Jobe endures trials, keeps swinging
If golfer Brandt Jobe ever needed a new profession, he might consider writing the next edition of the New England Journal of Medicine. He’s qualified.
Asked by a reporter about his bad back after the opening round of the Northern Trust Open, Jobe laughed. Bad information. “I don’t have a bad back,” he said. “I have a bad everything else.”
Thursday at Riviera Country Club, a course he knows quite well, Jobe played only his third round on Tour since last summer, his sabbatical caused by his latest obstacle – two nerve blocks in his neck that required surgical procedures. He shot 5-under 66 (tying his career low at Riviera) and was happy to be back.
Jobe had felt increased tingling in his right hand last summer at the AT&T National at Congressional and could not close the hand around the golf club; he knew it was time to take a break and get his health figured out. For him, that was nothing new.
Jobe has had wrist surgery and shattered the hook of the hamate bone in his left palm not once, but twice, in consecutive seasons a decade ago hitting balls out of the rough. And then there was the freakish accident that could have ended his career for good in late 2006, when an industrial broom he was pushing as he swept up dust in his home garage snapped under his weight, the shards severing portions of his left forefinger and left thumb.
Jobe asked his daughter Brittan, 6 at the time, to run inside the house and put some ice in a Tupperware container, and that’s where he placed the baggie containing his severed forefinger and thumb, picked up off the ground, until they were sewn back on later that evening at Baylor Medical Center in Texas. (Jobe sued the company that manufactured the broom for product liability, and last year won the suit.)
Today, a small nail grows on the tip of the left finger, but it’s quite sensitive to the touch; there is a crater-like indentation in the pad of his thumb, with nothing inside. At the time, a doctor told Jobe he had a 50-50 chance of resuming his golf career, but he knew better.
He’s a battler, a fighter. And he always knew he’d be back. What told him this?
“I wasn’t done,” said Jobe, who will be 48 in August. “Gosh, I had one of my best years in 2005 (six top 10s, $2.1 million in earnings). I was like, God, I’m playing too good, I’m ranked in the top 100 in the world, why am I quitting golf? This is a pretty sweet gig I have here.”
And though Thursday’s opener was only 18 holes, it was a nice start to gather some needed momentum. He teed off so early (6:40 a.m.), it was dark on the practice tee and the practice green, and he even had to ask where his opening tee shot ended up. Then again, this is one course Jobe probably could play in the dark; he estimates he’s played it upwards of 200 rounds, and that doesn’t even factor in the knowledge he gained back in his days at UCLA when he and his buddies would make the short trek from school to watch players such as Corey Pavin and David Edwards compete.
“Don’t tell anybody, but we would jump the fence and get in,” Jobe said.
Jobe, who has won events around the world but never has won in his 313 starts on the PGA Tour (he has four runner-up finishes), is competing this season on a medical extension. After missing the cut at Torrey Pines, he has nine starts to add $303,178 to the $344,332 he earned last season in order to match the winnings of the No. 125 finisher of 2012 and keep his card for ‘13. Worst-case scenario: Jobe believes he’ll get 15-16 starts before the FedEx Cup playoffs arrive.
Thursday, his only poor swing came on his final hole, when he overcooked an iron from a sidehill lie and left himself with no chance of getting up and down left of the 18th green, leading to his lone bogey. Other than that, his round was pretty sharp.
“He putted it great,” said Jason Kokrak, who played alongside Jobe. “He drove it well, he hit his irons in the right spots . . . he didn’t do anything bad. He’s a great guy to play with – I don’t know that you’ll find a nicer guy out here.”
In his own perfect world, Jobe would get two more seasons out of the PGA Tour before he moves on to compete on the Champions Tour. He’s certainly shown he’s willing to do whatever it takes, even ducking down into the minors and playing 23 events on the Nationwide Tour in 2010. (“You need to check your ego at the door. But I learned a lot about myself and my game,” he said.)
If anything, Jobe has shown he is adept at adapting. He’s gone from being a player who swung steeply and played a cut to a player trying to swing shallow and draw the ball, a move that alleviates some of the pressure from his hand.
“I’m fortunate that I’m not 44 (years old) and having to do this,” Jobe said. “I’m not in a bad place. I still like being out here, still like playing, still think I can compete. When you can’t, you don’t, and you won’t. And it (the game) has a way of getting you out of here anyways. That’s the way it works.
“Today was fun. It tells me I can still do this.”
For a guy who hasn’t done very much of this in a while, that was a meaningful discovery.