The Drive to Buick


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LEE TREVINO looked stockier than usual, his barrel-shaped body buttressed by the outline of a corset under his golf shirt. The twinges of angst on his face betrayed the fact that he was trying to play through pain in his back. In this anecdote, as always, Señor Trevino was never a man without mirth, even when a member of the gallery innocently asked why he was wearing a corset.

“Because,” Trevino responded with a laugh, “my wife found it in the glove compartment.”

Peter Jacobsen, he of the upside-down career, will be trying to overcome the same discomfort when he defends his Buick Invitational championship February 7-10 at Torrey Pines. A bad back kept him out of the Mercedes Tournament of Champions at La Costa in January, and he, like Trevino, looked a bit portly in his back brace when he showed up for a press conference at Torrey Pines the morning after Mark O’Meara won the Mercedes.

“The MRI is clean,” Jacobsen insisted. “I fully expect to play in the Buick.”

The Torrey Pines tournament has had an interesting variety of winners in its various incarnations—many persist in calling it “the Andy Williams”—but few would have been considered as unlikely as Jacobsen. He was a man whose future, in the early 1990s, seemed much more secure with a microphone than with a putter. His repartee as a golf commentator was far sharper than his golf.

Jacobsen was 127th on the PGA Tour’s money list in 1992. At his age (late 30s) then, such a ranking more than likely signals a golfer’s career is nearing its end. He climbed to 77th in 1993 and then slipped slightly to 88th in 1994. He was entering his 40s, that no man’s land between Tour golf and seniors golf, as 1995 dawned.

So what happened? Jacobsen won the AT&T at Pebble Beach and then, the very next week, crowned that victory with a championship at Torrey Pines. Only one other man, David Frost, had won back-to-back Tour events this decade, a precedent that made another victory by Jacobsen an even more remote possibility. Jacobsen went on to win more than $1 million in 1995, a career best, and make the Ryder Cup team.

What to expect when golf’s finest players tee up once again on what may well be the finest municipal layout in the world? It would be an oversimplification to state that the unexpected is to be expected. Victories by golfing luminaries such as Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson (who have both won twice), Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Gene Littler, Johnny Miller, Craig Stadler and Billy Casper could hardly have been considered unexpected, except maybe that Littler won the tournament as an amateur. Phil Mickelson scored his first professional victory at Torrey Pines in 1993, but that could not have been deemed
a surprise.

Six of the top 10 money winners on the 1995 Tour will be playing in the Buick Invitational, among them number 7, Peter Jacobsen. His challengers, from the ranks of 1995’s top 10, include Billy Mayfair, Steve Elkington, Davis Love III, Jim Gallagher Jr. and Mark O’Meara. The field also includes the likes of Ben Crenshaw, Nick Faldo, Jay Haas, Tom Kite, Phil Mickelson, Payne Stewart and Curtis Strange, none of whom would be a surprise winner.

And then again, the winner could come from out of nowhere. It could be another man who has seemingly abandoned the fairways for the airwaves. Maybe Gary McCord will provide this year’s surprise.

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