The paint is still drying on the 2011 PGA Tour season, but it's never too early to look ahead to next year. Though I’ll be spending the next few months working on my prognostication skills at the local range, I've already uncovered a secret in the dirt, digging out my nominee for one postseason award: 2012 Comeback Player of the Year.
The true spirit of this award is to honor those who have sunk to the depths of obscurity, only to rise like a phoenix from the ashes and prove relevant once again. Well, this candidate is coming off a truly awful campaign. Dismissed and forgotten, my pick never even showed up, conspicuous only in absence.
With all of that in mind, when you think about it, there's only one logical choice to claim next season's edition of this award.
And so my pick to win the 2012 PGA Tour Comeback of the Year award is ... the Comeback Player of the Year award.
Hey, the hardware fits the criteria. For the second time in three years, the Tour announced this week that the award wouldn’t be handed out – which, of course, sets up a big comeback for the upcoming season.
Still unanswered, though, is one simple question: Why?
Of the more than 200 PGA Tour members this year, nobody was deemed worthy of being crowned with this achievement? Really?
Apparently that’s what commissioner Tim Finchem and the four members of the policy board are telling us. They are the brain trust responsible for submitting names to the ballot.
'We just thought it originally was an award that focused on a player who had an unusual injury,” Finchem told The Associated Press recently. “An injury that was career-threatening, and he comes back from it.”
Hmmm … seems to me that very description is a perfect summation of Brandt Jobe’s comeback.
Five years ago, Jobe was sweeping his garage when the broom inexplicably shattered, severing parts of his left thumb and index finger. Believing his career was over, he attempted to play again, but went through a lengthy period where changing both his swing and his grip led to disastrous results.
“I was in the midst of really just about saying I can’t do this anymore,” Jobe explained. “Standing up on a teebox and trying to hit a shot and it goes in the dead opposite direction for 2½ years was pretty brutal.”
He continued grinding anyway. Last year, Jobe played the Nationwide Tour and enjoyed a solid season, but needed a T-6 finish at Q-School to regain his PGA Tour membership.
This season, the man who once sliced off parts of his fingers gave the proverbial finger to surrendering his career, making the cut in 21 of 28 starts, with four top-10s that included a runner-up finish at the Memorial Tournament.
Let’s see, commish: Unusual injury? Check. Career-threatening? Check. Comes back from it? Check.
Of course, this isn’t communist Russia – Cue Ty Webb: ”Is this Russia? This isn’t Russia.” – and so a ballot needs more than one name. Could that have been why the CPOY award wasn’t issued this year? Not exactly.
Jobe had plenty of company in the comeback department.
There was Harrison Frazar, who was playing on a medical extension after hip and shoulder surgeries last year. The longtime veteran was so pessimistic about his golf career that he had another job lined up at the end of the year – until he defeated Robert Karlsson in a playoff at the FedEx St. Jude Classic to win his first career title.
There was Chez Reavie, also playing on a medical extension after reconstructive surgery for a torn ACL and meniscus in his right knee. In danger of losing status up to the last start of his extension, he not only retained membership, but claimed five top-10s and finished 10th on the final FedEx Cup points list.
There was David Toms, who has struggled with injuries in recent years and whose comeback even included a comeback. After losing in a playoff at The Players Championship, he came back the next week to win at Colonial, which led to earning a spot on the Presidents Cup roster.
With so many viable candidates, it feels like if Tour officials couldn’t find anyone worthy of being nominated for this year’s CPOY award, they should have simply opened their eyes.
Word among golf’s inner circle is that those in Ponte Vedra Beach didn’t want a repeat scenario from a few years back, when Steve Stricker came back from winning Comeback Player of the Year to once again win Comeback Player of the Year the very next year.
Sure, that can be embarrassing, but there’s an easy solution: Don’t put an unworthy candidate on the ballot.
This year, there were plenty of players who could have staked a claim to this award. Instead, they’ll spend the offseason knowing they couldn’t rock the vote.
“Maybe there is no award, but with all of the people in golf saying well done and recognizing that, maybe that’s my award this year,” Jobe said. “You’ve got to take what you can get. Awards are awards and they’re great things to have, but all of us know we’ve done some special things for ourselves and that’s pretty good, too.”
There’s always next year for guys like Jobe, though he maintains he’d rather not slice off any more fingers in an attempt to finally win the award. As for me, I’m sticking with my pick for next season. The big winner of the upcoming Comeback Player of the Year award will be the award itself. Let’s hope so, at least.