Less than twelve hours removed from his phenomenal final-round 65 on Sunday to tie for second at the Memorial, Brandt Jobe picked up right where he left off, firing a sizzling, bogey-free 10-under 62 at the Lakes Golf & Country Club during his first 18 at the 36-hole sectional qualifier for the US Open.
Not only did Jobe punch his ticket to Congressional, but he shared co-medalist honors at 12-under with Chez Reavie in the 120-man field in Columbus, Ohio (which easily could have been mistaken for a regular PGA Tour event).
“It was a survival,” said Jobe, referring to his second 18 at Brookside Golf & Country Club.
Near the 18th green as dusk was looming, he was recalling the thrilling yet draining experiences of the last 24 hours, when D.A. Points, who also secured one of the 16 available spots, briefly interjected before heading to the parking lot.
“Hey, yeah, it’s P-O-I-N-T-S,” cracked Points, with a big grin as he popped his head in, leaning toward my voice recorder. “No, I was very happy for you. That was great playing.”
Jobe, laughing, said, “Thanks, you too. Nice going.”
Last week during the Memorial, Points, who also earned a spot at Congressional, helped Jobe a bit with his putting. While Jobe had been striking the ball well after tirelessly working on his swing changes, he’d been struggling with the flat stick. Turns out the problem was Jobe’s alignment — his stance and putter face were both closed. (It’s amazing that even for the pros, it seems that 9 out of 10 times, the problem is fixed by returning to the basics.)
“All of a sudden, I was like, ‘Wow, I see the lines and I’m hitting the ball where I want to,'” said Jobe, who is playing his first full season on the PGA Tour since 2006 due to injuries. “And boom! — I started putting great. When I say great, I mean it was going where I was aimed. Before when I had a five-footer, I’d be aiming on the right edge and it’d start left. It was that bad.”
Jobe, who had made six starts in six weeks, didn’t finish his media obligations for the Memorial until nearly 10pm on Sunday. By the time he left Muirfield Village and returned to the hotel for some shut-eye, it was 1am. Five hours later, he was awake and warming up to play a grueling 36 holes.
“The whole week (at the Memorial), there were just a lot of emotions,” said Jobe, 45. “It’s not the physical aspect that’s so hard, it’s the mental part that goes with it. I knew I was going to be lacking in that department.”
Jobe knew he’d make it easier on himself mentally if he could get off to a quick start in the morning. When he teed off, he was aiming for five- or -six-under at the Lakes, but after rolling in a few birdies, he never looked back, taking advantage of his distance off the tee and the generous fairways.
“I just kind of kept going and stopped thinking about it,” he said. “I kept trying to see how low I could go. I didn’t know what I shot when I got done because I was just trying to birdie every hole. It was going that well. I didn’t know what I shot at the end. I asked my caddie (Jeff Willett) and he said, 62 and I said, ‘Okay, good.'”
Jobe was playing so well that 62 didn’t even do the round justice, according to Willett. “(Brandt) didn’t miss a shot. He really could have shot 52. We lipped out four straight putts. It was just solid.”
When Jobe arrived at Brookside for his second 18, he was “literally wiped,” but he challenged himself to just post a score under par. He played conservatively, opting to leave the driver in the bag and hit 2-irons and 3-woods off the tee. And his strategy paid off. He held on to shoot a two-under 70.
“This place is hard, he said. “I’m worn out. If you didn’t hit it in the fairway, it was like flipping a coin.”
Having endured a freak accident where he sliced off two fingers in 2006, Jobe has worked hard to rally back to the Tour. Imagine suffering a potentially career-ending injury and not knowing whether you’ll ever recover, let alone compete at the same level again. And then you’re supposedly starting to heal, so you try to return to the game, only to discover you can’t swing the same as you did before because you’ve lost feeling in two fingers due to the nerve damage.
You keep pushing yourself, but things aren’t improving as fast as you’d like and you question whether it’s worth the pain and grief (plus, you have a family to support). So then you consider walking away from golf, which isn’t just your livelihood but part of your identity. Ultimately, you fight through the low points and continue to work your tail off. And even when you start experiencing improvement, it’s a slow and frustrating process.
Once you reach a point where you’re well enough to play and compete again, you wonder if you’ll ever be able to get back to pre-injury form. Doubt creeps in your mind every now and again — will I ever get my PGA Tour card back?
Only if you have as much heart as Brandt Jobe.
After considering quitting in ’08, Jobe played full-time on the Nationwide Tour last season. He finished just a few spots outside of top-25 on the NWT money list to miss graduating to the bigs. But he managed to get through PGA Tour Q-School, where he placed sixth to finally re-earn his card.
And Jobe couldn’t be more thrilled with how his year is shaping up — he’s gotten into the field at some of the more prestigious Tour events, such as Quail Hollow, The Players, the Memorial, and now, he’s qualified for the US Open, and he told me it looks like he’ll get a spot in the PGA Championship, too.
His last appearance at a major was in 2008 at the US Open in Torrey Pines, where he tied for 18 (career-best in 11 starts).
“The challenge is to keep playing well, to keep doing the things I’ve been doing, and trying to do them better — just keep adding them up,” said Jobe. “It sounds kind of stupid, but that’s what I’ve been doing.”
No, it sounds anything but stupid. I was thinking more along the lines of “sensible,” “tenacious,” and “inspiring.” For a competitor who is healthy for the first time in five years (barring the permanent nerve damage in his fingers) after toiling tirelessly to return to competing at the same level pre-injury, Jobe probably feels like the pieces are finally falling in place.
“I’ve been working so hard on getting that swing down, but my putting has kind of lacked,” he said. “And now I understand what I’m doing with my putting and maybe I can get them both down. Then you know, hey, I want to contend again and win tournaments. I’ve won in Japan so many times and all over the world, but never here — I’ve had a lot of close calls. You gotta do good things.”
Meanwhile, Jobe’s game plan to prepare for his 12th-career US Open? Rest, relax, hang with his kids for a few days.
“At the end of the week I’ll start grinding it out again and just get that mindset,” said Jobe, smiling. “And pray for some good luck.”
(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)