his gallery for all four days included his friend P.J. Carlesimo, the Portland Trail Blazer coach, Jacobsen began the final round with a three-stroke lead. Hulbert birdied the first three holes and the 6th, cutting the lead to one, but Jacobsen answered with a birdie of his own at 6 and followed with two more on the 10th and 11th to get his advantage up to four strokes. The clincher came at the par-4 14th, after Jacobsen ran a putt from the fringe seven feet past the hole. On just the kind of putt that had been a career-long nemesis, he kept his head perfectly still and knocked the ball squarely in the hole.
"I can hardly wait for the alarm to go off in the morning," says Jacobsen. "I'm excited to put the tee in the ground. I'm excited to hit. I believe in my game now. I believe in myself. Maybe I haven't always, but it's fun now."
Who knows what's in store for Jacobsen the rest of this year? Perhaps he'll earn a Ryder Cup berth, or become the leading money winner, or lay claim to a major championship. The only thing that's certain is that Jacobsen will not become the first player since Gary Player in 1978 to win three straight events on the schedule. He is passing up this week's Bob Hope to fulfill his promise to throw a 40th-birthday party in Portland for his wife, Jan.
Like we told you, 40 is a powerful number in golf.