Jacobsen, Haas in lead; Whaley shoots 75

Friday, July 25, 2003

CROMWELL, Conn. -- Jay Haas and Peter Jacobsen shot 7-under 63s Thursday to share the first-round lead of the Greater Hartford Open, while Suzy Whaley birdied the final hole to cap a 75 that stole the attention at the PGA Tour event.

Whaley, a 36-year-old local teaching pro, became the first woman to qualify for a PGA tournament since Babe Zaharias in 1945 when she won the PGA Connecticut section title last fall.

Trailed by a large media contingent, Whaley had the day's biggest gallery and was wildly cheered at every hole.

"It was the most unbelievable moment walking up on that tee and having ... people cheering for me," she said.

She battled nerves early and a strong headwind later in the day. Several days of heavy rains had also softened the course to a near standstill.

"I felt like I was playing the British Open on the back nine. It was blowing so hard," she said. "The ball was absolutely stopping on every drive. This golf course played extremely long for me today as I knew that it would, but this was above and beyond."

Her start was shaky -- a double-bogey on No. 1 -- but she finished with a flourish, making a 37-foot putt from the fringe for her only birdie.

Haas and Jacobsen had no problems at the start.

Haas, who had a bogey-free round, birdied his first three holes. Jacobsen birdied the first two holes and had eight on the day. His only bogey was on the 171-yard 16th, a par-3 over water, where he went over the green with a 6-iron.

Dennis Paulson was one stroke back, while Craig Barlow had a 65. Kenny Perry, who has won three of his last five tournaments was in a group of six at 4-under. Two-time defending champ Phil Mickelson had a 67.

Troubles continued for David Duval. The former British Open champ shot a 13-over 83. He has missed the cut 12 of his last 16 tournaments and wouldn't comment on his round as he walked off the course.

The 63 was the lowest round of the year for Jacobsen, a former GHO champ who hasn't had a win on tour since 1995. Part of the credit goes to his now-empty nest.

"I really can't say I've done anything different. Life happens to you," Jacobsen said. "My kids are all out of the house, so your priorities change a little. I can spend more time working on my game."

Haas, who hasn't had a tour win in 10 years, has five top 10 finishes this season, including seconds in the Bob Hope and Players Championship.

"I think this year I have a renewed passion for the game," Haas said. "I was very relaxed starting off the year. It's kind of just built on itself. I feel like I'm doing things well enough to be there at the end."

Haas and Jacobsen, both 49, are eligible for the Champions Tour next year and credit the senior circuit with keeping them sharp at this stage of their game.

"I think you are starting to see a lot of guys our age that have put in the time and the effort to keep their game sharp because they know at 50 you have a chance to compete and a chance to win again," Jacobsen said.

The lure of bigger purses is also keeping more players interested, Haas said.

"Twenty years ago if you finished 100 on the money list, you won $20,000. That wasn't making it," Haas said. "Now if you finish 100, you might make $800,000."

The GHO, which next year becomes the Buick Championship, had a first prize of $720,000.

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