Brandt Jobe acknowledges the gallery after making birdie at No. 17 on Thursday… (Reed Saxon / Associated…)
The highlight for Brandt Jobe after Thursday's first round of the Northern Trust Open was not his five-under-par 66 and his third-place standing. It was that he could shoot 66 at Riviera and sit at a news conference without any pain.
If the movie people were smart, they'd come up with a feature-length production from his story. Al Pacino, star of "Scarface," could play Jobe. Only they'd call this one "Scar Tissue."
Jobe is not so much a pro golfer as he is a medical marvel. He has had more operations than the U.S. military in Afghanistan. His golf bag includes 14 clubs and a scalpel. Friends and fans who follow him closely have 911 on speed dial. He will turn 48 on Aug. 1, but some of his body parts have yet to reach the legal drinking age.
He was asked after his round, which included birdies on four of the last five holes, about his back problems.
"I don't have a bad back," he said, "but I have a bad everything else."
The tale of the surgical tape reads like this:
--In 1990, two years out of UCLA, where he helped the Bruins win an NCAA title in 1988, Jobe had reconstructive surgery on his left shoulder.
--In 2003, hitting out of deep rough, he shattered a bone in his left wrist.
--In 2004, hitting out of deep rough, he shattered the same bone in the same wrist. One doctor said he had never seen that before.
--In 2007, the muscles and tendons in his left wrist ripped away from the bone. Two more surgeries.
But that was all pretty much outpatient stuff compared with what he endured in November 2006, a week after he had ended a season in which he made 18 cuts in 28 events and won $802,000.
He had redone his garage in Argyle, Texas, and was sweeping up. Helping him was his 5-year-old daughter. He was pushing an industrial-size broom, with a plastic handle and metal spine. Suddenly it snapped, and somehow, the sharp edge of either the plastic or metal went flying and severed the fingertips of his left thumb and index finger.
"I looked down at the floor and saw the tips of my fingers," he said.
Displaying unusual poise, as well as the need to shield his daughter from the horror, Jobe quickly wrapped his hand in a towel, asked his daughter to get him some ice and a Tupperware container. He got to the hospital, handed over the iced fingertips and they were sewed back on before midnight that night by a specialist who just happened to be on call.
"When it happened," Jobe said, "my first thought was that golf was over."
Wrong. Not only was golf not over, but more medical issues were to come.
After seasons of '08 and '09 in which, in Jobe's words, "I stunk," he worked his way back onto the tour, swallowing some pride along the way and playing the Nationwide Tour, the PGA's triple-A feeder program now called the Web.com Tour.
"You learn a lot about yourself," Jobe said. "You jump in the car and just do it. You cut some costs. You figure it out. It's just like the old days."
He kept battling and was a regular player on the tour when pain took over again last year.
"About a year and a half ago," he said, "I had been sitting on some stands, watching my son play baseball all day, eight hours. I woke up the next morning, locked up."
Last July, at the AT&T tournament at Congressional outside Washington, the nerve damage from the neck problem that had resulted became so painful that he couldn't close his right hand — not the one with the once-missing fingertips.
"Flying home from Congressional," Jobe said, "was so painful that I thought I was going to die every time the plane bumped."
He had two nerve-block procedures to relieve inflammation in the nerve canal around the C5 and C6 vertebrae. He travels with a portable traction machine and has put himself on a ball count, much like a pitcher.
"I used to pound five or six [buckets]," he said, "but not anymore. The body can only make so many golf swings."
His first tournament back since July was the recent Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, where he missed the cut. He was in the first group off at Riviera on Thursday morning, so early (6:40 a.m.) that Jobe said, "You couldn't see a shot on the range, and I don't know if I saw a putt from 15 feet on the putting green. It was that dark."
But he persevered, the sun came out and so did his putting stroke.
"On 14, made a 10-footer," he said. "On 15, 10-footer; 16 a 10-footer; 17 a 15-footer."
So, the player who used to jump a fence and sneak in to watch the L.A. Open as a UCLA student, who estimates he has played Riviera perhaps 300 times, is in the chase after the first round.
His fans have their fingers crossed that the duct tape holds.