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Remembering Tommy Jacobs’ Masterpiece

July 5th, 2008 · 5 Comments

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.

—-’08—‘64
63—1—0
64—2—1
65—4—0
66—1—0
67—10—0
68—13—0
69—15—2

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.

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5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 The Armchair Golfer // Jul 5, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    Nice flashback on Jacobs, Phil, a guy who could really play in his day. He also lost the ’66 Masters in a playoff to Jack Nicklaus. I met Tommy at Legends of Golf this year (and last) and, at 73, he still hits it pretty good.

  • 2 Keith Jacobs // Jul 19, 2008 at 3:05 am

    Thanks for the nice works on my Dad. It really was a remarkable round at the US Open, and was capped by 60+ foot put on the 18th hole!! I was on the bag this year at the Legends, and he definiely has still put out the off the tee 270+!

  • 3 J.Michael Whitaker MD // Aug 1, 2008 at 11:51 pm

    As a young caddie in the late 1960′s at Whitemarsh Valley CC in Philadelphia, I can attest to this man’s golf gifts. He birded the 72 hole in 1967 Philadelphia golf classic to finish in a four way tie for first. Lost to Dave Hill in a sudden death playoff hole. Great golfer. Real decent man to me. Wonderful experience being on his bag. Hope he is doing well. Sweet Swing!

  • 4 Daniel Carone // Nov 19, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    I too caddied for Mr. Jacobs during a Thunderbird Classic and Dow Jones Invitational at Upper Montclair Country Club in 1965 and 1967. What an experience for a young teenaged kid to be inside the ropes with him. The memories of those tournaments is as vivid today as they were when they were taking place, especially being tied with Nicklaus and Palmer after 36 holes and being sandwiched in between their foursomes on Saturday. But what I really remember most about both weeks is what he taught me about the game, the little things that have made me a consistent golfer into my 60th year; how he would explain the reason for selecting a particular club, wind, grass, topography, the mental processes for a particular shot, on and on and on it went. I didn’t realize until years later the gift I was given by him.

    And, Keith, I read your 7/19/08 e-mail to this site. I sent your dad a letter a couple of years ago with some photos of me standing on the leaderboard at the Thunderbird. If you see him any time soon, please say hello.

    Thanks

  • 5 Keith Jacobs // Feb 28, 2014 at 4:04 am

    Great memories of your caddying experiences! My Dad enjoyed hearing them all, brought back great memories. Always been my hero.

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