Bill Nichols

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Brandt Jobe and Todd Hamilton: Long roads intersect at U.S. Open

Brandt Jobe and Todd Hamilton were born a month apart in 1965. They turned pro in the late ‘80s, struck it rich on the Japan and Asian tours, settled into the same Westlake neighborhood, and enjoyed fleeting success on the PGA Tour.

The journeymen have shared ups and downs, although rarely simultaneously. 

When Hamilton reached the pinnacle in 2004 with two wins, including the British Open, Jobe was near his lowest point, limited to just nine events because of an injured wrist.
When Jobe had his greatest success in 2005-06 with eight top-10s and $3 million in earnings, Hamilton was settling into a long dry spell.

And so on Monday, both qualified for the U.S. Open. Hamilton earned one of four spots at Dallas Athletic Club, carrying his own bag for 36 holes. Jobe tied for medalist in Columbus, Ohio, shooting a first-round 62 the day after tying for second at the Memorial Tournament.
At 45, Jobe and Hamilton continue on similar quests, albeit from opposing ends of golf’s spectrum.

After playing only 14 PGA Tour events the previous three years, Jobe has returned to the pre-injury form that he had during his post-injury seasons of 2005-06. He has made 12 of 17 cuts, posted three top-10s, and is ranked 35th in FedEx Cup points. He has gone from 304th to 117th in the World Rankings.

Jobe wasn’t sure where he was headed after he sliced off the top of two fingers on his left
hand in November 2006. After a long recovery, he worked his way back, playing in Japan and then last year on the Nationwide Tour. He earned his PGA Tour card with a tie for second at Q-School.

``I got to that low point where I said, `I'm going to see how hard I can work and see if I can make this better and give it everything I've got, and if I can't, then at least I can walk away and say I tried,’’’ Jobe said Sunday.

``There were many sleepless nights going through all the injuries. But at the same time, I think it's even more rewarding to be able to come back and play well, contend.’’

Hamilton has yet to match his success from 2004, when he was rookie of the year at age 38. He got his first win in his 18th career PGA Tour start, and then beat Ernie Els in a four-hole playoff at the British Open. He was 16th in the World Rankings.

In 2009, his final year of exempt status from the Open victory, Hamilton showed signs of improvement. He tied for 15th at the Masters _ his best finish since a T-10 at th e2006 John Deere _ and the next week tied for fourth at the Heritage, his best finish since 2005.

But he fell short of retaining his card, finishing 133rd on the money list. Although he’s made only five cuts in his last 20 PGA Tour events, Hamilton finished in the money in seven of 12 European Tour starts in 2010, and has three top-15s in Europe over the last 17 months.

He has exempt status on the European Tour through 2014 by virtue of his British Open win. But  Hamilton is hoping he can play his way back on the PGA Tour, and getting into the U.S. Open is a good start.

``It’s a prestigious event, so you may as well try to get in,’’ he said. ``You never know when you’re going to catch lightning in a bottle.’’


Dallas’ Justin Leonard would have been exempt for the U.S. Open by virtue of his tie for 14th last year. But the U.S. Golf Association changed its criteria for this year _ from the top 15 players and ties to the top 10.

Leonard also got axed from the WGC Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone. The event used to include members of the most recent Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams. But a change was made to award exemptions only to members of the last biennial team event played (Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup). That means the 2010 Ryder Cup members are exempt and not Leonard’s 2009 Presidents Cup team.


Leonard earned second alternate at the DAC qualifier. Michael Whitehead, the first alternate, made the U.S. Open field when Tiger Woods withdrew because of injuries to his left knee and Achilles. Whitehead got the call soon after he bogeyed to lose a playoff for the final spot with Dallas’ Harrison Frazar and Colleyville’s Greg Chalmers. ``Um, yes,’’ Whitehead said, when asked by the USGA official if he wanted the spot. ``I guess I’m glad he was listening to his doctors.’’ The recent Rice graduate had to make it through a playoff in local qualifying.


Frazar gets bonus points for making it through consecutive Open qualifiers in dramatic fashion. Last year he shot 72 in the morning at Brookside GC and then rallied with a 64 to tie for 11th and get one of 15 spots in Columbus, Ohio. At DAC on Monday, he opened with a 72, and then as scores soared in the stifling 100-degree heat, he carded a cool 64 again to reach the playoff.

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