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Thorpe Beats Jacobs in Countrywide

April 28, 2002

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SUPERSTITION MOUNTAIN, Ariz. (AP) _ Jim Thorpe rolled in a 5-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole Sunday to win the Countrywide Tradition over cigar-smoking buddy John Jacobs, who missed a 3-footer that would have forced another hole of play.

``It was a wonderful finish,″ Thorpe said. ``If this doesn’t help the golf ratings, I don’t know what will.″

Thorpe, 53, won his first major on the Senior PGA Tour, and he can thank the par-5, 553-yard 18th hole on the Prospector course at Superstition Mountain Golf & Country Club.

Thorpe chipped in from the bunker there for an eagle to pull within a shot of Jacobs for the third-round lead Saturday, then forced the playoff with a birdie on the 18th Sunday after an approach shot that landed 18 inches from the pin.

``That hole was very kind to me,″ Thorpe said. ``They should put my name someplace out there.″

The two outgoing players, who often chat with people in the crowd and joke with each other, finished at 11-under-par 277. Thorpe closed with a 70, and Jacobs had a 71.

``We both have plenty of money, but we had fun out there,″ Jacobs said. ``That’s what this tour should be about.″

Bruce Summerhays shot a 68, but missed a 5-foot birdie putt that would have tied him for the lead on the 18th. He tied for third with Bob Gilder at 10-under 278.

Tom Watson, switching to a cross-handed putting grip a third of the way through his round, shot a 68 to finish at 8-under 280, one shot ahead of tour money leader Hale Irwin.

It was the second playoff in three years at the Tradition and fourth in the tournament’s 14-year history. Two years ago, Tom Kite won a playoff with Larry Nelson and Watson.

Thorpe, a three-time winner on the PGA Tour, is the second black player to win a senior major and the first since the Senior PGA Tour began. Charlie Sifford won the PGA Seniors’ Championship in 1975.

The tournament moved to Superstition Mountain this year from the Desert Mountain course in Scottsdale.

After scrambling to save par with long putts on the 10th, 11th and 12th holes, Jacobs had birdies on the 15th and 16th to take a one-shot lead into the final hole of regulation play.

But his tee shot came to rest on a steep ledge just inches from a bunker. After experimenting with several approaches, including a brief thought of hitting it left-handed, Jacobs stood awkwardly in the sand and punched the ball across the fairway into the rough.

Jacobs’ third shot fell well short of the green, but as he had done all day, he saved himself with his putter, knocking down a 12-footer to save par.

``I wasn’t thinking about winning the tournament, I was thinking that I wasn’t going to let this hole beat me,″ Jacobs said.

Thorpe, meanwhile, hit his first shot into the bunker that Jacobs missed, boomed his second shot down the fairway, then hit his approach just 1 1/2 feet from the pin and tapped it in for a birdie.

The two trudged back to the 18th tee for the playoff. This time, Jacobs’ tee shot cleared the bunker, but his second shot sailed into the gallery to the right of the green. Thorpe, meanwhile, knocked his third shot just 5 feet from the pin.

Jacobs’ shot from the rough landed just 3 feet from the hole, but he missed the short put to the right, the ball rolling around the lip before popping out.

``I misread it,″ he said. ``I certainly didn’t miss it because I was nervous. If I’d been nervous, I would have missed the first one.″

Neither Jacobs nor Thorpe played well in the final round, but no one made a charge to pass them, either.

``We both gutted it out, he just gutted it out a little better than I did,″ Jacobs said.

Thorpe won a career-high $300,000 for his fifth senior title. He joked about his well-documented love of gambling.

``I’m not going to lie to you. I love craps. Tonight I’ll be playing craps in Vegas,″ he said. ``Next week in Alabama I’ll be at the dog track. But I do the right thing, too. I give 10 percent to the church.″

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