He had only played the weekend three times in the 19 tournaments he’d entered this year, for goodness sakes. And in one of those, Herman didn’t make it to Sunday, falling victim to the secondary 54-hole cut.
So, the 2016 Shell Houston Open champ was a distant 232nd in the FedExCup with three events remaining in the regular season. Even with past champion status for next year, another season on the Korn Ferry Tour was looking more and more like it could be in his future.
“A lot of self-talk, what’s next for Jim Herman, the professional golfer,” he admitted to thinking.
And then Herman won the Barbasol Championship on Sunday.
“I really can’t explain the turnaround,” he said, quite frankly, after the trophy ceremony, the magnitude of the change in fortune probably yet to sink in.
The 41-year-old from Cincinnati now has job security until the end of the 2020-21 season. And that’s a priceless commodity for a man who has spent the last two years on the fringes, trying to fulfill a medical exemption after having surgery on his toe, and desperately seeking some form.
“In golf, you do not know what to expect,” Herman said. “… You never know what ‑‑ what everyone’s thinking when you’re in your 40s and the game’s not always there. Sometimes I think, well, I’ve got two kids and a wife at home and pretty good ‑‑ had some really good success. Maybe it’s going to be my time to be done.
“But I guess we can delay that for a while. I know my family’s looking forward to going back to Hawaii more than anything.”
That berth in the Sentry Tournament of Champions is one of the perks of Sunday’s success. Herman’s still not on the upcoming FedExCup Playoffs, though, so he’ll be playing the next two weeks to see if he work his way into the top 125 to get a start at THE NORTHERN TRUST.
Herman set the tone for the week when he opened with consecutive rounds of 65 that had him talking about a putting tip he got two weeks ago from President Donald Trump during a round at Trump National in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he once worked as an assistant pro. He even got a call from the chief executive on Friday night.
“It’s pretty amazing I have this relationship with him,” Herman admitted.
A sizzling 62 on Saturday that would have tied the course record, had Kelly Kraft not signed for a score one better several groups ahead, kept Herman atop the leaderboard by one. And that turned out to be the margin of victory on a stop-and-start Sunday that saw a match-play battle with Kraft ensue.
With apologies to the President, who had told Herman to go back to a conventional grip and putter, Herman said the turnaround wasn’t just tied to his performance on the greens. Another key? The better he played, the more positive his thoughts – and even on Sunday, when he admitted he didn’t have his best stuff, Herman was able to hang on.
The three-hour rain delay didn’t help – that is, until his wife and two kids, Abigail and Andrew, showed up. They were staying with her parents in Philadelphia and got up at 4 in the morning to make the nine-hour drive to see if dad could win.
“They were confident on what I was doing and that was great, obviously,” Herman said. “… I was in total shock during that delay. Didn’t want to waste the opportunity for them.
“You know, we’ve talked about it. They watch golf and they see their friends from the PGA TOUR daycare run out and congratulate their father on the green on 18 and they always tell me they would love to do it, so that was pretty amazing. I didn’t expect her to get here with the kids, but I’m so glad she did.’
Herman’s brother Tom, who along with his father got Jim started playing golf, had come to Kentucky on Saturday. His agent, Michael Wolf, made the trip from Birmingham, Alabama on Sunday. Uncles and cousins were in the gallery, too.
His mother was still in Cincinnati, though, dealing with some health issues. But Herman planned to head there Sunday night so she could share in the excitement.
“We’ll do a little celebrating up there, see my mom who couldn’t make it, but she was cheering me on,” Herman said with a smile.
Sometimes it’s best to expect the unexpected, and Herman is living proof.