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In tribulations of the affable Jobe, decision looms

Brandt Jobe has collected more surgical scars than tournament trophies during his PGA Tour career.

But that has not prevented the Westlake resident from banking more than $6.1 million in earnings, most of it during the past decade.

Sometime later this season, Jobe will decide if the financial gain is worth all the physical pain. And the recurring rehabilitation sessions.

For now, he’s fully focused on his latest comeback. Jobe, 42, will compete in Thursday’s opening round at The Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. For a change, he’ll carry some momentum and confidence into tournament week.

In his last tour start, Jobe tied for 31st on Feb. 17 at the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles. His $36,766 check marked his first PGA Tour earnings in 10 months. Between paydays, Jobe spent most of his time recuperating from wrist surgery, which came on the heels of a bizarre home accident in November 2006, when Jobe severed the tips of two fingers on his left hand while sweeping out his garage.

Although he called his performance in Los Angeles “a step in the right direction,” Jobe acknowledged his latest challenge is the greatest he’s faced since turning professional in 1988. Even bigger than overcoming surgery in 2003 to repair a shattered hook of the hamate bone in his left hand. It’s caused him to ponder alternative career choices.

“My other injuries have been a little simpler,” Jobe said. “I’ve had about four freak injuries in my career. But I never thought about my career being on the line before this. This is a bigger setback … and I’ve thought about it.”

Specifically, Jobe said he’s alerted his wife and parents to be prepared for anything when he adds up his scorecard — and weighs his options — at the end of the season. Jobe is playing on a major medical extension in 2008, meaning he must earn $774,164 in 23 events to regain his exempt status on the PGA Tour.

Heading into the Honda event, he’s got 20 tournaments left in which he must average $36,870 per start to reach his goal. During his last injury-free season, Jobe banked $2,133,149 in 2005. But that golfer no longer exists, thanks to the ramifications of his 2006 accident.

While sweeping out his garage, the broom broke in Jobe’s hands. A sharp metal edge pierced the plastic outer covering and severed the tip of his left thumb and index finger. Although surgically repaired, Jobe said he still has no feeling in those fingers, expect for occasional — and unpredictable — nerve impulses. He still cannot type on a computer keyboard with his left hand.

But he’s using it to play golf. During a brief comeback attempt last season, Jobe played four events while using a modified grip that relied on his pinkie to stabilize the club. Jobe’s 2007 season ended with a withdrawal at the EDS Byron Nelson Championship. Wrist surgery ensued, followed by rehabilitation work until December.

In retrospect, Jobe said the modified grip probably contributed to his wrist ailment. He termed it a “mistake” to compete last season while trying to battle through soreness from his finger surgeries. As things stand now, Jobe said the wrist feels strong but he understands his limitations.

“Health-wise, I’m not 100 percent. I never really will be,” said Jobe, who tweaked his swing plane in the off-season to minimize the torque on his left hand. “I’ve come to grips with my physical setbacks. Can I be a great player, or a top 30 player, again? I hope so. I have some physical limitations … and I’m working through them. I think I still have enough ability to win a tournament this year.”

A winner of 11 events around the world (mostly on the Asian Tour), Jobe still seeks his first PGA Tour triumph. More important, he seeks to earn enough money this season to secure full-time playing privileges on the 2009 PGA Tour. Mike McGetrick, Jobe’s longtime instructor, said his pupil seems rejuvenated and comfortable with his new swing.

The biggest challenge moving forward, in Jobe’s estimation, is mental.

He acknowledged battling the “Why me?” question throughout much of 2007, to the point of purposely avoiding golf telecasts.

“I got away from it so I didn’t say, ‘Why me?’ Now, I don’t say ‘Why me?’ because I don’t have time for it,” Jobe said. “I’ll just prepare my best with the abilities I have now. The challenge for me is mental fatigue. I struggle with that. And the only thing that can help me with that is competition.”

Jobe has the Honda tournament, plus 19 others, to re-establish himself as a viable force on the PGA Tour. Based on his affable personality and tough-luck track record with injuries, he’s an easy — and deserving — player for golf fans to support in his latest comeback attempt.

But Jobe knows all the cheers in the world won’t matter if he doesn’t start posting more sub-par scores on a regular basis. He’s at a career crossroads and admits he is adopting a “two-fold” approach about whether he’d compete in the 2008 Qualifying Tournament, if necessary, to regain lost playing privileges on the PGA Tour.

“You find out how this year goes and, if there’s progress and you think you can still compete, you have to head back to tour school,” Jobe said. “If not … Being away from golf for the past year, I’ve realized there’s life after golf. But I’d have to make some big life changes if I wasn’t playing golf any more.”

Here’s hoping Jobe plays well enough in 2008 to get some clarity about his golf career, as well as a 2009 PGA Tour card.

QUOTE BOARD

“He’s a lot better now than he has ever been at (avoiding mistakes). He’s really learned how to stay within himself. He regulates himself and his heartbeat … It’s impressive and it’s paying off for him.”

— Stewart Cink, on what impresses him most about Tiger Woods, who posted an 8 and 7 victory over Cink in Sunday’s title match at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

1 Victory needed by Tiger Woods to tie Ben Hogan for the No. 3 spot on the PGA Tour career list with 64 tournament titles.

4 Top 10 finishes this season by Dallas resident Justin Leonard, who had only five last year (and a combined seven in 2006-07).

18 Of the top 20 players in the women’s world rankings competing at this week’s LPGA Tour stop, the HSBC Women’s Champions event in Singapore. The first-year event offers a $2 million purse.

77.8 Percentage of greens hit in regulation by Saginaw resident Angela Stanford, a former TCU golfer. Stanford ranks sixth among 2008 LPGA Tour competitors in that department.

93 Places climbed on this week’s Nationwide Tour money list by D.J. Brigman, a former Euless Trinity golfer who was Sunday’s runner-up at the Moonah Classic in Fingal, Australia.

Fort Worth area pros

How exempt players with Fort Worth area connections (residents or golfers from Fort Worth area high schools or colleges) are faring on the PGA, Champions, LPGA, Nationwide and Duramed Futures tours this season. Listed is the official earnings and where it ranks on the money list:

PGA TOUR

Rory Sabbatini — $1,053,480 (11)

Chad Campbell — $398,377 (35)

Ben Crane — $353,429 (46)

Tag Ridings — $197,998 (74)

Todd Hamilton — $46,800 (149)

Stephen Leaney — $38,100 (164)

Brandt Jobe — $36,766 (166)

J.J. Henry — $25,286 (179)

Mark Brooks — $17,871 (192)

LPGA TOUR

Angela Stanford — $45,502 (13)

Heather Young — $10,679 (47)

CHAMPIONS TOUR

No earnings yet.

NATIONWIDE TOUR

D.J. Brigman — $71,785 (7)

Greg Chalmers — $44,668 (12)

Kelly Grunewald — $14,499 (47)

Hunter Haas — $13,112 (53)

J.J. Killeen — $7,002 (75)

DURAMED FUTURES TOUR

Season opens in March.

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