Tom Pernice, Jr. shot a superb seven under par 63 in the second round of the AT&T National, tying the Congressional C.C. course record. Not long afterwards the Golf Channel showed the scores of some the best rounds at Congressional. These included a 64 by Tommy Jacobs at the 1964 US Open.
Jacobs’ round is now little more than a footnote in the annals of golf. This is a tragedy, because his masterpiece is arguably the best non-winning round in the Modern Era of major championship golf, the reason being that the next best scores were a pair of 69s by Arnold Palmer and Gay Brewer. That five shot spread between the daily low and then next best score in the Modern Era is one of the least known, but most impressive records in golf. Scores of other notables that day included Billy Casper (74), Ray Floyd (70), Jack Nicklaus (73), and Gary Player (74)
I visited Sports Illustrated’s Vault and discovered these words of praise for Jacobs’ performance:
Tommy Jacobs , one of the most likable and least known among the very good younger pros, shot a 64. On another golf course Jacobs ‘ performance could have been accepted with a reasonable amount of awe. To shoot such a round at Congressional must be regarded as superlative, if not unbelievable, golf. “He must have been cheating,” Arnold Palmer said jokingly. “Which holes did he leave out?” asked Claude Harmon , who insisted that the course should really be considered a par-73 because most of the players were unable to reach two or three of the par-4 holes with their two best shots. “It was the finest round of golf I have ever seen,” said old Dutch Harrison, who was in the same pairing with Tommy and is a voice worth listening to, since he has played in more professional tournaments than any golfer in history.
At that time Congressional C.C. measured only 7,053 yards compared to 7,255 today, an additional 2.9%. But if you adjust for today’s high tech equipment, Congressional now plays about 600 yards shorter than it did in 1964. It also has better greens and is not set up like an Open course, so it is understandable why today’s pros can burn it up. Those par 4s that the pros had trouble reaching in two in ’64 are now likely being hit with mid to short irons.
The table below shows the rounds under 70 on the two record setting days. As I said, only two players besides Jacobs broke 70 the day of his masterpiece while 46 players shot in the 60s on Penrice’s record tying day.
For the record, Tommy Jacobs, a four time winner during his career on tour, shot a 76 in the final round to Ken Venturi’s 70 and lost to him by four shots.
Tom Pernice may or may not go on to win the AT&T National, but one thing should be made clear: the best round of golf ever played at Congressional C.C. belongs not to him but to a fellow journeyman pro named Tommy Jacobs who, 44 years ago, played one of those rounds of golf that every player dreams of playing at least once in their life.