PEABODY, Mass. – In this, the U.S. Golf Association’s startling Summer of Scoring, yet another golfer was matching a record on Saturday in the U.S. Senior Open. Truth is, Brandt Jobe, whose 8-under 62 tied an all-time USGA championship mark for low score, is a far better candidate for a Harvard medical study than any golf record book.
In consecutive years in the early 2000s, he shattered the hamate bone in his left wrist hitting shots from the rough. That cost him two years. In 2006, he temporarily severed his left index finger and thumb in a freak accident in 2006, when a broom he was pushing in his home garage snapped in half. He still has little feeling in the digits, and no pad in the interior of his thumb. Three more years lost. At age 48 and 49, in his run up to the PGA Tour Champions, he had two of his three left shoulder surgeries. And at one point, he’d also torn the ulnar nerve in his left arm. A medical marvel. He’s seen more stitches than a county crafts fair.
A few years ago, while playing the regular tour, Jobe shot a hot opening round at Riviera that was good enough to land him into the tournament’s interview room. Don’t you have a bad back? a reporter asked him. “No,” Jobe answered with a smile. “I have a bad everything else.”
In all, Jobe has fought his way through eight surgeries to somehow keep playing golf. Saturday at Salem Country Club, with his teen-aged son and daughter watching on, he was reminded why he endured all those long, hard days of rehab, and why he didn’t answer the inner calling to find another line of work, which at one point he seemed prepared to do.
“All the time,” he said Saturday, “I just wanted a chance to play out here.”
Jobe, 51, made nine birdies – including five in a row from 12-16, and one more for good measure at the rugged 18th – and shot 62, equaling the mark shared by Loren Roberts (2006, Prairie Dunes) and by Kirk Triplett at a rain-softened Salem track just two days earlier.
“Just kind of had a game plan today,” said Jobe, who vowed to play more aggressively, “and rolled in some putts. I haven’t made any putts this week. So that was kind of fun.”
Fun? Yes, nine birdies at any USGA event is fun. Pretty rare, too. But consistent late afternoon and evening rains all week have softened greens that feature so much undulation that the USGA has had to hold back on green speeds to keep them playable.
The result? Much like Erin Hills in June, there is an all-out scoring onslaught going on. When the Senior Open was held at Salem in 2001, Bruce Fleisher won at even par. This week, players are taking scores deep.
“There’s not a lot they can do,” Jobe said, “purely because of Mother Nature.”
Brandt Jobe has this moving day thing figured out.
— USGA (@USGA) July 1, 2017
The simple fact that Jobe is playing golf is amazing, but he never was one that was going to give in. His broom accident in November 2006 was horrific – his index finger and thumb were completely severed, and he called to his daughter, then only 6, to run and get a Tupperware container so that he could put them on ice, hoping somehow they could be re-attached.
Did he think he’d ever play golf again? “I called my dad, who is a doctor,” Jobe said, “and I said, ‘That’s it.’ ”
Injuries always have prevented Jobe, who played on a loaded NCAA Championship team at UCLA in 1988 (he led the way, tying for second) from being the player who always thought he could he could be. He figures he spent half of his 14 years on the PGA Tour laid up with injury. After playing in Canada and some in Asia, he joined the Japan Golf Tour in the 1990s and won six times, including a major. He’d travel in three- and four-week bursts, and it was challenging, as he didn’t speak the language. Jobe would tape some of his favorite shows when at home and sit in a hotel room with his wife when in Japan, watching them on a tiny 4-inch screen.
Back in the U.S., Jobe would make 402 career starts between the PGA Tour, Web.com Tour and PGA Tour Champions before breaking through on June 11 to win at the Principal Charity Classic in Iowa. Though he’d play well enough on the PGA Tour to earn $9 million, his victory in Iowa was the first time he’d hoisted a trophy since winning in Japan in 1998, a span of nearly two decades.
“Winning that tournament was more of a relief,” he said. “You work so hard, and you try and win. The ultimate goal is to win golf tournaments. That’s how everybody measures you. You can have a great career and pile up some money. But at the end of the day, what did you win?”
He may have started the weekend too far back to win at Salem (he was 1 under), but shooting 62 – it included birdies on each of the course’s four par-3 holes, and 6-under 29 on his incoming nine – certainly can give a man a nice push. Jobe had started the day in 29th place, and shortly after he finished, moving to 9 under for 54 holes, he was sitting in third.
For his effort, Jobe will get into the USGA record books for low championship round, though he was candid and honest enough to note that the course conditions certainly aren’t where the USGA would like them. That’s OK. Nobody else was shooting 62 on Saturday. All things considered, was it the finest round of his career?
“This was a good one,” he said. “This one came at a good place, and at a good time.”
And hey, after all his hardships, he was playing golf. That was the best part of all.